Thursday, February 23, 2012

15 Lesser-Known TV Shows Based on Movies

A long time ago, we wrote about movies based on TV shows. But did you know it works the other way, too, and that some TV shows actually started out as movies? Anything is possible and the future is now. There are plenty of good TV shows that started out as movies: MASH, Friday Night Lights, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At least, I've heard that people like MASH and Friday Night Lights; I've never seen either one, because no vampires. The point is this: there are way more terrible shows that started out as movies. Here are but a few.

1. Gung Ho (1986; 9 episodes)

Scott Bakula leaped into Michael Keaton's body and was all "Oh boy."

2. Uncle Buck (1990; 22 episodes)

This isn't real. This has to be a Mr. Show sketch.

3. Fast Times (1986; 7 episodes)

Back to the Future's Claudia Welles' boobs step in for Phoebe Cates' boobs. Spicoli is played by Dean "Chainsaw" Cameron. Also featuring a young Courtney Thorne-Smith and Patrick Dempsey. All seven episodes were surprisingly abortion-free.

4. Working Girl (1990; 12 episodes)

A great example of just how misconceived so many of these movies-turned-TV-shows are. This could have been any workplace sitcom; there's no reason to call it Working Girl. Sandra Bullock can do almost no wrong, though (with the exception of All About Steve...also, The Blind Side), and this is proof that she was great to watch even in junk. What I'm saying is that I love her.

5. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1992; 7 episodes)

Not the Saturday morning cartoon from 1990 (which actually retained all of the actors as voice talent), but a 1992 FOX "comedy" that looks so awful I physically can't watch the opening titles. I'm too embarrassed for everyone involved, and I can't handle feeling that way. The good news? San Dimas High School Football rules.

6. Clueless (1996-99, 62 episodes)

The longest-running show on this list by a huge margin, Clueless began as part of the TGIF lineup on ABC before moving over to UPN, where it lasted another two seasons. The whole cast returned, though Rachel Blanchard (the Fringe-verse Alicia Silverstone) took over in the lead. And what was Donald Faison going by in those days? And why do the opening credits look so much like the opening credits to Fast Times, even though it's 10 years later?

7. Alien Nation (1989-90; 22 episodes)

For some reason, my memory is that this show ran way longer than a single season. It was a cult favorite, and it's easy to understand why; though the opening titles don't suggest it at all (they're all doing utterly ordinary things, but they're, you know, aliens), this is one of the few movies that might work even better as a weekly series. And we know it's THE FUTURE because of Rambo 6.

8. Ferris Bueller (1990; 13 episodes)

NBC attempted to turn the classic John Hughes' movie (one of Doug's favorites!) into a sitcom, replacing the charm of Matthew Broderick with the douchey smarm of Charlie Schlatter. That opening title sequence is one of the worst things ever made. The lyrics are great, though. Noteworthy only because it co-starred Jennifer Aniston (as Ferris's sister) and because, as reader J.M Vargas points out, the show was done better and lasted longer as Parker Lewis Can't Lose (later just Parker Lewis) on Fox.

9. Delta House (1979; 13 episodes)

Several key cast members, including Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill and John Vernon reprised their roles for this sitcom based on John Landis's Animal House. John Belushi, Tim Matheson and Tom Hulce are all conspicuously absent.

10. Fargo (2003; 1 episode)

Edie Falco does her best Frances McDormand impression stepping into the role of Marge Gunderson in an hour-long drama based on the Coen Brothers' 1996 classic (one of Mike's favorites!). As much as I hold the movie sacred, I have to admit that there could be a TV show here; both the main character and the location are good enough to sustain a series. I'm certainly not disappointed that it didn't happen, though, because a bad Fargo show might be more than I can take.

11. Dirty Dancing (1988-89; 11 episodes)

Notable for starring Melora Hardin (of The Office) in the role of "Baby," as well as featuring future Freaks & Geeks creator and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig in a supporting role

12. L.A. Confidential (2003; 1 episode)

Originally shot in 1999, the TV adaptation of Curtis Hanson's 1997 movie (itself an adaptation of a James Ellroy novel) starred Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Vincennes (which means SPOILER? the show must be a prequel?), Melissa George as Lynn Bracken (the Veronica Lake-lookalike prostitute role that won Kim Basinger an Oscar) and Josh Hopkins (from Cougar Town) as Bud White. Nope! Only the pilot was filmed, and it's available in its entirety on the L.A. Confidential Blu-ray.

13. Police Academy (1997-98; 26 episodes)

I'm guessing you're asking yourself "Who would ever watch a Police Academy TV series?" Easy: the person who stuck around all the way through Mission to Moscow and wished that the party didn't have to end. This syndicated show (which ran ONE HOUR per episode) aired primarily in Canada, which you can tell by the opening credits. Michael Winslow's bullhorn sounds are funny in ANY country.

14. Revenge of the Nerds (1991; pilot never aired)

Yes, this looks terrible and was so bad it never got picked up (consider that ALF was a hit show that ran for several seasons). What's truly amazing about this show is that it's from 1991. WHAT? Wouldn't you swear the clip is from the mid-80s? Not that it's a huge difference or anything, but it just seems that we would have learned some things about comedy and TV and life and love by the '90s. The star of the show was Rob Stone from Mr. Belvedere, who was also the inspiration for Jason Schwartzman's character in Funny People. TRUE STORY.

15. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1973; 7 episodes)

I guess in 1973, turning Paul Mazursky's 1969 movie about two couples who decide to all sleep together into a half-hour comedy seemed like a good idea? "The first sitcom for swingers!" Robert Urich and Anne Archer starred, as did a young Jodie Foster, who was clearly turned off marriage by the whole thing. And possibly penises?


  1. All right, TV shows on 'F This Movie.' Now we're in MY wheelhouse, and thanks for the shout out in the "Ferris Bueller"/"Parker Lewis" comparison. :-)

    The "Uncle Buck" TV show was controversial back when it premiered on CBS because the opening line of the first episode was a little kid saying 'you suck' (which I believe is every other line on Showtime's 'House of Lies'). It was otherwise a real show.... (Jack Palance voice kicks in) 'believe it, or not.'

    I'm a big fan of the TV adaptation of "The Incredible Hulk" so I actually gave the "Alien Nation" show a shot since TV helmer Kenneth Johnson (who also directed "Steel" and "Short Circuit 2"... yikes!) was in charge. Nice try, but it just another late-80's cop drama that happened to have aliens (no special effects though, just the make-up on the actors' heads) and ham-fisted metaphors about oppressed minorities and civil rights that were clearly meant to represent Reagan's America. "Alien Nation" also suffered from having almost zero production values (it was early in Fox network's existence), which is the same fate that sunk the TV adaptation of "Planet of the Apes." Sorry, but seeing people in ape make-up on horses a different planet (or a story worth following weekly) does not make... plus no Chuck Heston screaming or Statue of Liberty = why bother. At least "Alien Nation" on TV spawned four or so decent made-for-TV movies that expanded on the extraterrestrial mythology and weren't trying to be the 1986 James Caan-Many Patinkin movie on a shoestring.

    I think the two attempts to make a TV show about "Casablanca" ('55 and '83) both deserve a spot, if not for their execution (the '83 version is surprisingly not horrible, not that I can show you a clip or any video of it ever existing) for the sheer chutzpah of attempting to turn such an iconic flick into weekly TV-budgeted melodrama. For 1983 David Soul (yes, Hutch his own self!) made an OK made-for-TV Rick and Hector Elizondo (who usually brings the goods when he isn't mugging) did a decent Renault. Scatman Crothers as Sam wiped their asses the handful of times he appeared though, which over 5 episodes isn't really that much.

    Other recent attempts to do movie-to-TV transfers that sucked: "Robocop: The Series" (one syndicated season in 1994; better than the horrible "Robocop 3," but only because the pain and cheapness of the show were spread out over 22 episodes instead of 90 minutes), "My Big Fat Greek Life" (7 episodes in 2003 from the "MBFG Wedding" hit movie) and "10 Things I Hate About You" (one season on ABC Family; having Larry Miller reprise his role as the father wasn't enough to compensate for the absence of Heath, Stiles, JGL and "Alex Mack" her own self, Larisa Oleynik as Bianca).

    Last and certainly least. Although its based more on the Grisham book than the 1993 Sydney Pollack/Tom Cruise movie (although its chronology/characters are based partly on the flick), NBC's "The Firm" debuted this year to ratings so low and reviews so bad the network has sent the remaining season (16+ episodes it has already paid for) to burn off on Saturday nights. Yes, 22 years after it greenlit "Ferris Bueller" NBC has learned nothing which is why it's literally swimming in shit. Next up in the adaptation machine: TWO NETWORKS ARE EACH TRYING TO GET "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" ADAPTATIONS ON THE AIR BY NEXT SEASON. Patrick's Vader-like 'NOOOOO!!!' scream of anger and rage against the (network) machine in three, two, one...

    More later, gotta get back to work.

  2. And then there's the pilot for Clerks: The TV Show, starring Jim Bruer as Randal, the less said about the better.

    1. I wanted to include that, but couldn't find a clip anywhere. Keri Russell was on it, too, as a girl who worked at the tanning salon in the strip mall. The tanning salon that was invented so that Keri Russell could work there.

    2. Yeah, I couldn't find a clip either, which seems really odd.

  3. I'm back (still at work but on a break). Forgot to mention one more TV show based on a movie that I personally don't think it's bad. In fact I love this show to death and its one of my guilty pleasures because it was one of the first TV shows (along with Letterman's NBC "Late Night" show) that I became addicted to when I moved to the States. Objectively this show is deeply flawed and jumps the shark about three or four times within the span of 20 episodes over its single season of existence in syndication. So it qualifies for inclusion here even though I personally love it.

    I'm talking of course about 1990's SHE-WOLF OF LONDON (, "based" on the forgettable 1946 movie of the same name but really inspired more by the werewolf movies of the 1980's. Shoot, the pilot episode is practically a sanitized-for-TV remake of "An American Werewolf In London" except with a female exchange student named Randi Wallace (Kate Hodge) getting 'the curse' while her older and very Brit professor, Ian Matheson (Neil Dickson), tries to help her find a cure. Whenever they're not dealing with Randi's monthly curse (not that one, the one about becoming a werewolf!) these two stumble upon other supernatural phenomena and freaks of nature (of which there seem to be plenty in merry ol' London and surrounding areas) that might or might not help them find a cure for Randi's condition.

    This show was so far ahead of its time it was bound to flame out. It had 'Monsters of the Week' episodes (in the weeks when there wasn't a full moon to bring out Randi's werewolf) before "X-Files" and, after a few weeks of playing it straight, comedic and self-aware episodes that were already being 'Whedonesque.' There's a whole episode, 'Beyond the Beyond,' that did "Galaxy Quest" nine years before the real "GQ" (on a TV budget but same general idea). Most of all though, "She-Wolf" had the great chemistry between Dickson and Hodge to carry it through most of these seemingly-desperate attempts to get viewers to watch (ratings were bad when the show started and they only got worse) that made the show uneven at best. One of my favorite episodes, 'What's Got Into Them?,' both acknowledges and makes fun of the repressed-animal sexuality within the werewolf mythos while also playing the whole thing as a farce that keeps topping itself. And the teaser at the end of Part 1 of 'Can't Keep A Dead Man Down' left me 17 year-old self with the mouth on the floor and the longest week in-between a two-part TV episode I've ever felt in my life.

    Alas, the chemistry between the leads couldn't save "She-Wolf" when the producers moved the show from London to sunny CA and changed its name to "Love and Curses" in a last-ditch desperate attempt to save it. Without the atmosphere of London and the supporting cast the show became unwatchable and stupid, even as the writers/directors/actors knew that the show was doomed and played with the show's conventions for the hell of it. Even I can't bring myself to watch the US-set episodes (which alone merit this show being mentioned here), and I'm here defending the honor and reputation of "She-Wolf" strongly. Heck, the entire series could be considered horrible from start to finish by some here and I'd totally understand why they don't like it.

    Universal released the entire season on DVD when "The Wolfman" came out in theaters (it's really cheap now) and many episodes are on YouTube. Stupidly the studio removed the original intro music with a generic one that bridges both the UK and US episodes. If you ever come near watching "She-Wolf of London" (1990 TV show, not 1946 flick) make sure to watch the original intro at least once: Thanks for reading my rant!

  4. Thank you for this PTSD-inducing look at the suppressed TV memories of my early adult years. There are so many things I love about this column that I can't even begin to list them BUT HERE GOES: Use of the word "telecast" -- the uncanny WRONGness of Charlie Schlatter's wardrobe and choreography -- the fact that they clearly did NOT get the music they wanted for the Delta House opening -- the way Dean Faber pronounces "halfTIME" -- Mclean Stevenson! -- Clint Howard! --Cousin Oliver! -- most of all I love the echoes of a simpler time, when colors were brighter and racism and asthma were both HILARIOUS.

    I'm all hollow, Mommy. Because these clips just ate my soul.

    1. ^^^ But Wes Craven made a deal for your soul, didn't he? 'MY SOUL TO TAKE' Wes said after you signed the dotted line, right? Boy, Craven will be mad when he finds out Patrick ate your soul which was his (Wes') to take. :-P

  5. I didn’t even know that half of these shows existed! I was poking through the Blockbuster @Home section of and I found the Bill and Ted cartoon. I am currently at work at DISH so I didn’t have time to watch any of the episodes. I wanted to know more so I did a search. I found a lot of sites talking about a third movie that is in the works but I couldn’t find much info on the cartoon. I did however stumble across this site where my mind was slightly blown. I have to wonder about the casting decisions of these shows, maybe that’s why they didn’t get very far. Kevin Meaney filling in for John Candy doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success. Now that I think about it, there are tons of bad TV ports of good movies, the Crow comes to mind.