Thursday, October 29, 2015

Not Coming To A Theater Near You

by Jason

Hollywood has plundered its TV catalog for feature film fodder for so long, it’s getting harder to think of older shows that haven’t been put onto celluloid. Still, there are a few no-shows that do stand out, that make you wonder, “Why didn’t the studio chiefs put this property onto the big screen?”

I compiled my own personal list of surprises that stayed on the small screen, VHS, and DVD, and didn’t make that leap. Some could have been made when the show was still on the air and featured the TV cast, while others more likely would have been rebooted with a new cast. In ascending order of surprise, I give you my list of TV shows that I’m surprised never got made into movies.

Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Okay, I’m not actually surprised there wasn’t a Lois and Clark movie. Warners was obviously trying to reboot its Superman film franchise and any resulting movie would carry the Superman moniker and not be related to an existing TV show. At the time, however, the studio had picked Nicolas Cage to be Supes for its proposed Superman Reborn/Lives flick that ultimately never got made, which left a lot of people (myself included) wondering what the producers were thinking. At one point I wondered why they didn’t just port over Dean Cain, since he obviously looked the part and for five seasons played the part to no great complaint. It seemed like Warner Bros. didn’t have a clue how to properly cast Superman, so it seemed weird why they didn’t just go with a pretty good choice right under their nose. And painful memories of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns makes me retroactively pine for Teri Hatcher to have joined Cain on the big screen.

Kung Fu: This was a popular show in the early 70s and helped popularize kung fu action for American audiences. Given the rise of Asian martial arts movie stars and Hong Kong-style fight choreography in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s surprising Hollywood hasn’t rebooted this show for a feature film.

Max Headroom: Most people that grew up in the 80s remember Matt Frewer’s well-dressed A.I. with an occasional stutter (though I don’t know if anyone remembers the actual plot of the show Max was spawned from). The actual show never did better than cult status, but with decades of advances in computer technology, one would think someone would cart out an updated version of Max for the big screen. Be-be-be-believe it!

Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Call this the Irwin Allen smorgasbord, outside of Lost in Space which did get a movie in 1997. Back then, it seemed Hollywood was going crazy plundering sci-fi and adventure shows for movies, but they seemed to miss (or just not care for) much of Irwin Allen’s produced catalog. Also, I’m only counting Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as a reboot movie, since there was a 1961 movie that the subsequent show was based on.

Space 1999: Again, it’s a surprise this British-made sci-fi show got missed in the 90s’ TV-to-movie run, although I’m sure it’d end up called Space: 2099 for obvious reasons.

V: Actually, you could argue Independence Day is pretty much what you’d get from a V movie, minus the allegory of fascists-as-aliens walking among us. Plus I wonder how many people would think this is a prequel to V for Vendetta.

Babylon 5: An awesome sci-fi show that, for all of its quality, still suffered from being in the shadow of Star Trek. Still, it had enough name recognition that a movie could have been made. For a while in the late 90s, series creator J. Michael Straczynski was planning to make a movie, but then stated he’d rather wait until after the Star Wars prequels were finished, as his movie might suffer in comparison, f/x wise. For whatever reason, a B5 movie was never made, although recently JMS has talked up a reboot possibility.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I know there was a 1992 movie starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, but I’m referring to the much-better received TV show instead. Like Babylon 5, this is another cult TV show that never quite broke out into the mainstream, and getting a movie made might have helped boost its standing. A lack of a Buffy movie with its TV cast is a bit more surprising than B5 because teen horror movies (The Scream movies, for example) were hot in the late 1990s, and a Buffy movie could have easily ridden that wave. For whatever reason, it’s unlikely there will be any big screen Buffy except for a reboot, as the TV cast has likely aged too much out of the roles.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess: Either one of these shows. This franchise was big back in the day, Xena especially, as it pretty much overtook Hercules in popularity (Xena got so big at one point you almost forgot Hercules even existed). Yet it’s surprising Universal never tried to parlay its success into a motion picture franchise, even when Lord of the Rings became a smash and memories of Herc and Xena were still relatively fresh, although the failure of the Kevin Sorbo-headliner Kull may not have helped.

The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman: Another male action show and its female protagonist (and arguably more popular) spin-off. Isn’t it strange that two well known shows featuring cybernetic humans, with stories rife with the possibility of big screen action and explosions, haven’t been adapted to the screen while Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard have? I heard at one point a comedy version of Six Million Dollar Man was being considered. Oy.

Quantum Leap: One of the most successful science fiction network TV shows of all time, although that’s probably because this is more Highway to Heaven than Star Trek when you think about it. Again, another Universal-made show that was big at the time, with talk that it would go to the big screen while the series was still on the air. But Scott Bakula never got to make that big leap (yeah I know, bad pun), even after the series was cancelled.

Magnum P.I.: The lack of a movie for this show must prove Universal really doesn’t give a rip about its TV catalog, as Magnum was absolutely huge back in the 80s. How is it that Universal never considered making a Magnum movie, particularly with Tom Selleck in the role? For years after the series wrapped, he could easily have reprised the role, and Selleck had already proven he could carry movie roles. Today a Magnum movie would likely be a reboot, but it’s quite surprising we haven’t seen that, either.

Family Guy: Out of the hugely popular teen and adult-skewering animated comedies of the past few decades (South Park, The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-head), this is the only one I can think of that never got a feature film. I suspect it’s more because of lack of interest on the part of the show’s creator Seth McFarlane, although considering his recent spate of projects haven’t been as successful, like The Cleveland Show, the move of American Dad! to TBS, and the disappointing box office of his last two movies, he may end up going for it.

So, any titles I’ve missed? What TV show are you surprised that Hollywood hasn’t butchered, uh, I mean, “adapted” for the big screen?


Backthrow said...

Jonny Quest - I'm sure there has probably been an ongoing attempt to make a big-screen, live-action JQ movie/franchise for years, but it's pretty amazing that nothing has resulted yet... while Tin-Tin (which never had much of a following in the U.S.) did get a big Spielberg movie version.

The Prisoner - Sure, it got remade as a TV mini-series a few years ago, but you'd think something with the sort of fanatical fan following this has had, its surreal, '60s-spy appeal, and all the critical praise its gotten over the years, would translate into big-screen fodder, but not so far.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker - Of course, the short-lived series was kick-started by two rather excellent made-for-TV movies, and was rebooted (badly) for TV a few years ago, but you'd think that with the emphasis on zombies, vampires, demons, etc in popular theatrical movies in the last decade or so, plus the impact of popular "monster-of-the-week" TV series like The X-Files (Chris Carter credits Kolchak as a prime inspiration), Buffy, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, etc, would translate into an attempt to make a big-budget, rebooted Kolchak movie, but... nope.

I Dream of Jeannie - I guess there was a major push to make a big movie comedy out of this, a decade or so ago, but I suspect the lousy Nicole Kidman Bewitched movie's non-success put the brakes on it. Still, genie magic is a perfect excuse for lots of CGI effects and dumb comedy, so I'm still surprised nothing's come of it.

Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and/or Rawhide - New westerns generally aren't popular draws in theaters these days, with a few exceptions, though I'm surprised that no attempts were made to create some "action-ized" reboots of these long-running popular TV westerns, in the wake of the success of Unforgiven, Maverick and 3:10 to Yuma.

The Outer Limits - Anthology films generally don't do well, but they still made Twilight Zone: The Movie and Heavy Metal, and Outer Limits is well-remembered, well-regarded and is sci-fi with monsters... and got the '90s TV reboot. What surprises me is that they haven't tried making a series of one-story films under the OL brand, much like the original idea behind the Halloween films (which got scrapped after Halloween III).

Mannix - Surprised this didn't get either the campy spoof or dark/"realistic" treatment, when everything from SWAT to I Spy to Charlie's Angels to Starsky & Hutch was getting the green light.

Columbo - No one can replace Peter Falk as the title character, but I'm still surprised (and thankful) that no spoof version has been made (with Will Farrell, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, etc), ala Dragnet... or a rebooted black/female/gay/etc Columbo.

The Invaders (or UFO)... alien invasion scenarios. We have a ton of them already, but still, these have "brand names" that I'm surprised have remained untapped as theatrical films, since Hollywood otherwise likes to reboot like nobody's business.

Hawaii Five-0 - Again, it's had a successful small-screen reboot, but I'm surprised it didn't get either a spoofy or a "darker/grittier" theatrical reboot before then.

The Rat Patrol - Wartime vehicles and machine guns in the desert, with almost no relation to actual historical events; sounds like something tailor-made for a modern Summer blockbuster.

Honey West - A cult, one-season wonder (like Time Tunnel), forgotten by most, but since it had a female lead as an American quasi-Emma Peel/Cathy Gale detective/crimefighter, I'm surprised it wasn't dusted off to give the starlet du jour license to wear sexy outfits while beating-up big, physically-powerful men.

Anonymous said...

"I'm still ...thankful that no spoof version of Columbo has been made with Will Farrell, Adam Sandler,Jim Carrey et al or a rebooted black/female/gay etc Columbo."
And all the people said AMEN!
I'm glad that somehow they missed that one.

Anonymous said...

I have to say though, that back in the 90's an I Dream of Jeannie big screen adaptation with Pam Anderson would have worked. She was perfect to play the well meaning but naive title character and she had ditzy comedy down to an art form. And of course, we'd have gotten to look at her in that costume, updated for the 90's of course. ;)

tryanmax said...

A few responses and a few of my own:

Magnum P.I.: If they did this as a movie today, it would most likely be a comic homage, a la 21 Jump Street. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. Frankly, Jump Street surprised me by obliterating my low expectations.

Family Guy: This show is very much made on the cheap using cost-cutting techniques pioneered by Hanna-Barbera, where MacFarlane got his start as an animator. If you know what to look for, they're easy to spot. That's not a knock, per-se. Credit to Seth for understanding his business. The point is, the necessary production value improvements for a feature film would greatly disrupt his syndication and DVD sales based business model.

I Dream of Jeannie: This could be fun, but an update would look very different from the TV show. Could be a great vehicle for a couple of comics looking to break into movies. The big challenge right now: we're in a phase where women comediannes can't be pretty, and I think the role of Jeannie calls for both looks and wit.

Columbo: I would entertain Chris Pratt in the title role.

And now for my own:

ThunderCats: This has been announced and then put on hold several times. Now there's a new TV series, so I doubt it'll get made any time soon. Maybe it's better that way.

Doogie Howser, M.D.: Admittedly, I'm picturing this as a comedy vehicle for NPH, who was the only reason to watch How I Met Your Mother.

Carnivale: The producers were expecting a third season when HBO unceremoneously cancelled the show after season two ended on a cliffhanger. It's been ten years and I'd still like some closure. The show's unique ambiance was maybe ahead of it's time, meeting depression-era social-issues and politics with magic and mysticism, as lived by the motely performers and crew of a traveling circus.

Galaxy High: This was an animated '80s high school comedy set in space. It could just as easily be a live action/CGI 2010's high school comedy set in space. Perfect for a cast of unknowns and up-and-comers bookened by a couple established stars in minor adult roles. Maybe I should work up a treatment and shop it around?

The Tick: This super hero send-up has been both animated and live action on TV. Just make a damned movie already. I even bet Patrick Warburton would be up for the title role again.

Twin Peaks: Technically, there was a Twin Peaks movie, but it was basically a glorified episode. I think a cinematic retelling of the Laura Plamer murder story arc that resolved halfway through season two (that was a dumb decision) with all the cruft removed would make for a very compelling film.

ScottDS said...

I’ve read about several of these possibly being rebooted over the years but I imagine they’re all stuck in what’s known as Development Hell.

Re: Nic Cage as Superman, I recommend The Death of Superman Lives documentary that was produced last year and funded via Kickstarter. (Got my name in the credits, albeit in a super-small font!)

I’m surprised the Irwin Allen stuff hasn’t been remade yet (even on TV), though as far as 60s-era sci-fi adventures go, the one title that keeps popping up is Fantastic Voyage - there’s a new remake rumor every few months.

They remade V a handful of years ago and it lasted for a couple seasons.

JMS has indeed talked about doing a B5 movie but it’s pretty obvious that it’s not exactly on WB’s priority list. I’d love to see the show released on Blu-Ray but they’d most likely have to redo all the visual effects - a pricey proposition.

JMS has a B5 store on CafePress and they’re selling a ton of cool stuff: scripts, DVDs of convention appearances, making-of material, etc. I assume he retained the rights to certain things because none of this stuff is available in stores.

The Six Million Dollar Man has been rumored for years. I think Kevin Smith even wrote a draft at one point. (He can do other things - it’s not all dick jokes!) :-)

tryanmax said...

Yeah, but you gotta think there's still a few dick jokes in there. I mean, the word "enhancement" is unavoidable. "Better. Stronger. Faster." The jokes were written back in 1973, they're just holding out for the punch line to be delivered.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, Thanks for the article! You definitely got me thinking!

Like tryanmax, I would love to see an ending to Carnivale. And like GypsyTyger, I'm thankful they haven't tried to rape Columbo.

I'm a little surprised Hollywood hasn't just done a number on any show with cops or fire or doctors in it, like Hill Street Blues and E.R.. I'm definitely shocked they never did Magnum P.I.. Knight Rider too seems ripe for never-ending remakes.

I had heard something about them rebooting Space 1999, but you never know these days.

Jason said...

Backthrow: That’s an awesome list, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of a lot of those earlier, especially Hawaii Five-0 and I Dream of Jeannie.

Re: The Prisoner. After The Avengers flopped (the movie adaptation of the TV show, obviously not the Marvel movie), I suspect the appetite for adapting 60’s spy-style stories waned. The recent failure of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie won’t help, either.

Sadly, I think the reason Kolchak is neglected is because its protagonist is too old. A lot of movies today featuring zombies, vampires, demons, etc, have teenagers or young adults as the main protagonists. If they remade it, I fear it’d look more like Twilight.

tryanmax: You’d think Thundercats would have been picked up in the 80s toon-to-screen craze that’s been going on. For similar reasons, I’m wondering why a Masters of the Universe reboot hasn’t made it yet. I suspect the fact that both universes feature totally exotic settings (not on our normal-day Earth like Transformers, G.I. Joe and Jem) is what’s hanging things up.

ScottDS: I have to confess today I’m actually a bit sad that they didn’t go forward with Cage as Superman, especially after the lackluster job Superman Returns did. It would have made for an interesting movie, I think, and even if it failed, it would have been an interesting failure.

Andrew: Yeah, I should have thought of Knight Rider!

I suspect the dearth of movie adaptations of shows like E.R. or Hill Street Blues is probably why those kinds of shows are on TV in the first place, that Hollywood doesn’t think those stories can turn a profit on the big screen, so they don’t make them. Not enuff ‘splosions.

Kenn Christenson said...

Did you see the remake of the "V" TV series? The Alien Queen was pretty-much portrayed as a "space Obama" which was actually pretty cool. The British TV series U.F.O. was a favorite of mine, growing up, and seems like a sure-fire natural - with its' story-lines' similarity to the war-on-terror. I'd heard they were planning to shoot a film around 4-5 years back - guess it went nowhere.

Kenn Christenson said...

...also thought a (way) more historically accurate "Baa Baa Black Sheep" would make an excellent film. There was an excellent book: "Black Sheep One" written about Boyington which would be a great basis for a feature.

shawn said...

Going from the small screen to big screen is great for shows that rely on effects as film generally has the budget to do it right. Outside of that, I don't know why anyone would bother. Small screen allows for better story telling.

Best examples-
The aforementioned "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The tv show is MUCH better than the movie.

"Star Trek: the next generation"- I think most people would agree that TNG only had one movie worth the price of admission. And while there are a number of duds in the series, it did indeed have a number of gems.

Star Trek- generally accepted that the movies are hit or miss, I like all of them, although "Final Frontier" is very weak. Other than "The Motion Picture" all the others felt like the t.v. show with an upgraded budget.

The X-Files. Enjoyed the first movie a bunch, the second not so much. The series easily outshines the movies.

Veronica Mars. The recent kickstarter made film was entertaining, but could just as easily been a tv episode.

Outlaw13 said...

Burn Notice and Justified...I think both would make excellent films.

As I don't really follow box office figures I didn't know Man From UNCLE bombed, I thought it was actually pretty good.

PikeBishop said...

Here's an amazing one that would never ever pass muster in today's Hollywood. About 20 years ago, both Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe were interested in playing Col. Hogan in a reboot of "Hogan's Heroes." That would have been something but PC Hollywood and Gibson's subsequent drunken antics pretty much ended that thought.

Eric M. Blake said...

A show that would've been interesting to have a movie remake:

Cheers. Specifically the Sam-and-Diane era, the iconic story arc that forever set the gold standard for the Romantic Comedy genre, TV or film.

I think Amy Adams would be the perfect Diane, with her incomparable Hepburn-esque blend of playful innocence and classy sophistication. Anyone who's seen "Leap Year" would surely agree she's be the right gal for the job.

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