Television has always looked to the silver screen for inspiration. With more room for characters to breathe, and a bigger canvas to take plots on expansive tangents, the television versions of movie classics often exceed the vision of the original filmmakers.
Here are the top nine television shows based on films.
Released in 1970 with a brilliant cast, including Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, and Elliott Gould, Robert Altman’s MASH, following a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War, was actually a scathing attack on the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The TV version, which ran between 1972 to 1983, became one of the highest rated shows of all time. The cast, headlined by Alan Alda as Hawkeye, were household names and political commentary was sneaked into American households behind the laughter and tears.
Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo -- CR: FX/Matthias Clamer
The Coen brothers’ perfect pitch-black comedy thriller was always going to be a hard act to follow. They had bagged an Oscar for their script, as has Frances McDormand for her brilliant turn as a pregnant police woman. The first season of the TV show initially seems like it is following the movie’s plot before it shot off on tangents as Billy Bob Thornton’s killer for hire drives through town and meets Martin Freeman’s hapless downtrodden insurance man become embroiled in murder most foul. The second and third seasons of this anthology show follow different stories and are proof that the show has now taken on a life of its own.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Written by series creator Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer started life as a film starring Kristy Swanson as the titular slayer, along with Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry and Pee-Wee Herman star Paul Reubens. The film was not a huge hit, audiences and critics alike confused by the film’s frothy tone. The TV show, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, took a much darker approach as the denizens of the “Hellmouth” that lies below Sunnydale High sucked the blood out of the local community. Many of the delightful ensemble cast, including Alyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Emma Caulfield and Michelle Trachtenberg, have the “Buffyverse” to thank for their subsequent careers.
Friday Night Lights
Based on the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, Peter Berg’s 2004 sport drama tells the story of a high school American football team in the Texas city of Odessa and the townsfolk who were obsessed with them. The TV show relocated the action to the small, close-knit community of Dillon, situated in rural Texas. Shot with no rehearsals for the actors, Kyle Chandler, who plays football coach Eric Taylor, and the rest of the cast created a memorable and realistic portrayal of middle America that lasted for five seasons.
Vicious and bloodthirsty, John Jarratt’s wise-cracking sociopath Mick Taylor and Wolf Creek took no prisoners and played with Aussie iconography: “Now this is a knife!” The sequel, while not so successful at the box-office signposted what lay ahead for the franchise as director Greg Mclean turned his torturous horror film into a rip-roaring actioner for the sequel. The genre-bending trend continued with the Wolf Creek TV series, which originally aired on the Australian streaming network Stan before coming to the UK on Fox - series one playing like a revenge western and the new series, streaming now, a tension-cranking Hitchcockian suspense thriller.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead was a low-budget, gore soaked horror classic that rode the bloody wave of the video nasty and a quote from Stephen King who proclaimed the film was the ultimate in gruelling terror. The film’s star Bruce Campbell was a cult in the making, especially after his performances in the two Evil Dead sequels, so his groovy appearance in Ash VS Evil Dead was almost inevitable. Fuelled by the splat-stick gags of the films and Campbell’s colossal ego, Ash Vs Evil Dead is a gory delight. Horrific and hilarious in equal measure, who knew that Ash and his eternal battle with the deadites would be such brilliant television.
Following on almost three decades after Geoffrey Wright’s astonishing 1992 film of the same name, the Stan Original series Romper Stomper looks back with Jacqueline McKenzie, John Brumpton and Dan Wylie as they step back into the boots of their characters from the film while looking ahead with a new generation of extremists from both sides of the political divide. While the film focused on the racial hatred searing through Russell Crowe’s skinhead Hando, the show is working on a much bigger canvas as right wing and left wing extremists do battle on the streets and in the media.
A contemporary prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Bates Motel, starring Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as his mother Norma was showered with accolades when first broadcast, especially for the two leads. It starts at the moment when, after the death of her husband, Norma relocates and buys the Bates Motel to start a new life for herself and her son. Exploring the fragile psyche of a young man who we know will kill, Bates Motel works best when portraying the lengths that a mother will go to protect her son from himself and those around him.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones
Created by George Lucas after a flashback in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade opened with a flashback showing how a young Indiana Jones, then played by River Phoenix, first used a whip and in turn got the scar on his chin. The show aimed to educate as well as exhilarate although none of the action ever matched the adrenaline pumping set pieces of the three Steven Spielberg directed Indiana Jones films. Every episode, starring Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier as two ages of Dr Jones, focused on historical figures and events.
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