Adapting movies to television has mixed results

Adapting movies to television has mixed results

Adapting movies to television has mixed results
November 06
18:49 2016

Television companies spend significant amounts of time, energy and money developing new shows in hope of attracting huge audiences.

Over the past few years, companies have crafted a considerable number of movie-to-TV adaptations. They are either remakes, such as the show “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” or sequels, as was the case with A&E’s short-lived “Omen” spin-off “Damien.”

This year, the next movie adaptation scheduled to hit small screens is “Shooter.”

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, the USA Network show is an action drama centered on Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), a well trained, highly decorated veteran attempting to prevent a presidential assassination. Mark Wahlberg played Swagger in the film, and his production credit should lend some credibility to the series.

Even though Wahlberg’s film provided audiences with 2 hours of entertainment, there is some debate whether it can be fleshed out to establish a fully realized series. It’s akin to basing 3 feature-length films on a single book (à la “The Hobbit” trilogy).

Prior to the 2014 premiere of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” I was skeptical if filmmaker Robert Rodriguez could flesh out his vampire film to multiple episodes. Fortunately, my fears were eased once the series began, making for the perfect homage to a ’90s cult classic.

One aspect of developing television, which doesn’t always lend itself to actual movies, is character development. In films, story arcs develop over the course of sequels.

Still, episodic drama is a better way to uncover the hidden depths of a character’s past and their state of mind.

The character development seen in “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” is phenomenal. If “Shooter” wants to experience the popularity of Rodriguez’s series, the characters will need compelling backstories. Screenwriters should incorporate off-screen aspects of the film, material which was inferred but not seen.

Although some movies do not make the leap from the big screen to TV as easily, there are truly good examples of the trend. Both “In the Heat of the Night” (1988-1995) and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003) saw longevity beyond their premieres.

“Westworld,” a remake of a 1973 sci-fi classic, premiered last month on HBO. The original film, set in 1983, was about a futuristic amusement park. A malfunction with one of the cowboy androids causes havoc in the park, subsequently terrifying vacationers. The show follows the same plot and has been top-notch so far.

Regardless, a movie’s popularity should not be the sole reason to put it on the small screen. If anything, shows like “Limitless,” “Damien” and “Rush Hour” proved this idea wrong on all of their occasions.

The “Limitless” series followed up a 2011 thriller where Bradley Cooper’s protagonist took an intellect strengthening drug. It had a promising first season, with Cooper reprising his role in some episodes.

But his presence wasn’t enough to keep the show from cancellation, just as “Damien” suffered the same fate.

As for “Rush Hour,” its disappointment came from how the films were disrespected. The 43-minute series premiere was nothing more than a compressed remake of the first movie. Yawn.

The “Rush Hour” television producers should have taken a leaf or two out of Rodriguez’s book. He understands, when it comes to repackaging a film for television, to present as much detail as possible.

In an episodic narrative, there is significant wiggle room for storytelling that few movies don’t always benefit from. Sometimes it works, but most often, it doesn’t.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Shain E. Thomas

Shain E. Thomas

Born in Sacramento, University of North Texas graduate student Shain E. Thomas is an actor, social historian and a freelance entertainment journalist. Shain, a member of National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and the UNT chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), is interested in studying Antebellum American history.

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