Movies to TV? You'll have heard the glass-half-empty take on this a few hundred times before: that the world's TV studios have run out of ideas; everything's just a remake or a sequel; it's the poignant swan song of pop culture. But obligatory intellectual eye-rolling aside, is the movie to TV format really so terrible? After all, it takes a substantial chunk of time to engage with a completely new television universe and to get emotionally invested. The whole movie-to-TV adaptation is a smart way of getting around this: if you've seen and loved a movie, the best-case scenario is that you'll already be into the show from episode one, scene one.
So if you're short on time but need a new show to watch, 2016 is your year. Honestly, there are so many shows that started life as a movie on the small screen this year that it’s a little complicated: we’ve got movies-to-TV shows currently airing, those which are already in their second, third or fourth seasons (and are doing exceptionally well) and movies to TV shows still to debut later this year. Let’s explore.
Season: 4 Channel: A&E
A&E’s longest running original scripted drama is now deep into its fourth season and already has a fifth lined up to follow. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, it functions as a prequel to the action in Psycho, focusing on the lives of Norman Bates and his mother. When Norman kills his mother’s husband at the opening of the first season during one of his blackouts, the mother-son duo are forced to begin a new life running a motel in coastal Oregon.
The fourth season promises an entirely new Norman – a Norman whose bond with his real life mother has been eroded in favor of a connection with the murderous mother figure in his head that possesses him during times of stress. The forecast for this season? Very bloody.
Season: 1 Channel: NBS
The Rush Hour movie was already so popular with audiences that it spawned two sequels in 2001 and 2007. If you're not familiar with the buddy cop franchise, it centered on two cops in Hong Kong, played by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker as they worked together to locate a diplomat's daughter who had been kidnapped.
The dynamic between the pair was pretty much what you'd expect from a buddy comedy: Tucker was as loud and extroverted as Chan was quiet and reflective and they had to overcome their differences to work as a team. The original actors have been replaced for the series — Jon Foo plays Chan's role, Detective Lee, while Justin Hires fills Tucker's shoes as Detective Carter.
Lee has been transferred to Hong Kong to investigate a Chinese crime syndicate — the same crime syndicate that he believes killed his sister. He's paired up with Carter whose wild-card antics mean that his superiors no longer trust him with field work. While Foo and Hires don't have the same amazing chemistry as Chan and Tucker did, so far it's proved itself to be as light-hearted and fun as the original.
Damien (Based on 'The Omen')
Season: 1 Channel: A&E
Remember the seriously eerie '70s horror flick, The Omen? The film acted as wonderful anti-adoption propaganda, focused as it was on a couple who adopt a child after their own biological child is a stillborn. A number of creepy, mysterious events start happening, from large black dogs congregating near Damien to the child's nanny hanging herself. If you hadn't guessed it already, let's spell it out: the couple inadvertently adopted the Antichrist.
The TV series centers on a grown up version of Damien, played by Merlin's Bradley James, who is now working as a war photographer. It's airing right now, so pull a sickie and binge on the last six episodes to get up to speed.
Still waiting on...
Premiere date: Season 2 begins May 31 Channel: MTV
Was there ever a funnier slasher movie than Scream? Probably not, so it's no wonder the movie spawned three sequels. Given the current passion for everything '90s, it was only going to be a matter of time before the most quotable slasher flick around would be rebirthed for MTV.
The TV revival focuses on a town in the wake of a cyberbullying incident and a murder, and much as in the original movies, is replete with blood, gore and hip-of-the-moment pop culture references: "Maybe Audrey will Taylor Swift her anger into creative energy." Scream director Wes Craven was on hand to give the piece a shot of authenticity as an executive producer but since he sadly passed away last summer, it remains to be seen whether season two can live up to its popular first outing.
Premiere date: Fall 2016 (exact date TBC) Channel: NBC
Vikings star Clive Standen will star as a young Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson’s character) in this prequel based on the popular franchise. The show is set in the present and explains how Mills acquired and honed the very particular set of skills required to be the retired CIA operative/toughest dad in town we know from the action films.
Homeland’s Alex Cary is a writer on the series, which should guarantee competent, suspense-filled plotlines.
Ash vs Evil Dead
Premiere date: Season 2 begins September 23 Channel: Starz
The Evil Dead franchise started in the '80s with the original film which focuses on five students who, while vacationing in a cabin in a typically horror-movie-esque isolated area, happen upon a tape that releases a host of demons and spirits. Shortly after, members of the group become possessed by demons and chaos ensues. In the words of actor Bruce Campbell, who played the protagonist Ash, the film operated on a motto of "the gorier the merrier."
The TV series doesn't seem to be much different: it centers on Ash (still played by Campbell) who works at the ValueShop mart as a salesclerk. He's leading a dead end life, spending most of his free time drinking in bars or bringing girls back to have sex with them in his trailer. You'd think he'd have learned by now, but no — on accidentally reading the incarnation out from the Book of the Dead, he unleashes the Kandarian Demon one more time and is forced to reassume his fighting persona.
The series was written by the original director Sam Raimi, his brother Ivan Raimi and Bruce Campbell so it's about as authentic as you can get. The original movie's music composer Joseph LoDuca also scored the series, which was a decision Raimi reached to reflect Ash's lack of personal growth, with Raimi telling Blastr, "the music should reflect the last time he was engaged in society, and living".
Premiere date: Season 1 will premiere in 2016 (exact date TBC) Channel: HBO
In 1973, American novelist Michael Crichton wrote and directed the ever-lovable Westworld, a sci-fi film centered on an amusement park staffed by eerily human looking robots. Tourists fly in, where for $1,000 a day they can live out their wildest fantasies in what should be a harmless fashion: they can befriend the robots, shoot them, engage in sexual activities – and the robots will never retaliate. But when a computer virus starts to spread, the robots begin to malfunction and they start striking back.
The HBO series has an unbelievably star-studded cast: Anthony Hopkins will play the lead in his first ever role as a series regular, while Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and James Marsden all play supporting roles. While the production on this has been paused "in order to get ahead of the writing," HBO informed Variety that it will stick to its 2016 premiere date. We'll keep you updated on this one.
Premiere date: Season 1 will premiere in 2016 (exact date TBC) Channel: NBC
If you’ve had enough of TV adaptations of movies with a flimsy connection to their source material, NBC’s thoughtful adaptation of Cruel Intentions for the small screen should remedy this. Sarah Michelle Gellar will reprise the role of Kathryn Merteuil in a show set 15 years after the cult movie took place.
Merteuil will be kept busy vying for control of Valmont International as well as for control of Bash Casey (Taylor John Smith), the son of her deceased brother, Sebastian Valmont, and Annette Hargrove. Upon discovering his father’s legacy in a secret journal, Bash can’t help but become entangled in the corrupt world that Merteuil is a vital part of. In the words of Taylor John Smith, “It’s a true sequel. It’s very much the same Kathryn Merteuil [Gellar’s character], except she’s even more stunning, more edgy, more power hungry and more ruthless. We really got to push the limits, even more than the original...It’s edgy and over-the-top type stuff. It’s a roller coaster.” And if all of this doesn’t get you excited for the show, surely this Instagram post from Gellar will?
Premiere date: Season 3 will premiere in early 2017 (exact date TBC) Channel: FX
In 1996, the Coen brothers wrote, directed and produced (and edited) this much-loved cult classic about a pregnant police officer in Minnesota, who was investigating a series of roadside homicides. If you've seen it, it'll come as no surprise that the American Film Institute named it one of the 100 greatest American movies of all time in 1998.
Arguably the TV series that spawned the recent movie-to-TV gold rush, this stylish revival centers on a different location and set of characters for each season. The first season starred some seriously big names: Billy Bob Thornton and Colin Hanks among others, while the second season recruited Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson to headline. The show has won a bunch of Golden Globe awards and has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Fargo won't technically screen this year, but with season two having just ended in late December and season three to air very early in 2017, it’s one to mark in your calendar.
The verdict on movie-to-TV adaptations
The scepticism surrounding movies adapted for TV seems like a knee-jerk reaction from a very specific sort of person, namely, that guy on the F train who makes it a point of pride to read The New Yorker with the cover very visibly displayed. Honestly? Post-Christopher Booker's 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, discussions about originality in narrative seem a little void. If there are only seven possible narratives, why get hung up on whether a show has crafted its own original storyline or if it's using a previously established narrative as the foundation? Especially as so many movie-to-TV formats consistently deliver content that's just as gripping to watch as that of their more critically esteemed counterparts.
As Lenika Cruz notes in her thoughtful article for The Atlantic when reviewing the first season of Scream: "In many ways, Scream was more enjoyable and cohesive than the second season of True Detective (an opinion that gained surprising traction on Twitter during television's summer doldrums) as well as the latest season of American Horror Story".
So this year, make a resolution that's more common to brides than television viewers: something old, something new, something borrowed and something that’ll turn you blue with fright (Ash vs. Evil Dead is still as scary as it is funny).