With multiplatform content, A-list stars and better programming than ever before, TV is the new cool kid in town. But the smallscreen hasn’t forgotten about the bigscreen.
Feature films have inspired 10 series set to premiere this summer and throughout the upcoming season across broadcast, cable and streaming services.
Before the networks unveiled their 2015-16 slates, even more scripted adaptations of movie screenplays were filtered through the pilot cycle, including NBC’s “Problem Child” sitcom, based on the 1990 John Ritter comedy, which ultimately wasn’t handed a series order. NBC, which until recently was home to both “Parenthood” and “About a Boy,” is now the only big four network not to have a movie adaptation on its upcoming schedule.
Over at CBS, two features and a documentary are being converted into series.
“Rush Hour,” based on the late ’90s action comedy, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, has cast newbies Jon Foo and Justin Hires as the rebooted dynamic duo. “I get to do action, comedy and drama all in one show — that’s already an established franchise,” Hires says about his excitement to tackle a project that’s found success in another format.
Christina Davis, CBS’ executive VP of drama series development, says while fans have an affinity for a huge franchise like “Rush Hour,” which should boost the show’s early buzz, the series needs to stand on its own. “You can’t just rely on title alone. It’s more about what’s inside — the beating heart of the show,” she says. “A movie can have a great hook and a great premise and great characters, but you have to be able to take the title off and it still has to exist as a great TV show.”
CBS is also adapting Bradley Cooper’s 2011 thriller “Limitless,” and not only is the Oscar-nominated actor an exec producer on the show, he also plans to recur (although in exactly how many episodes is still TBD).
And while it’s not based on a narrative feature, medical drama “Code Black” is adapted from Ryan McGarry’s 2014 documentary of the same name.
“Limitless,” “Rush Hour” and “Code Black” all have the film’s original creative teams attached to the series, which Davis says speaks to the quality — and storytelling possibilities — of TV revivals. “We lift that time constraint off and you can open up that universe and let the stories and that brand expand.”
The approach to continuing those stories can vary series to series. “Limitless” is a continuation of the original movie, while “Rush Hour” is a complete reboot of the film franchise. As for the notion of “no new ideas in Hollywood,” Davis says, “I think it really is just a coincidence this year that we tapped into two movies and a documentary. It wasn’t for lack of inspiration.”
Cooper is also bringing his movie-star status to another series, Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer,” which reunites a killer ensemble including Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni and Paul Rudd for a prequel made 14 years after the original feature. The satirical comedy starts streaming this July.
Back to network TV, “Supergirl” is also flying to CBS. The drama, based on the DC Comics characters, was adapted into a commercially disappointing movie in 1984.
A more fondly remembered ’80s title getting a TV reinvention next season is “Uncle Buck,” based on John Hughes’ 1989 hit, starring John Candy. Rebooted with an African-American cast led by comedian Mike Epps as the title character, the series will join ABC’s slate of family comedies, including “Modern Family,” “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” at a yet-to-be-announced date.
At Fox, Steven Spielberg is exec producing Amblin TV’s “Minority Report,” which will serve as a sequel to his 2002 sci-fi hit starring Tom Cruise.
Cablers geared toward all ages are also deep in the trend.
Mark Wahlberg’s action-packed 2007 pic “Shooter” is being developed for series at USA with Wahlberg producing, while Jack Black starrer “School of Rock” is coming to Nickelodeon this fall with an entirely new cast in session. (Black is not attached to the project.) Meta slasher franchise “Scream,” starring newcomer Willa Fitzgerald, is ready to scare a new audience at MTV with Wes Craven, director of all four feature films, exec producing.
“Being a part of ‘Scream’ is really exciting because not only are fans of the original franchise clamoring to see it, but it also is going to be introducing a whole new generation of MTV fans to the cultural phenomenon,” Fitzgerald says.
The onslaught of projects join several big-to-smallscreen series already on air, including FX’s Emmy-winning anthology “Fargo”; CBS’ “The Odd Couple,” which was the top-rated new comedy of the 2014-15 season; Syfy’s “12 Monkeys”; NBC’s “Hannibal”; and MTV’s “Teen Wolf.”
“I love revitalizing things,” “Teen Wolf” star Tyler Posey says about the overall trend, as his show preps to enter its fifth season this summer. “My TV show is a remake of a movie. I’m always for it.”
Sometimes the crossover goes the other way. In addition to past box office hits like the “Star Trek” franchise and the pair of “Sex and the City” movies, TV can foster rabid fanbases big enough to merit feature film revivals. “Firefly” birthed “Serenity” back in 2005, and just last year “Veronica Mars” hit theaters (and VOD) thanks to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.
Even more recently, the “Entourage” boys reunited on the bigscreen (opening to mildly disappointing box office), after eight seasons on HBO.
The only way to describe the relationship between TV and film these days is love-love. Or, to echo the immortal words of Ari Gold, “Let’s hug it out, bitch.”