So, with Steven Spielberg announcing a “Minority Report” series (just picked up by Fox) and NBC pursuing the Saturday afternoon movie classic “The Devil’s Advocate” for a new drama, it seemed as good of time as any to look at some of the most forgettable TV shows based on unforgettable movies.
“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures”
When producers found a new Bill and Ted for their “Excellent Adventures,” strange things were certainly afoot at Fox. A bland remake of the movies, seven episodes of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures” aired in 1992, exploring such unanswered questions as what would Bill and Ted do if they entered a comic book? The unaired pilot plays a bit like the classic Sega game “Comix Zone” — minus the fun. Like we learned in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, there’s just no replacement for the original Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan.
“Delta House” (“Animal House”)
“Animal House” was an American comedy classic that launched the careers of just about everyone involved, but “Delta House” was “Animal House” with a laugh track — a quietly canceled and quickly forgotten about show that followed the weekly campus chaos of Flounder, D-Day, Otter and everybody’s favorite, Dean Vernon Wormer. The noticeably absent John Belushi is replaced by a 30-something Belushi clone, Josh Mostel, playing Bluto’s brother “Blotto,” and the series waters down the raunchy revolution of the film, turning the Dean’s attempts to shut down Delta House into wacky schemes. Audiences weren’t as into these hammy hijinks, and the show was canceled after a season. If you caught the “School of Hard Knockers” bit during the “Simpsons” episode “Homer Goes to College,” then you basically saw a more inspired version of this show.
A TV series based on one of the greatest films of all time seems like a tall order. In fact, turning “Casablanca” into a weekly TV show was so tough, there were two attempts at it. The first appeared in 1954, with film noir staple Charles McGraw taking over for Humphrey Bogart. Among the first TV series ever produced by Warner Bros. Studios, “Casablanca” ’54 presented the expanded universe of Rick and Captain Renault, similar to how FX’s “Fargo” looked at the Minnesota suburbs. But the show searched the Morrocan city for more tales of romance and adventure with little success. Thirty years later, Warners took another jab at it, this time with David Soul, TV’s Hutch from “Starsky & Hutch,” as Rick. While the show featured performances from Scatman Crothers of “The Shining” and a young Ray Liotta, it failed to become the start of a beautiful friendship, and was canceled after five episodes.
“RoboCop: The Series”
“RoboCop” premiered in 1994, just a few months after the third movie killed the film series. What’s surprising about the show, however, are the production values. Skyvision, a Canadian production company, bet the farm on this one, paying Orion $500,000 for the TV rights on top of the $1.5 million it cost to produce each of the series’s 22 episodes. And that money’s on the screen. While there’s needless pandering to a younger audience — as if the excessive violence ever kept any kids away from the character — the show manages to continue the movie series on a weekly basis, exploring each of the characters in greater depth. “RoboCop: The Series” may have dropped much of the first film’s satire, but considering how good the action was, it’s surprising it hasn’t picked up a cult following yet.
Most of your memories of the Sandra Bullock-thriller “The Net” probably revolve around the opening scene where Bullock orders a pizza online. And unless your name is Brooke Langton, you most likely do not remember it for the short-lived USA Network series. Langton stars in the attempt to stretch a 90-minute movie into 22 45-minute installments; apparently, that was a little too much “Mozart’s Ghost” for anyone to handle, and the show was canceled after one season.
Premiering just as the “tough detective show titled after the character’s last name” bubble was about to burst, “Serpico” sounded like a surefire hit for 1976. A maverick undercover cop putting the heat on the internal corruption of the NYPD? That sounds like something people would watch, especially in the era of “Baretta” and “Kojak.” But that’s not what happened. The first person not onboard with this version of the Academy Award-nominated film was Academy Award-nominated actor Al Pacino; producer Dino De Laurentiis filled the role with David Birney, who wears the beard well, though not well enough to attract an audience. Despite a hard-charging, Dragnet-inspired theme song and Tom Atkins as Serpico’s Lieutenant, “Serpico” was discharged after only one year, a season before both “Baretta” and “Kojak” ended as well.
“Baby Talk” (“Look Who’s Talking”)
Following the success of the first two “Look Who’s Talking” movies, the obvious move was to bring the films to ABC’s TGIF lineup. Loosely based on the movies, “Baby Talk” tweaked the specifics and pushed forward. Kristie Alley’s Mollie became Julia Duffy’s Maggie and baby Mikey (voiced by Bruce Willis) became baby Mickey (voiced by Tony Danza). Season 1 faced off against low ratings and scathing reviews, so heading into its sophomore outing, the producers recast Julia, fired a then-unknown George Clooney, and hired Scott Baio, who justified his inclusion on the much-derided show by saying, “I did a show for 11 years (“Happy Days”) that never ever got a good review.” 23 episodes later, “Baby Talk” was silenced.