ON THE HEELS of Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” comes word that pay channel Starz will enter the dramatic series arena with an adaptation of “Crash,” the 2005 Oscar winner from director Paul Haggis.
Lionsgate, which will produce the show, noted that “Crash” is a rare instance of a best-picture winner becoming a series — “In the Heat of the Night” was another — saying that the deal represents a strategy to “create franchises across our company’s divisions,” just as Warner Bros.’ “Sarah Connor” is milking additional life from the “Terminator” name.
Of course, there is a long legacy of movies becoming TV shows, from “MASH” (which dragged out the Korean War for 11 years) to shorter-lived stabs such as “Clueless” and “Ferris Bueller.” In addition, Haggis’ last primetime venture, “The Black Donnellys,” did a pretty fair impersonation of “Titanic” on NBC.
STILL, THE NOTION of trading on an Oscar nominee’s marquee value in TV is, as noted, relatively rare and got me thinking about how studios might turn the trick with the current crop of best-picture candidates, including how they’d be sold and which networks would be the most logical fit. Granted, some ideas might need a bit of tweaking for primetime:
- “No Country for Old Men” (CBS) — A wily, taciturn sheriff patrols the hardscrabble Texas border — where life is cheap and drug money is a powerful influence — aided by his eager young assistant and a team of forensic investigators, whose new-fangled ways aren’t always a match for their boss’ old-school instincts. (Pitch: “Matlock” meets “CSI!”)
- “Juno” (ABC or CW) — Seventeen-year-old Juno is still getting back to normal after giving her unplanned baby up for adoption when — yikes — she gets pregnant again. Join Juno, her wisecracking parents, preternaturally articulate friends and straight-laced adoptive mom Vanessa in this serialized single-camera sitcom, as we follow Juno on what should be the wildest senior year ever. (Pitch: “Knocked Up” meets “Notes From the Underbelly!”)
- “Mike Clayton” (NBC) — A “fixer” at a corporate law firm has a moral awakening after a distasteful case and strikes out on his own, championing the rights of underdogs (especially children with great big eyes), along with the firm’s eccentric former top litigator, who has experienced a nervous breakdown. (Pitch: “The Guardian” — or “Eli Stone,” if that works — with a pinch of “And Justice for All!”)
- “Atonement: The Early Years” (Showtime) — Period drama about the unspoken romance between a wealthy young woman and a worker on the family estate during pre-World War II Europe, told in flashback by the woman’s younger sister. (Pitch: “The Tudors” plus “Upstairs, Downstairs!”)
- “There Will be Bling!” (Fox) — “There Will be Blood” meets Fox attitude. This hidden-camera reality show features an “oil man” (really an actor) that comes to a small town and tells everyone they’re sitting on millions in oil! Watch the lengths to which people will go as he prods them to compete in various stunts and challenges while testing their willingness to screw over neighbors for a chance at the loot, only to discover at the payoff that … it’s all a big goof! (Pitch: “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” and “Joe Millionaire” meet “Deal or No Deal,” with a pinch of “American Gladiators!”)
Oh, and an added bonus: No need to produce expensive pilots because studios already have the movies as a template. Strategically, sounds like a win-win no matter who gets anointed “And the winner is….”