Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Hollywood action cinema was known for its campy one-liners, over-the-top thrills and an overall sense of tongue-in-cheek fun. So, fans of such films – most notably those starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger – came out in droves for The Expendables, Stallone’s 2010 love-letter to old-school action, to the tune of a $274 million worldwide gross.
Now, in addition to the upcoming sequel Expendables 2 (and a third film as well) the franchise may be about to take its mayhem to television screens. Lionsgate, the studio that distributes the films, plans to develop several properties for the small screen. Besides a potential Expendables television series, films such as RED (which also has a sequel in the development) and the Step Up series are being looked at for possible adaptation. The studio – still reveling in the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games – acquired the latter two franchises through its recent merge with Summit Entertainment.
A series based on RED or Step Up would need only utilize the central premise of the films on which they are based, but an Expendables show would be far more difficult to pull off. Plot-wise, the films are known for their superficiality, so there’s no challenge there: each one essentially chronicles some mission that a team of mercenaries – led by Stallone’s Barney Ross – embark on, and the shootouts and explosions that ensue along the way.
However, the main appeal of the film franchise is the novelty of seeing a bunch of old-school big-screen action heroes share the spotlight, which has gotten even wider with the additions of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris to the sequel. It’s the cast – not the concept or the story – that sells Expendables tickets, as the films’ marketing can attest.
It’s extremely unlikely that Stallone or any of his castmates would sign up for a weekly television series, and it’s even less likely that the nostalgia that has driven interest in the films could sustain the length of a television series. Besides, a series could prove too costly for most networks, considering the action set-pieces of the films.
On the other hand, the concept of The Expendables could translate to TV if done smartly. There are plenty of famous tough guys of the small screen still available for a throwback team up - and of course, the "missions" could be scaled-down to TV show size and still prove entertaining (see: 24, The Unit). Aside from one or two central characters, they could even rotate casts every season, similar to American Horror Story. Be sure to share your "TV Tough Guy Teamup" rosters in the comments section.
While the idea of an Expendables TV series is intriguing, it’s also far from a sure thing at this point. Check back here for details on this story.
The Expendables 2 hits theaters on August 17, 2012.