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 411mania » Movies » Columns

Ten Deep 2.13.14: Top 10 TV Shows Based On Movies
Posted by Mike Gorman on 02.13.2014

"2.13.14: Top Ten TV Shows Based On Movies"

In last week's column I discussed properties adapted to TV from Comic Books and this week the adaptations roll on inspired by ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. That series that grew from the recent slate of Marvel films has seemed to finally find its voice and focus presenting some quality episodes the back half of the first season. That got me thinking about other TV series that were based on films and a Ten Deep was born.

10. Teen Wolf

Let's the most shame based entry on this out of the way first. I was a huge fan of the original Teen Wolf when it came out in the 1980s and will admit I was very skeptical when I heard MTV was produced an updated television version. I went from skeptical to downright disappointed when the first details of the show were released. It seemed to be solely a vehicle for MTV to broadcast an hour of shirtless men growling with no real transference of the original film's spirit. I can happily say that while there is a lack of shirts on set the series has really come into its own and consistently delivers a well-produced supernatural experience. It has an ever growing mythology and characters that are not afraid to grow and change. It even brings a few chills and thrills each episode. I definitely recommend it.

9. Alien Nation

The television spinoff of the Alien Nation film only lasted one season but it then spawned a series of well received TV movie versions of the property. The TV adaptation was able to delve more deeply into the interpersonal conflicts and relationships between the humans of Earth and the alien Newcomers. The series presented a not so veiled statement on issues of racism and discrimination in our culture but did so in a unique way. Many critics site Alien Nation as a series that was cancelled too soon and I certainly agree.

8. Freddy's Nightmares

To call Freddy's Nightmares an overall good show is probably stretching whatever little credibility I have with you dear readers as I will admit it was basically one of many anthology horror series from the late 80s/early 90s that suffered from low production values and melodramatic overacting. But, it stands out because while it was not often, the series did feature the main character of the series it was based on, being portrayed by the same actor. I give credit to Freddy's Nightmares attempting to bring dream world of the films to life on the small screen. It definitely had a dream-like air to its production and the episodes that did feature Freddy himself were a lot of fun.

7. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

One of the most challenging forms of adaptation to television is creating a series that exists within the continuity of the original film(s) while maintaining a distinct perspective on the source material. I feel like this is where Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles found great success. The show sprang from the events of the second film in the Terminator series and managed to present a solid exploration of that universe while introducing some new twists. The show's greatest strength in my opinion was keeping the characters of John and Sarah Connor true to the spirit of their film counterparts.

6. Alice

A woman's husband is killed in a trucking accident so she decides to pack up her son in their car and drive cross country to pursue her dream of singing in Los Angeles, then they end up in Arizona where she takes a job waitressing at a diner. Sounds like pure comedy gold, no? Well somehow this formula did translate to success for the film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and the TV spin-off Alice. The series featured strong performances from the cast that included Linda Lavin in the titular role and Vic Tayback as Mel of Mel's Diner, the only cast member from the film to reprise his role. If you do not know of this series do whatever you can to track it down, it will be worth your time. And if you don't, well then, you can "Kiss my grits!"

5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (CGI series)

There have actually been two animated series with this name and both are set during the same period, in between the "new trilogy" Star Wars films. I am focusing today on the later CGI series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars that has done something that is rare for a TV adaptation. That is, this series is more popular and well received by the fans of the Star Wars universe that the films from which it sprang forth. It is clear that the Star Wars universe is one that is rich for development and we will certainly see many new properties develop now that Disney has their hands on the rights. If they can match the quality of this series than I think Star Wars fans are in for an exciting ride.

4. Stargate SG-1

Stargate SG-1 is set firmly in the universe of the original Stargate film with the series taking place a year after the events of the first film. Richard Dean Anderson takes over for Kurt Russell in the lead role of Colonel Jack O'Neil who is brought in to lead the new team of explorers based on his earlier experience with the Stargates. The series, one of the longest running sci-fi action shows in television history, jumps off from the events of the first film developing a rich mythology and showcasing a solid team of adventures. The series has led to several spin-off series and TV based films and maintains a very strong fan base to this day.

3. Highlander: The Series

As a standalone show, Highlander: The Series is pretty awesome. It is a swashbuckling, modern adventure that brings the audience into the world of the immortals showcasing their great power but also the disadvantages to living forever while everyone around you dies. When looked at in the context of its source material Highlander: The Series manages to actually rescue a property that had all but been destroyed by some trashy overly complicated sequels.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I have realized over time that trying to actually compare Buffy the Vampire Slayer the film and Buffy the Vampire Slayer the series is like the proverbial comparison of apples to oranges. They are do different animals, special in their own way. The film is a bit of comic gold, which glosses over the darker elements in favor of laughs. The series took a more serious look at the world of fighting vampires & adolescence while retaining the occasional comedic elements. In the series however the comedy was more about relieving apocalyptic tension, or teenage drama. And while the film is remembered fondly by some, the series has staked a claim to its place in pop culture history maintaining a solid fandom years after its end.

And finally…

1. M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H the movie and series asked the question, "Can war be funny amongst its tragedy?" It turns out the answer is yes but never in a cheap way. The series managed to make people laugh every week while never really letting them forget the circumstances at hand. In my experience with the show you were just as likely to have a rousing belly laugh during one scene as you might have a moment of reverential silence during the next. That was the brilliance of the characters. They were dealing with horrific circumstances on a daily basis but found a way to bring laughter and light into their lives, which seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of life at war. You can't stop moving forward but you can remember where you have been and where you are. It was the writers and amazingly talented cast that managed to remind of that every week, and it is their stellar work that earned them the recognition as the top series based on a film.

Is there a series I missed that you feel deserved mention? I will share that this was not an easy list to cap at ten, and shows like Weird Science, Clerks: The Animated Series & La Femme Nikita end up as honorable mentions.

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