Based on a 1967 film, In the Heat of the Night had a much longer gestation period then most TV adaptations. The film starred Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs, who gets forced to work a murder case along Rod Steger's racist southern police chief, Bill Gillespie. The two men begrudgingly come to respect each other as professionals, if not as people.
In 1988, NBC brought Heat to television. Howard Rollins was cast as Tibbs, while Carroll O'Connor was cast as Gillespie. The characters' relationship is much less adversarial than in the film, with the two eventually becoming close friends.
The series ran for eight seasons, with the last three airing on CBS. Like M*A*S*H, the TV version of In the Heat of the Night has in many ways eclipsed the film within the collective pop culture consciousness.