Eight movies that would have made great TV shows

Odd List Martin Anderson 11 Aug 2009 - 22:38
Weekly episodes of the imagination...

Money talks where blockbuster movies are concerned, but the ensuing TV spin-off can barely clear its throat...

The movie had a blank cheque; the TV show that issues from it is trying to out-do ILM on a G4 iMac. The original movie had licence to build the sets it needed and go where it wanted in order to develop the narrative; the show needs to invest in and re-use standing sets, in which it will place a whole bunch of actors arguing with each other in order to avoid going outside (too expensive). The movie had car chases; the show can barely afford bicycles.

Next year's live-action Star Wars TV series may make a dent in these reliable chestnuts of movie>TV adaptations, but there are certainly some harsh realities to consider when downgrading a cinematic experience to the small screen. Here are eight possible movie-based TV shows where ideas could reign supreme over costly VFX, despite the high-budget provenance of the source material...

Alien/s

[sharp intake of breath] All right, probably not cheap, but standing sets could include the headquarters of Weyland/Yutani and economies made on stock shots of the 'regular' company space-ship that's determined to go to rumoured xenomorph hotspots to gather DNA/samples and organise a cover-up. And darkness (requisite) is cheap.

Klute

Well, perhaps it didn't work out with Jane Fonda for poor old Donald Sutherland, the hick-town tec with an uncanny handle on the way things work in New York city - and for now he has outstanding business there. With an out-of-state badge that wouldn't get him into a Punch and Judy show, our man Klute would have to rely on far more ingenious methods of persuasion. Obligatory location work in NYC combines with cheap mix-and-match seedy set-pieces in the LA studios to make this an affordable proposition. C'mon, this was one of the crucial influences on…

Blade Runner

Now we are in fantasy-land in more ways than one; Blade Runner the TV show would cost a small fortune, but initial VFX investment would prove very re-usable, with all those stock shots of the city. This would be a chance to really get behind the bizarre ideas in Philip K. Dick's source novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, including the fact that 'the city' (San Angeles, in Ridley Scott's movie) is so enormous that it has two completely separate and legitimate police departments that are unaware of the other's existence, and also the gestalt leader-worship which provides a moving TV experience for the huddled populace. Standing sets would include the noodle bar/shops and the LAPD police station that the Blade Runner unit operates out of. Location work in states with favourable tax-breaks and gothic architecture could make a series viable.

The Matrix

I would like to think that the appeal of this is obvious, since the mind-fucks of the Wachowski Bros original are more to do with writing and concepts than the CGI which expounded them. Trouble is, as the season runs out of money, later episodes will tend to be a bunch of grungy rebels yakking and arguing in a Nebuchadnezzar-style ship (small and cheap to light) about the big fight that's going to take place in three episodes' time, when the ropey VFX are done. But location shoots in any generic city are just fine for the non-descript make-believe metropolis our heroes buzz about in, and shooting concessions could see whole episodes shot on location.

Scanners

I must admit, they made so many sequels to David Cronenberg's flawed-but-fascinating original that you could practically run them as season one. However, they're mostly garbage. A TV series based around rogue telepaths would necessarily be a roving location shoot with one or two ConSec sets for Dr. Paul Ruth to worry about things in. Push, dire as it was, demonstrated some of the fun skills one could assign to psychically-gifted fugitives (even though a fair few were nicked from Firestarter), so it needn't be all exploding heads. On the negative side, relatively little potential to re-use expensive prosthetics shots (you can't kill the same guy every week). However telepathy shows are often pretty cheap, as the forces on display are generally invisible, the odd bout of telekinesis aside. The Champions blew this advantage by shooting all over Europe, but that's just what you did in those days. Brian De Palma's The Fury would make a similar alternative if the rights to Scanners proved problematic.

Barbarella

Tell you the truth, this gossamer confection from Jean-Claude Forest is barely worth a movie- Barbarella, both as comic-book and the Roger Vadim film, is trash-fun, and TV the obvious medium for it. Follow the kitsch of the Vadim effort and there's nary a prop too shabby or absurd that it wouldn't fit the style. No need to stick with HBO either - Barbarella is glam, not porn. Pygar is a fascinating character to explore, and ropey VFX are practically de rigueur. It would need a sexy but very sparky lead actress and a story arc with a sense of fun and a willingness to satirise current mores in sexual politics. Hey, Lexx ran for four seasons with less than this.

When Worlds Collide

120 days to Bellus! Waste anything but time…

"It's 24 for geeks" [and out comes the cheque-book]. With a proscribed story arc that absolutely has to culminate in series 3/5, what more do you want in the way of tension? Earth is doomed by an approaching errant planet and the race is on not only to construct the rocket-ship that will take the select few to a new world, but to select that lucky band who'll make the trip. And in the background, the evil wheelchair-bound financier determined to ensure that he'll not only make the trip but rule with an iron hand in the New World. Oceans boil, riots ensue, plots hatch to kill some of the standard building crew in order for others to get a seat...

With no significant VFX till series 5, and an (admittedly expensive) launch-pad/base standing set, this would be all about mankind set against itself, struggling to stay practical and facing unbearable pressure and choices. Guess we'll have to see how the remake pans out...

Forbidden Planet

A spaceship with a navy-style crew travels the galaxy meeting new and strange races, friends and enemies alike. The captain is romantic by nature but stern and fair with it, with a reliance on his first officer and the ship's medic.

Hang on a minute…

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