Yes, it's true: prequels can easily turn out to be pure dreck. They can be tricky for many reasons – the most obvious being that the story has to manage the expectations of viewers who are almost certainly aware the series' eventual ending. But even then (Star Wars not withstanding) there's plenty to discover in the untold story that leads to even the most conclusive of endings – it merely requires dynamic, thoughtful storytellers to do so.
Therefore, following the announcements that NBC and A&E are launching Hannibaland Bates Motel respectively - prequels to the famous films Silence of the Lambs and Psycho - we take a look at seven prequel series we think could be worth watching. As an added twist, we are going to approach them with the most elusive of Internet sentiments: the one known as optimism. Perhaps you've heard of it?
Call them what you will: origins, untold stories or prequels - here is our list of prequel series we'd like to see on television.
Sure, Boba Fett may have met his cinematic end by falling into a giant sand trap, but unceremonious exits aside, a clone named Boba doesn't become one of the galaxies most fearsome bounty hunters without having some pretty interesting stories to tell. If nothing else - and considering his rather dismal bounty hunting performance in the original trilogy - a Boba Fett prequel series would at least give the character a chance to put some of that supposed awesomeness on display.
We know George Lucas and Rick McCallum (mostly Rick McCallum) have been talking about their plans to do a Star Wars television program called Star Wars: Underworld as soon as it's financially feasible to do so. Even with that series being a small possibility sometime in the future, it doesn't necessarily exclude the Mandalorian armor-clad freelancer from headlining his own series – especially considering the fan base he already enjoys.
Moreover, when was the last time Lucasfilm passed up a chance to make even more money?
While there already was a short-lived Shaft television series in the '70s, given television's current love affair with period dramas, a new program set around the early exploits of private eye John Shaft seems like an idea just waiting to happen. The concept has proven popular enough that John Singleton and Samuel L. Jackson brought the Shaft franchise into a contemporary setting with their 2000 reboot; however one may feel about that film, in the end, it lacked one key element that helped Shaft work in the first place: the 1970s setting.
The trick would be to avoid playing it solely for laughs (like Black Dynamite), and striking the right balance between social commentary through opinion after the fact, and symbolism typically found in examinations of recent history. Truly recreating the circumstances that brought Shaft into the spotlight would be impossible, but the right kind of talent behind the camera might make a prequel series an interesting investigation of the character and era in which he lived.
Besides, a powerful, well-established character like Shaft could go a long way in adding some much-needed diversity to the point of view of period dramas.
It would be dark, bleak and violent, but watching the transformation of a decorated and ambitious soldier into a despotic villain could make for some very compelling television – especially when programs like Breaking Badhave proven such themes can be done competently and with great regard for story. As the plot of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, concerned the final effort to bring down the infamous Colonel Walter Kurtz, there is plenty of the wayward military man's earlier life to explore.
Perhaps the series could be called ApocalypseSoon, or, more appropriately, adopt its title from Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness – which served as inspiration for Apocalypse Now. Either way, Colonel Kurtz' descent into apparent madness, coupled with an uncanny ability to attract followers who believe in his cause would be a real treat if handled properly. And with the kind of storytelling going on in television today, there are a heaping handful of creators more than capable of making that happen.
Now, if only there was an actor used to playing guys named Walter, who looks good bald and has the acting chops to rival Brando…
After witnessing some crazy Nazis and an evil Russian conjure up a demon in some creepy ritual, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (pronounced: "broom") didn't cower in fear, or react with malice as would so many when confronted by a tiny, red creature with horns and a gigantic stone hand. Instead, the good professor named the creature Hellboy; took him in and raised the displaced demon as his son. That's the kind of guy you want to tell stories about.
Hellboy, Bruttenholm and the rest of the B.P.R.D. sprang from the wonderful imagination of creator Mike Mignola, and into dozens of comic books and graphic novels, as well as several live action and animated films. Now, we say it's time to explore more of Mignola's gothic, supernatural world through the eyes of a young Bruttenholm. If one stops to consider all of the other worldly beings and relics waiting to be discovered prior to the arrival of Hellboy, the early adventures of Professor Bruttenholm would be quite a treat.
In addition, as one of few key characters not requiring extensive make-up or visual effects work, Bruttenholm would be right at home on television.
We'll freely admit that Neil Marshall's Doomsday is not the greatest film, but we won't say it wasn't fun. Let's face it, a film with removable cybernetic eyeballs that mashes up Escape From New York, Mad Max, Excalibur, and The Warriors is one that truly embraces all the crazy ways a bleak future can be imagined.
As such, Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) – the film's female version of Snake Plissken – could easily figure into countless situations where such a hardcore military operative would be of use. It would also allow for a greater expansion of the dystopian future Marshall conceived – which could then have episodes or entire story arcs pay homage to the plots of popular science fiction or fantasy films.
That is admittedly a high-concept, which may or may not fly, but one thing television fans might enjoy as much as a butt-kicking heroine in a wild sci-fi world is spotting the references to other films.
Imagine how vast this world could possibly be. Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic, Inception, wasn't only a visual marvel that left audiences clamoring for more, it opened up the possibility for countless stories to be told through the technology granting access to one another's dreams.
Inception could work in a variety of ways, but the most intriguing one would allow for a deeper examination of the psyche and how others may work to exploit or manipulate it. Setting up an Inception series would make for an interesting attempt at a television anthology -- something that jumps around to various differing narratives, complete with a new cast and themes to explore. At the very least, it would prevent the show from attempting to recreate the heist-like nature of the film over and over again.
Ultimately, though, a series where world building is a key element, stands to make for some very inventive and divergent storylines that we'd like to see become a reality.
The Vega Bros.
Once Red Apple cigarettes began popping up in his films, there was a tangible thread suggesting the work of Quentin Tarantino existed in a shared universe. Of course, that was made evident for those who first recognized the surname connecting Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction. The filmmaker himself once hinted at a Vega Bros. movie that would see Vic (Michael Madsen) and Vincent (John Travolta) in a prequel to Pulp Fiction, but as time goes on, the likelihood of either Travolta or Madsen being able to portray their characters becomes increasingly unlikely.
So why not bring the concept to television (HBO or Showtime, perhaps?) where, under the strict guidance of Tarantino, the Vega brothers can engage in some criminal mischief while waxing philosophical about foot rubs, Stealers Wheel and any other bits of pop culture that happen to cross their mind?
Surely there are plenty of actors capable of looking good wearing a bolo tie while doing the Batusi, or who don't mind talking into the occasional amputated ear.
One Last Suggestion...
Imagine if, following the incredible success of The Avengers, studios looking to cash in on the Joss Whedon name could be coaxed into doing a prequel series to one of Joss' earlier films – perhaps one called Serenity?It'd be like an unofficial apology for the canceling of Firefly. Hey, if we're going to dream, we might as well dream big, right?
See, not all prequel series immediately sound like a bad idea. So put down the pitchforks and torches, decry the existence of prequels another day, and embrace for a moment the simple fun of pondering how such programs (and many others you may think of) might possibly work. If handled with care and diligence, these stories could serve as a fun introduction and expansion of the tales and characters we have all grown so fond of.
After all, if Hannibal and Bates Motel prove successful, the development of more prequel series will certainly become something we'll all have to live with.