“Airplane!” (Jim Abraham, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
Office-set high jinks have long made for excellent television show fodder — from “Night Court” to “Taxi,” “The Office” to “Cheers,” the landscape has always been vast and chockfull of possibilities — and a fresh television take on “Airplane!” could easily take off using that kind of framework. The original ZAZ feature film made generous use of flashbacks (including literally haunting disco melodies) and frequently alluded to pre-existing relationships, so while it may sound a little silly (fine, even surely silly) to claim that the film has a rich universe of information to pull from, the signs are there. Just imagine the possibilities: a MASH-like treatment of Ted Striker’s time in the war, a goofy workplace sitcom about whatever the hell happens in that damn tower when they’re not dealing with life-or-death situations or even a zippy, fly on the wall look at the traveling lives of hip pilots. This thing could soar.
“The Big Lebowski” (Coen Brothers, 1998)
The success of FX’s “Fargo” anthology series proves the films of the Coen Brothers are prime candidates for episodic transformation if done with the upmost respect for atmosphere and character. With their impressive list of films to choose from, “The Big Lebowski” stands out as its following rivals all other cinematic cults. After a pair of thugs pee on “The Dude’s” (Jeff Bridges) beloved rug, which “really ties the room together,” he finds himself immersed in a complicated kidnapping plot. The film’s potential to be a great series stems from its endless supply of comedic material. The absurd and complex storyline provides an array of interesting characters and a variety of Los Angeles locations to choose from.
The film merely scratches the surface of each, leaving so much more to explore. How did the friendship trio of “The Dude,” Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) come to be? What actually happened to Walter in Vietnam? From Maude’s (Julianne Moore) art shows to the adventures of the German Nihilists, a prequel could go any which way. The core of the series should be bowling. Most of the classic lines, innovative shots and funniest moments came from the bowling alley. It’s the perfect backdrop to witness the evolution of “The Dude,” as he kicks back, puts down some White Russians and throws some strikes. A prequel focused on the bowling league and the origins of the rivalry with the infamous Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) would be too good to be true.
“Death Race 2000” (Paul Bartel, 1975)
Decades before “Battle Royal” and “The Hunger Games,” Paul Bartel’s “Death Race 2000” perfected the art of the gladiator match for national entertainment. Set in a dystopian America during the country’s Transcontinental Road Race, in which drivers face off in the eponymous death race, the film centers on a resistance movement that rebels against the tyrannical Mr. President by sabotaging the race. While a moderate hit at the time, “Death Race 2000” quickly become a cult phenomenon over the subsequent decade thanks to its graphic, low-budget thrills and violence, as well as its costumes and cars that would fit right at home in a “Mad Max” film. Much credit goes to producer Roger Corman, the iconic B-movie director whose knack for walking the line between emotional exploitation and cheap thrills resulted in some of the best genre fare ever made. Considering television has become a haven for all kinds of genre storytelling, it seems the franchise belongs more on the small screen these days than in the movie theater (Paul W.S. Anderson attempted to relaunch the franchise in 2008 with Jason Statham, but failed). Plus, “Death Race 2000” chronicles the 20th anniversary of the Road Race, which means there is two decade’s worth of world-building stories and death races to explore. In this regard, the story potential for a prequel is limitless. Bring on more Frankenstein!
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
For a film that literally drops its audience in the backseat of a car with two mescaline-tripping weirdos, the idea of a prequel almost seems necessary to fully understand the characters we’re dealing with throughout “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” The cult film was met with mixed reviews after its 1998 release, and understandably so. If Hunter S. Thompson’s surrealist novel was hard enough to penetrate, then adapting it for the big screen could only be just as, if not more, difficult. Moving in and out of the imaginations of our acid-tripping protagonists Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) provides a lot of visual candy, but not a lot of plot structure. A prequel could answer a lot of questions, while simultaneously strengthening character development that could bolster the ’98 original. Perhaps a glimpse into Duke’s gonzo journalistic past and Dr. Gonzo’s original affiliation with Duke could add nicely to the LSD haze that unites the audience and the cult classic.
“Office Space” (Mike Judge, 1999)
Mike Judge cracked up and terrified audiences with his remarkable take on brutally monotonous corporate desk jobs in “Office Space.” The very concept of making a movie about the topic seemed ludicrous given how infamously boring such jobs are, yet Judge assembled a hysterical cast of characters who attempt to survive and escape the hell and made one compelling film as a result. Given the timelessness of Bill Lumbergh’s drawn out “yeahs” and Milton Waddams’ desperate attempts to retain his cubicle and, more importantly, stapler, a prequel would be fitting. Whether it follows the same group of coworkers or simply focuses on that stale office atmosphere, the opportunity is bursting with comedic potential, especially in the hands of Judge. Soul-destroying desk jobs will forever plague many people, and regardless of the time period it’s set in, a prequel would find an audience it could make laugh and directly speak to.
“Pink Flamingos” (John Waters, 1972)
Much has been written about what a progressive year it’s been in the media — “Transparent” Emmy nominations, “I Am Cait,” “Orange is the New Black” Season 3, “Mala Mala,” “Tangerine,” etc. — so it seems that now is the most appropriate time to bring John Waters, one of the most progressive and provocative artistic voices of all time, to the small screen. Waters’ 1972 black comedy “Pink Flamingos” is easily one of the most notorious films ever made, but underneath all of its perverse exploitations — black market baby snatching, canine defecation, a contortionists’ flexing anus, lots of house licking — it’s ultimately the story of embracing your inner “filth,” no matter how many people may try to tear you down because of it. This resonant theme and the fearless ways Waters goes about getting it across makes the idea of a prequel series in a year of great transgressive media most exciting. There’s also the one-of-a-kind protagonist, the underground criminal Divine/Babs Johnson, a role that would make a prequel one of the only scripted television series to feature a drag queen in the lead role. While a prequel would have to work hard to top the bonkers story of the original film, Divine and her family — mentally ill mother Edie and delinquent son Crackers — are the kind of lovably deranged characters that would make any story from their most-likely entertaining past worth a look.
“Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Jim Sharman, 1975)
Much like “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show” involves an ensemble cast, which provides an ample amount of opportunity to explore the backstories of different characters – especially when your characters are as whimsical and mysterious as the ones in “Rocky Horror.” For such an insular world that the cult musical offers, the prequel could utilize the familiarity of the mansion that Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry,) Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and the whole Time Warp gang occupy. Not to mention tracing the rather flimsy relationship between Brad and Janet to a time when they were madly in love and innocent could make an even bigger joke out of their suburban, country club garb.
“Snatch” (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
Guy Ritchie is well known for his brand of fast-paced, hard-hitting crime films, creating a remarkable array of colorful miscreants in every one of his works. “Snatch” is no exception, notably featuring the savage gangster Brick Top and a gaggle of Irish Gypsies, impossible to understand and comic in their outlandishness. A prequel could be in order for the absurd film, where it could follow previous escapades of the amatuer boxing promoters Turkish and Tommy. Their chemistry is potent, a mix of brotherly quarrelling and hilarious luck as petty criminals. The formation of their bond could provide prove as interesting and visceral as the film, possibly showing how some kind of irresponsible “business” adventure brought them both together and close to death.
“The Warriors” (Walter Hill, 1979)
Exploring the underbelly of a gritty and crime ridden New York, Walter Hill’s “The Warriors” takes a more specific approach to the exploits of gangs, covering a single, tumultuous night. While numerous gangs and characters are flushed out and violent action is at a premium, the fact that there is a limited amount of progression means there’s a great amount of room for a prequel series set in the universe. A prequel is simply ripe for opportunity, potentially charting the eponymous gang’s formation and rise. Such a movie could include a more prominent role for the quickly dispatched Cleon and younger versions of beloved members like Swan and Ajax. Rockstar’s 2005 video game “The Warriors” could even be used for some foundation, as the critically acclaimed brawler contained story elements that take place before the film. Regardless of what exactly the prequel covers, it would just be nice to see the warriors come out to play again.