From the big screen to the small screen: Exploring the evolution of films into TV series

Apr 01, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

I started watching The Gentlemen on Netflix this week.

It’s yet another Guy Ritchie cockney mob thriller that explores the dark side of British life. It’s violent. Its characters are loud and larger than life. And it’s very very funny in parts.

If you liked Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Sherlock Holmes and Snatch you will adore Mr Ritchie’s latest creation. Fans love the fact that Ritchie never strays far from his comfort zone – gangsters and drugs.

The TV series is a spin-off to the 2019 movie of the same name that starred Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hannam and Colin Farrell, albeit this one boasts an entirely new cast.

The storyline is similar, yet different enough to stop you from thinking you are watching merely a repeat performance that’s been strung out over 10 hours. It’s not the first time a film has morphed from the big  screen into a small screen format. Here’s a list of some of the films that have become TV series. Not all were successful, despite several attempts.

The Coen Brothers gave us Fargo – one of the best. The Oscar-winning movie, set in snowy Minneapolis, stars Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy. It came out in 1996 and is widely regarded as a black comedy masterpiece. There have been five Fargo television series since, mostly involving a new cast each time. The brilliant fifth season is currently showing on SBS catch-up with Ted Lasso’s Juno Temple and Madman’s John Hamm as the main protagonists.

Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart, won the Academy Award in 1943 as Best Picture. Television executives made two attempts to turn it into a series but failed to grab an audience on both occasions. In 1955 it lasted 10 episodes. In 1983, with Starsky & Hutch’s David Soul in Bogart’s role, Casablanca lasted just five episodes before being cancelled.

Did you know that Sarah Michelle Gellar is not the original Buffy? That honour goes to Kristy Swanson who starred in the 1992 movie, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which also featured a young Luke Perry). The film made $16.6 million at the box office and was the highlight of Swanson’s career. Buffy, with Gellar playing the teenage Vampire slayer, was nominated for 14 Emmy awards over its impressive 144 episodes and seven seasons.

Friday Night Lights – the movie and television show – are based on the same book written by H. G. Bissinger but are more distant cousins than closely related family members. The film, which grossed $62 million at the box office, stars Billy Bob Thornton in one of his better roles, supported by country music singer Tim McGraw and NCIS New Orleans actor Lucas Black. The TV series, because it doesn’t have the same time restraints, gives viewers a much better insight into the flawed characters of the small depressing Texas town who live and die on the exploits of their local football team.

Some other notable films that became TV series include 12 Monkeys, 10 Things I Hate About You, About A Boy, Dirty Dancing and Teen Wolf.

It’s not all one-way traffic though. Johnny Depp’s 21 Jump Street started as a television series in 1987. It lasted five seasons and 103 episodes before disappearing. It was re-booted on the big screen in 2012 starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill pulling in more than $200 million at the box office. They followed it up with a sequel a few years late, but in my opinion, they should have left well enough alone.

Anyone my age will remember growing up with Batman on our small screens. The original three television seasons aired between 1966 and 1968 and produced some 120 episodes starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin. KAPOW! The Caped Crusader can be traced back to comic books from 1939. The modern-day movie Batmans have included Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, Will Arnett, Robert Pattinson and Keanu Reeves.

The 1960s also gave us Mission Impossible, without Tom Cruise. The first Cruise movie came along in 1996 and continues the same storyline as the TV show. There’s been seven MI movies so far, with the eighth instalment scheduled for 2025.

Sex and the City captured our hearts on the small screen from 1998 to 2004. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda have migrated to the big screen for two movies since. The first in 2008 and the second – probably the last – in 2010. There was supposed to be a third film, but Kim Cattrall said no to revisiting her past as Samantha. It’s fair to say that both movies were not much more than two-hour long episodes of the TV show. It’s also fair to say that avid Sex and the City fans loved them.

Fans have loved the continuing transition of Star Trek. The original TV series captured our imaginations from 1966 until 1969. When J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009, Star Trek used its bigger budgets to explore even more of the universe winning new generations of fans on every frontier.

And we can’t leave out a few animated gems. The Simpsons movie made $536 million at the box office – which no doubt had Bart saying: “There’s only one thing to do at a moment like this: strut!” In 1999, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, unveiled South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut on an unsuspecting audiences grossing $83 million. Scooby Doo also had a big screen appearance as did Rugrats in Paris.

What’s your favourite?

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