Film-to-TV adaptations are the latest craze in the world of television, and they seem to come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen popular films turned into traditional programs such as NBC’s Parenthood, which recently concluded its wonderful six-season run, and limited series such as FX’s Fargo.
Such classic films as Rosemary’s Baby and Bonnie and Clyde have been turned into old-fashioned miniseries spread out over a few nights. With Fox’s Napoleon Dynamite, a cult classic was reimagined as a half-hour animated show.
Syfy recently launched 12 Monkeys, based on Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi hit that starred Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, while Netflix announced amid much fanfare that they are moving forward with a series based on Wet Hot American Summer, which launched the careers of a whole lot of funny people, including Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.
And films as diverse as Big, Uncle Buck, Problem Child, and Rush Hour are in various stages of development.
Fargo has pretty much raised the bar very, very high with these kinds of adaptations, creating a wholly unique experience out of the Sisyphean task of adapting a modern classic. In this case, it was the beloved and Oscar-winning Coen brothers film. For the EW Community, that makes pretty much any movie fair game.
Here are six that we think could make for some great television!
Weekend at Bernie’s
Let’s start with the lowbrow first. While no one is going to go out on a limb and call this film a classic, Bernie’s does hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts. The story of two schmos, Richard and Larry (the lovable Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy, respectively), caught up in a murder plot involving their scheming boss (the one and only Terry Kiser), then going out of their way to fool people into thinking he’s still alive, is ripe for television. Plus, there has already been a sequel, so the filmmakers knew to get more mileage out of the one-joke concept. The half-hour format seems prime for something like this, maybe even containing flashbacks with the Bernie character to give him more of an arc. Flashback or not, whoever steps in Kiser’s shoes is in for a killer role (pun intended).
This 1990 blockbuster is yet another example of how television can expand on a film concept. When mild-mannered banker Sam (Patrick Swayze) is killed during a seemingly random mugging, he comes back as a ghost and is horrified to find that his murder may not have been by chance. Teaming up with wisecracking psychic Oda Mae (Whoopi Goldberg, in her Oscar-winning role), he is determined to find the truth and protect his girlfriend (Demi Moore). Taking it one step further, perhaps Sam and Oda Mae could team up and help others (in a Touched by an Angel/Highway to Heaven way) while trying to uncover the mystery? One of the best scenes in the movie involves a ghost Sam runs into at the subway—a dark soul who teaches him the way to make his presence known. Turning him into a major character, maybe even a mentor to Sam, would also expand the possibilities.
This underrated gem gave Al Pacino and Johnny Depp B.J.S. (Before Jack Sparrow) two of their greatest roles. Brasco chronicles the true-life plight of FBI agent Joseph Pistone (Depp) as he goes undercover in the Bonanno crime family, and is taken under the wing of aging gangster Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Pacino). The film touches on a lot of themes that could easily expand in the television format, such as the strain Pistone’s role causes for his family, his struggle with identity as he gets deeper and deeper into the Mob, and Lefty’s own dilemma in finding his purpose in a world no longer familiar to him. The show would be the perfect antidote for a post-Sopranos world.
Political programs such as Scandal and House of Cards are everywhere these days, as they’ve become the latest “water cooler” shows. So perhaps it’s wise to revisit this 1972 classic, which gave Robert Redford one of his best roles. Playing Bill McKay, Redford makes great use of his 1,000-watt smile as the idealistic son of a former governor who is plucked from obscurity to run against the incumbent governor of California, Crocker Jarmon (get it? Crocker). What made The Candidate so special was the way director Michael Ritchie used a quasi-documentary look to give the audience a you-are-there feel. This could easily translate to television. Plus, 40 years later, it’s amazing just how topical the whole thing is. Seeing more of the toll the election takes on McKay (and his marriage) as he succumbs to the pressures of running for elected office, as well as integrating the 24-hour news cycle and social-media factors, would render this ready-made for television.
Warren Beatty has been trying to get a sequel to his 1990 hit off the ground for years. So why not ditch the silver screen and go the television route? Based on Chester Gould’s 1940’s comic strip of the same name, the film would feel right at home on a platform where shows based on comic books (Arrow, Gotham, The Flash) have thrived. Gould’s world offers plenty of material to work with, as cop Tracy goes after Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) and a rogue’s gallery of villains that would give you nightmares, including a ton that didn’t even make it into the movie. Visually, one can make this just as unique on television as it was at the movies. Finally, add one square-jawed actor to play the titular role (Kyle Chandler, I’m looking at you) and enjoy.
The ending of Nicolas Winding Refn’s instant cult classic left the door open for so many possibilities. After saving his lady love, Irene (Carey Mulligan), from gangster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), The Driver (Ryan Gosling) finds himself disappearing into the darkness, forced to always keep one eye open. The series could pick up exactly at that moment, with The Driver traveling from town to town and serving as a hero for hire to anyone in need, while yearning for a simpler life with Irene and her young son. Meanwhile, Rose’s men continue to tail him with plans to avenge their boss’ death. Moments that delve into The Driver’s past, even before he was a stunt driver, would tie into the present action. The key to a successful show would be to retain the film’s retro look and vibe—especially its memorable soundtrack.
Do you agree with our picks? What films did we miss?