Original content has never been a requirement of filmmaking. Some stories have been rebooted and reworked so much that the source material is all but unheard of. And in the ever-expanding demand for content, nothing is safe. In recent years, we’ve seen classic horror films, cult favorites, action films, comedies, and lesser known sci-fi films expanded into TV and stream-on-demand series. We’ve seen great examples like Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and utter disappointments like RoboCop: The Series.
Here are a few of the series that are definitely worth your time, and a few that we wish we could unwatch.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
An overwhelming fan favorite, the series that made Joss Whedon famous is the best example of a successful jump from film to TV. It’s the oldest series on this list and definitely stands the test of time. Based off the 1992 film, the series about a high school cheerleader-turned vampire slayer aired on WB from 1997-2003, and spawned the spinoff series Angel, which ran for five seasons of its own. Fans of the series are still passionate and the iconic musical episode “Once More, With Feeling” is screened as a sing-along at fan conventions regularly. Buffy also helped launch the careers of actors that would later star in their own series and films, including: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions, Scream 2), Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother, American Pie), David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Bring It On), Julie Benz (Dexter), and Charisma Carpenter (Angel). Do yourself a favor and watch, or rewatch the series on Netflix. The film it’s based on is also worth watching, though it’s without the Scoobies.
Based off characters from the Thomas Harris’ novels about Hannibal Lecter, Bryan Fuller’s psychological thriller/horror series is a definite TV success, remake or not. Though critically acclaimed for acting and the unique style, the series was canceled in 2015 after its third season. It hosted a brilliant cast of actors including Mads Mikkelson (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Hugh Dancy (The Path), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Black-ish), and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, American Gods). The popularity of the series was built by pairing the horror of explicit murder and cannibalism with stunning visuals in a way that was unnervingly captivating. It took viewers along for a ride as Mikkelson’s Hannibal Lecter manipulates Dancy’s Will Graham, causing him to question his own sanity. Though it ended after only thirty-nine episodes, fans still hail it as one of the best adaptations into a TV series. You can find Hannibal the series on Amazon.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
The development of this Netflix series is a ridiculous expansion on the 2001 film, and was met with delight from fans. The film about the debauchery of a group of summer camp counselors was brought back with an eight-episode prequel for streaming. The same actors, now a decade older returned to play younger versions of the original characters, which contributed to the film’s brand of satirical comedy. The nostalgic trend that Netflix capitalizes on likely had an affect on the series’ initial popularity, but the short series was actually better than the original film–an almost impossible feat for sequels and remakes. The ensemble cast includes quite a few A-list Hollywood actors who have gained experience in major films since the original, which enhanced their performances in the prequel. The series has earned a second expansion, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later which will be available sometime in 2017. You can stream Wet Hot American Summer and First Day of Camp on Netflix now.
The FX series based off the Coen brothers film of the same name is a dark comedy/crime drama anthology. Each season takes place in a different era with a different cast and story, but has a common chronology with the original 1996 film. The film won Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress in 1997 among a myriad of other awards, and the follow-up series has been nominated for 125 times, winning 38, including a handful of Golden Globes and Emmys. The series successfully captures the essence of the original film, mingling suspense and violence with dark humor, creating a unique tone for a piece about human nature. Season three of the series will air on FX Spring of 2017 and you can catch up on Hulu or Amazon.
Ash vs. Evil Dead
Rounding up the best of the series adaptations is the sequel to the 1980s Evil Dead film franchise, Ash vs Evil Dead. The Starz series is a comedy/horror expansion of the trilogy starring Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice) reprising his role as Ash Williams. Set thirty years after the events of the last film Army of Darkness, the series first finds Ash living a quiet life working as a stock boy. He is quickly brought back into the fray to defend humanity from the evil dead with his chainsaw arm. The success of the show is largely due to the continued presence of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The story remains true to the films with Raimi writing/directing, and no one could play Ash better than Campbell. The third season of the series is expected to air in Fall 2017. The first two seasons are available on-demand on Starz and streaming on Amazon.
Based off the 2002 film that was expanded from Phillip K. Dick’s short story “The Minority Report,” the Fox series was a short-lived failure. While the film arrived with a bang, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, the series didn’t seem to be well supported by executives and wasn’t well-liked by the viewers. The pilot screened at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015 was met with mixed reviews, and after little advertising compared to other Fox series, the first season was cut from thirteen episodes to ten before being canceled. Though the concept piqued interest, the series ended up as a mediocre procedural with a sci-fi background. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, the short season is available on Amazon.
The CBS series never came close to living up to the popularity of the film trilogy it’s based off and was canceled after only seven episodes. Despite the diverse cast packed with potential for an updated examination of race and culture relations, the series entirely missed the mark. The film franchise about a loud-mouthed black LAPD officer forced to partner with a straight-laced detective from Hong Kong could never have been adapted directly for TV. The original 1998 film included many race-related punchlines that wouldn’t be acceptable today and the writers simply removed the more off-color jokes without replacing them with something more modern. The comedy was missing and more importantly, so was the chemistry between the main characters. Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s unlikely on-screen friendship unsurprisingly couldn’t be recreated. The lackluster attempt to bring the series to TV wasn’t thought through and was abandoned before it had a chance to really develop. The episodes are available on Amazon.
A sequel to the 2011 thriller of the same name, which was based off the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. Set four years after the film, the CBS series starred Jake McDorman as a burnout who had a lucky reaction to a nootropic drug and was recruited to help the FBI solve cases with his temporary super brain. Bradley Cooper reprises his role from the film, now a US Senator that brings McDorman’s character, Brian Finch, into the fold. While the inclusion of Cooper was an appropriate nod to the film, the attempt to connect the projects backfired and the series suffered from the comparison. McDorman wasn’t captivating enough to carry the series with viewers seemingly weary of the premise of a procedural with one exceptional character. Oddly, Limitless is the only remake on this list that failed largely because it felt unoriginal. The first and only season is available on Netflix and Amazon.
MTV’s successful Teen Wolf remake likely led executives to believe that their young viewership would eagerly watch more rebooted franchises as long as they include the necessary amount of teenage drama. They weren’t entirely wrong, as the Scream series has completed two seasons and is set for a third. However, the upcoming season has been cut to just six episodes and will likely be the last. The slasher/horror series is based off the film franchise of the same name that began in 1997, and attempts to follow a similar route of thriller/whodunit with a splash of metafiction. The first three films were well-received, though with decreasing interest as the years went on. Somehow the mixed reviews of the third film still led to the barely successful fourth and the idea that the once beloved series would be better suited for TV. The series’ cast is full of young actors just beginning their careers, and right now they’re just not skilled enough to be captivating in the sequel to the franchise. Slasher films generally don’t have enough depth in the plot to carry a franchise and rely on fans enjoying the creative ways writers get them the gore. MTV is trying to stretch a basic story into years of a TV series when viewers are used to an hour-and-a-half thrill ride and it grew tiresome many episodes ago. Scream is available on Netflix and Amazon.
Another remake of a remake, the CW’s Nikita was based off the 1997 TV series, La Femme Nikita, which was itself based off the 1990 French film Nikita (which was also remade as Point of No Return). An action spy series frequently compared to Alias, Nikita centered around a junkie-turned-assassin, played by Maggie Q, who fights to bring down the secret government organization that recruited her. Though it lasted three full seasons, and ended with a six-episode fourth, the series lacked a significant audience. Maggie Q led the show with great fight sequences and stunts, but many of the facets of the series were seen as lesser versions of familiar tropes and characters. Comparisons to Alias and Dollhouse only weakened the series’ draw, and while other canceled series retain fervent fan bases, Nikita was mostly forgotten with apathy. The complete series is available on Netflix and Amazon.
Hollywood will never stop rebooting once dead stories and there are a few film-to-TV remakes on the horizon right now that we look forward to judging. Taken, The Lost Boys, and Behind Enemy Lines are some of the films that have been tapped to become TV series and we might have to update this list once the next round of reboots comes to life. Do you agree with our best and worst picks? Let us know what your favorite and least favorite film-to-TV series are in the comments below.
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