While Disney and others have started blurring the lines between TV and cinema in recent years, especially with their Marvel and Star Wars sub-franchises, there’s always been a rich tradition of attempting to turn popular movies into TV shows.
However, the results have always been something of a mixed bag. For every Fargo or Friday Night Lights, there’s been a Dirty Dancing or Ferris Bueller.
Stuff has had a peek through the archives and come up with a list of eight great ones we’re more than happy to recommend revisiting, or checking out for the first time.
* F9, Dune, Top Gun 2: When will we finally see all the Covid-delayed blockbusters?
* The Equalizer: She’s no Denzel, but Queen Latifah bosses Prime’s lighter remake
* The Last Blockbuster: Nostalgic doco investigates the death of the video store
* Bonding on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Who fell in love, who feuded and who became BFFs
* Parenthood a great example of how to adapt a movie for television
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Amazon Prime Video)
Disappointed with the fun, but forgettable Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry-starring black comedy horror that finally emerged in cinemas in 1992, writer Joss Whedon took a second, much darker stab five years later. The supernatural adventures of Sunnydale’s “Scooby Gang” struck a chord with a generation, while making stars out of the actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and David Boreanaz.
Cobra Kai (Netflix)
Originally a hit for YouTube Premium, this picks up The Karate Kid saga more than 30 years after the 1984 All Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament. While the victorious Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) now owns a successful series of car yards, his vanquished opponent Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is stuck in a time warp. By focusing on one of the original movies’ bad guys and the fallout from the franchise’s climactic moment, this smartly written and poignant drama is a surprisingly compelling watch.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix)
A 10-part prequel to the 1982 puppet fantasy, if the original movie felt like Tolkien with puppets, this expanded tale is closer to Gerry Anderson’s Game of Thrones or Avatar. There’s plenty of world-building to get your head around in the opening episode, but it all sets up an entertaining and engrossing ride. There’s an endearing and more earthy quality about the use of puppets – instead of CGI characters (things still look oddly gloopy and visceral) – and the vocal cast is, quite frankly, incredible.
More than two decades after Anthony Hopkins invited Jodie Foster around for dinner, Thomas Harris’ anti-hero came to small screen in 2013 in the deliciously cast form of Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. While this premise had the cunning psychiatrist teaming up with criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) to solve weekly murders, it was the larger picture that really compelled over its three-season run.
What can you say about one of the most beloved sitcoms of all-time? A show that ran almost three times as long as the war that provided the backdrop. A programme that successfully mixed anarchic and slapstick humour with political messages and truly poignant drama. And one that dared to kill off of some of its most beloved characters. Robert Altman’s original 1970 black comedy is also worth seeking out on Disney+ for seeing how it all started and some of the key players were originally pitched.
Parenthood (Amazon Prime)
After an initial attempt to bring Ron Howard’s 1989 family comedy to the small screen failed, despite the casting of Leonardo Di Caprio, NBC had another crack a generation later and the result was a rare, compelling dramedy. The natural successor to Six Feet Under and Gilmore Girls (perhaps in part because it shared stars Peter Krause and Lauren Graham from those shows), Parenthood was also kind of like a cross between The Waltons and Modern Family. This was a show that celebrated family in all its forms, but also wasn’t afraid to tackle tricky subjects like teenage alcohol, abortion, infidelity, adoption, racism, cancer and local politics.
Attracting controversy before it even screened due to the background actors’ explicit contracts, this HBO series has updated and opened-out Michael Crichton’s 1973 theme-park-goes awry (a trope he would return to 20 years later in Jurassic Park) tale with an increasingly complex and labyrinthine (as well as violent) look at the perils and ethics around artificial intelligence. It helps significantly that it has a magnificent cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton and Jeffrey Wright.
What We Do in the Shadows (Neon)
A Staten Island-set spinoff of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 very Wellington mockumentary horror-comedy didn’t exactly inspire confidence, however the result has been an unabashed triumph. In creating a new household of disparate bloodsuckers, the pair have successfully transported their unique sensibilities and humour to a whole new audience. One of the masterstrokes was hiring a group of unknown actors, who bring their characters to life without being weighed down by additional baggage.
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