TV shows that spin off from movies have a pretty low success rate, and most of the time, and this is often because their concepts just don’t work in an episodic format. You can’t always grab self-contained story and stretch it out into a 22-episode season, because it was always made to be a film. Other times, it was simply the casting or cinematography that made the film work, and these just don’t carry over into television. Unsurprisingly, many of them are comedies, proving that you can stuff a film with jokes but the well quickly runs dry when you have to write them weekly. Whatever the reason, there are quite a few TV series that failed despite springing straight from some great movies.
In the spirit of the recent Minority Report, which most agree fails to live up to the quality of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 10 Worst TV Shows Adapted from Movies.
COMING TO AMERICA (1988)
It might not be the crowning achievement of Eddie Murphy’s career, but Coming to America had its merits. The film featured Prince Akeem from the fictional nation of Zamunda, who shirks his royal life by stealing away to America (like in the title!), working in a McDonald’s-esque fast food joint and trying to find an independent woman who can love him for who he is, instead of his wealth. The movie might not have been perfect, but it at least had a decent couple of messages: marriage should be equal, based on mutual respect and free from wacky deceptions.
The Series: Once again, the Coming to America TV pilot made the assumption that they could easily remove Eddie Murphy from the title role and the whole thing wouldn’t collapse like a house of cards in a stiff breeze. Then it did. Murphy’s on-screen charisma simply didn’t carry over to the series, which moved the setting to a house in Queens and based most of its humour on zany, fish-out-of-water misunderstandings.
There was also the fact that most of the jokes range from plain unfunny to extremely offensive to all people of African descent, everywhere.
You can check out the pilot – HERE.
2009’s Zombieland is far mor recent than most of the movies on this list, and features a cast of people you will probably recognize (Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone etc.). The movie was a comedic take on the zombie apocalypse, with a college kid “code-named” Columbus (Eisenberg) roaming a zombie-infested America in search of safe haven. Bill Murray is also in it, as himself, for some reason.
The film was critically well-received and seemed like a great set-up for a series, possibly focusing on other survivors.
The Series: Despite being much higher-profile than the other examples on this list, the Zombieland pilot ultimately wasn’t accepted by enough of the fanbase and was axed. This was despite quite a bit of hype as the show was announced, with a number of Zombieland fans anticipating a follow-up to the movie in the form of either a sequel or a series. The failure of the TV show has left Zombieland 2 with an uncertain future. Meanwhile, the pilot can be viewed – HERE – and you can make up your own mind as to whether it’s a worthy adaptation or a dead series walking.
LEGALLY BLONDE (2001)
Hilarity ensues when a ditzy blonde girl turns out to be secretly smart, and enrols in law school to win back her boyfriend. Legally Blonde didn’t exactly shoot for the stars with its premise, but has endured in the public consciousness nonetheless. Reese Withspoon portrays Elle, who does exactly what I just said, but with a lot more girly shenanigans. She eventually (spoilers) solves a high-profile murder case using her knowledge of haircare products and ends up with a totally different guy who appreciates her for who she is. A fun time is had by all.
The Series: Once again, the pilot to 2003’s Legally Blonde wasn’t entirely unwatchable. However, Jennifer Hall as Elle didn’t quite conjure up the endearing quality that Reese Witherspoon brought to the role. The episode also attempts to compress most of the film into 23 minutes and it doesn’t come off too well. Still the whole thing works as a sort of time capsule to early 20th century culture, with several bizarre musical cues taking over every few minutes (including that Vanessa Carlton song – you know the one).
You can check out the Legally Blonde pilot – HERE.
REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984)
Speaking of taking on the stereotypes, here’s a film that does the opposite of that. Revenge of the Nerds was a 1984 comedy that featured a bunch of (you guessed it!) nerds trying to make their way in an alpha-male college setting. The film is stuffed with wacky college hijinks, recreational drug usage and the Very Important Plot Event That The Main Characters Have To Win Despite Being The Underdogs.
They win, in case you were wondering.
This was back in the day when ‘nerd’ actually had some concrete meaning, thus the stereotypes of enhanced intelligence and general lack of social awareness were played for laughs at every turn. The film was fairly successful, and it spawned several sequels that were absolutely not.
The Series: Very much the same as its film counterpart, minus the humor. There are plenty of plots that could have served the premise of nerds in a college setting, sort of like Community meets a more tolerable version of Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately, the 1991 pilot was heavily panned and never made it past the very first episode. It’s easy to see why; all the jokes from the film are cannibalized and stale, while the rest of the time is filled with off-color humor and lacklustre sight gags.
You can check it out for yourself – HERE – if you’re feeling up to putting yourself through the first few minutes.
TURNER & HOOCH (1989)
Mixing up the typical buddy-cop scenario was Turner & Hooch, a 1989 movie starring Tom Hanks as a police detective opposite a drooling canine who might just be the key to solving a murder case. It wasn’t Hanks’ most dignified cinematic outing, but still managed to be an endearing tale of friendship and sacrifice.
The Series: Fun fact- Turner & Hooch aired alongside Poochinski, another failed pilot featuring a dog helping to solve crimes, though in the case of Poochinski, it was due to the dog being possessed by the spirit of a dead police officer. Turner and Hooch might not have featured spooky body-swapping hilarity, but it failed to make much of an impact on audiences. There really is something to be said for star power, and an attempt to launch a franchise from a mediocre film, without its main star, was never going to succeed, regardless of how many shots of adorable doggies are included. The fact that a precocious original child character takes up more screen-time than the actual dog probably didn’t help.
You can view a version of the pilot with numerous audio problems – HERE.
ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING (1987)
Starring a post-Karate Kid Elisabeth Shue, Adventures in Babysitting is one of those ’80s films that you cannot summarize without the whole thing sounding like a ridiculous mad-lib. Essentially, some kids do some babysitting, there are so, so many shenanigans, then they all get home and the parents are unaware how much reckless child endangerment has gone on in their absence.
The Series: With most of these films, it’s fairly easy to see where they would’ve gone with adapting the movie to television. Not so with Adventures in Babysitting, which was a self-contained tale that would just be unbelievable to drag out over an entire season. By episode three, we’d be wondering why Mr and Mrs Anderson were the world’s most absent and negligible parents, which is probably part of the reason the show wasn’t picked up.
The pilot wasn’t terrible, but without 80s heartthrob Elisabeth Shue and a clear direction, it was doomed to fail. You can check it out – HERE.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
An award-winning neo-noir crime film, L.A. Confidential is based on a novel of the same name. It starred Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, who at that point weren’t too well-known in America, and helped to launch their careers overseas. Despite being nominated for nine awards, it had the misfortune of being released in the same year as Titanic and therefore lost most of them. Still, L.A. Confidential received rave reviews and is often held up as a prime example of the crime genre.
The Series: Despite starring 24’s Kiefer Sutherland in the lead role and not being all that bad, the pilot for the planned L.A. Confidential series was never picked up. This is possibly due to the series being pitched in 2003, when crime dramas began to swarm over every inch of television. For every NCIS or Flashpoint, there are likely piles of crime show pilots that never saw the light of day. L.A. Confidential’s connection to its source material was enough to have it shown on TV, but that was as far as the series would get.
You can take a look for yourself – HERE.
Yes, superhero films directed by Sam Raimi did exist in the 1990s. They just had to compensate by being ultra-gritty… a lot like comic book superheroes at the time. Starring Liam Neeson, Darkman was the story of scientist Peyton Westlake, who doesn’t let his violent death at the hands of a mob boss stop him from returning to life to wreak havoc as a mentally unstable superhero. The character came about when Raimi was unable to make a movie out of Batman or The Shadow. Arguably, what he came up with instead was a better concept, and Darkman was well-received by critics, eventually becoming a cult classic.
The Series: It’s kind of a shame that Darkman only ever got a pilot, as the concept could’ve gone a long way; mobster Robert Durant is even played by the original actor, Larry Drake. Sadly, the tweaking of the origin story didn’t endear the pilot to viewers, and the project was dropped. The fact that Darkman monologues every important plot detail to the viewer and goes on a bizarre mini-crusade against wayward homeless children didn’t really help matters; plus Christopher Bowen was just nowhere near as fun to watch as Liam Neeson.
You can check out the pilot – HERE.
Clerks is another film that defies a coherent explanation, except to say that it’s a film about a bunch of people working in a convenience store. That’s about as good as it gets without watching the film. I could go into how the scene breaks denote the nine circles of hell, but at this point it’s just easier to watch the thing.
In any case, people liked it and it made lots of money.
The Series: Attempting to recreate a cult classic is a tricky business, almost like predicting what video is going to go viral. Sure enough, the (full-color) TV version didn’t take off in anywhere near the same way as the film, possibly due to sacrificing the endearing low-budget vibe of the original for typical sitcom fare. Opinions on its actual quality range from funny to grotesquely humorless, though it can generally be agreed that the laugh track could’ve been used more sparingly. Either that or they had the world’s most easily-pleased studio audience.
Clerks also became the basis for a beloved animated series, which only lasted one short season, but developed a cult audience nonetheless.
You can take a look at the pilot HERE.
DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989)
Driving Miss Daisy was a comedy-drama set in Atlanta, Georgia in 1948. The story focused on the relationship between the titular Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), an elderly holdover from the white southern aristocracy, and her black driver, Hoke Coleburn (Morgan Freeman). The film covers elements of racism, segregation and persecution against minorities, and includes a few significant events from history, such as Martin Luther King’s speeches.
It was a funny, heart-warming and poignant glimpse into mid-20th century prejudices, and won a load of awards, including Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Also, Dan Akroyd was in it, because it was the late 80s and he was contractually obligated to appear in anything that even brushed against the notion of comedy.
The Series: Given that Driving Miss Daisy takes place over a number of years and features a steadily developing relationship, the idea of turning it into a weekly series doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. The idea that it should be a sitcom, however, is questionable. This was attempted in 1992, laugh track and all. The episode itself wasn’t all that bad, and even featured Saul Rubinek in an early roll, but it would seem that a heartfelt story of prejudice and acceptance didn’t work quite so well with a giggling studio audience.
You can check out the original pilot – HERE.
Know any more failed TV pilots? Or did maybe some of these deserve a second chance?