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From Mediasharx.com

Movies that have spawned TV Spin-offs (buffy mention)

By Tara O’Shea

Thursday 22 July 2004, by Webmaster

Boob Tube: It’s The Pictures That Got Small

In the last decade, the big screen has revisited a lot of the small screen’s hits-from THE BRADY BUNCH to LOST IN SPACE to STARSKY & HUTCH-with varying success. But the small screen has long had a tradition of mining the movies for series, also with scatter-shot results. A hit movie will not always have a premise which lends itself to television as a medium, as stories originally told in two hours may not fare well, when stretched over a 22 episode season. But when the characters and premise work, they can work extraordinarily well, adding dimension and depth to the original source material. M.A.S.H. the series is a global phenomenon, much better known to most audiences than the film that spawned it. And, in cases like STARGATE and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, actually take a mediocre film and turn it into a successful series.

One thing that seems abundantly clear is that since M.A.S.H., there seems to be more success with genre adaptations than sitcoms. While DIRTY DANCING, WORKING GIRL, and MY BIG FAT GREEK LIFE failed to make it past their original 13 episode commitments, the hour-long scripted action/adventure series STARGATE SG-1 has just entered its eighth season-and shows few signs of fatigue. BUFFY spawned a franchise that may include a second spin-off in the form of TV movies, if the WB gets its way. The cult film HIGHLANDER spawned not one, but two television series, and made a global action star of THE COLBY’s Adrian Paul. NIKITA, based on the 1990 Luc Besson espionage thriller of the same name, comes in close, with five seasons under its belt. However, series such as THE NET, and STARMAN were each cancelled after one season.

NIKITA, STARGATE, and STARMAN each updated and adapted their stories and characters, as they made the transition from big screen to small. Anne Parillaud’s Nikita was an almost feral, wild animal whose drug-crazed murder of two cops sent her into the clandestine world of the Section, which took a junkie and turned her into a trained assassin. However, Peta Wilson’s take on the character was more sympathetic and appealing-she was framed for the crime for which she was sentenced. This was a wise choice on the part of the writing staff, to sustain a character arc over multiple seasons by forcing an innocent girl to become a killer. However, in the end, the series abandoned the original premise of the film so completely that the source material was almost completely unrecognisable. The final demi-season, which featured THE EQUALIZER’s Edward Woodward as Nikita’s long-lost father, was actually the result of fan outcry at the series cancellation, and piece by piece dismantled the original premise-that Nikita was an innocent street kid framed for murder.

STARGATE also made a few adjustments-from the Goa’uld as an empire of malevolent symbiots (in the film, Ra was a grey-skinned alien, and the last of a dying race), to Jack O’Neill going from a suicidal father in mourning for his son to Richard Dean Anderson’s less tortured Jack as a poster child for ADD. Taking Jackson and O’Neill from the film, the series added original characters Samantha Carter, and the alien Teal’c, and fleshed out the universe to include aliens masquerading not just as Egyptian deities, but also Norse, Celtic, and Asian gods. For many, SG-1 has even far surpassed the original film in popularity (despite a Shau’ri cast less for her acting than her impressive and expensive rack). A rare success story, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s 1994 film has spawned a genuine franchise with the launch of a spin-off, STARGATE ATLANTIS. Whether ATLANTIS will share SG-1’s longevity, or join HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN as a "one season wonder" has yet to be seen.

Like STARGATE SG-1, STARMAN chose not to re-tell the story of the film, but to pick up where the film left off, flashing forward 15 years to reunite Jenny Hayden’s son Scott with his father, an alien cartographer who assumes the appearance in both cases of dead men. Taking cues from both THE FUGITIVE and INCREDIBLE HULK, the series sent Scott and "Paul Forrester" on the run from George Fox (Michael Canavaugh), who went from an NSA heavy in the film to a slightly less powerful, more obsessive pre-X-FILES Fox Mulder-like FBI agent desperate to prove the existence of the alien. Combining adventure with touching family drama, the series was at its best when mining the complex father-son relationship between Chris Barnes’ Scott and Robert Hays’ "Paul," as they searched for the boy’s mother, Jenny Hayden (BUCK ROGERS’ Erin Grey, re-creating the role originated by RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’s Karen Allen in the film). Although ABC cancelled the series in 1988 after only 22 episodes, it spawned a devout fan following which continues to flourish on-line to this day.

However, many new series aren’t even given a full season in which to try and capture the TV-watching attention span of a movie’s fanbase. KAREN SISCO (which, admittedly, featured a character from Elmore Leonard’s novel who had been brought to life on-screen by J. Lo in OUT OF SIGHT) was cancelled before they even reached the half-season point, despite strong support from television critics. Yet for every KAREN SISCO there’s a TREMORS: THE SERIES, or TIMECOP that probably deserved that bullet in the head long before we the viewing audience were put out of our misery. For every STARGATE SG-1 and NIKITA that run for years and develop a devoted following, there’s a THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR which vanishes after one or two seasons, if that. And while animated series such as ROUGHNECKS, and THE MUMMY may have some impact on Saturday mornings, it’s really the live action hour-long dramas that are the true proving ground for adaptations.

All summer long, there were rumours of TRANSYLVANIA appearing on NBC, poised to capitalise on the success of Universal’s VAN HELSING. However, when that film did less than spectacularly at the box office, and no pilot was commissioned, the future of this kind of adaptation seems shaky. Reproducing the look of a big budget movie on the shoestring television budget-especially in today’s climate, where few studios seem to have any money to pour into genre fare-is tough. And while LORD OF THE RINGS and THE MATRIX may have been box office gold, the audiences which flock to the theatre to see fantasy and science fiction just doesn’t seem visible to the Nielsen ratings system.

Will we see more big screen stories making their way to the small screen in the future? Hollywood is not exactly known for originality. Somewhere practically daily, some network executive is looking at the week-end box office grosses, and trying to determine how to turn those movie stubs into loyal TV viewers. Movies would seem a wise choice as, unlike many pilots, they are a proven commodity. However, most hits films trade on A-list stars and big name directors, whereas television is a writer-driven industry that relies on characters and the strength of ensemble cast more often than any single J Lo or Hugh Jackman. So it’s still something of a risky business.

What’s on the Boob Tube This Week:

Monday 7/19: I admit it: I’ve thrown over NORTH SHORE and the CASINO completely for Food Network’s UNWRAPPED. I’m sorry, but who cares about who is sleeping with whom, or who will make it big in Vegas, when I can learn the hidden secrets of breakfast cereals and ice-cream sandwiches? Food Network should change it’s tagline to "Food Network: it’s like crack."

Tuesday 7/20: Speaking of crack, I love how NIP/TUCK can turn on a dime. Last week, I was rooting for Christian to nail Gina (no, not THAT way) and keep Wilbur. This week, the good doctor teams up with the crazy bitch to try and win the baby back from his (suddenly very religious for a married guy who had sex with a chick he met in a bar) biological father.

Wednesday 7/21: I kept thinking STUDIO 7 was some sort of new night club. Silly me. It’s the WB’s first attempt at a game show, as the network which brought you Jamie Kennedy in bad teeth and wigs tries to meld JEOPARDY with THE REAL WORLD. Why? Oh dear God, why?

Thursday 7/22: NBC knows how to defeat the summer blahs, by running a SCRUBS mini-marathon. Life is good.

Friday 7/23: After losing Janet Fraiser last season, SG-1 gets a new doctor (Alisen Down) whose first order of business is to figure out why the heck members of the SGC are going nuts and pulling guns on people. Then the STARGATE ATLANTIS crew continue to explore the "lost" city but get a nasty shock when they discover the city holds some surprises in the form of a black cloud. Also, McKay just isn’t feeling special, so he tries to tinker with his genes.

Sunday 7/25: DEAD LIKE ME returns, as George proves that dead girls need love too, Mason dons a clown suit to take a soul at a children’s birthday party, Daisy finds religion (okay, Daisy finds religious jewelery), and Roxy finds a new career path in the second season premiere.

Full article : http://www.mediasharx.com/index.php/columns/2748