As was foretold in the Book Of Revelation, this week sees the release of “Entourage,” the big-screen adaptation of the popular HBO comedy series. As if to prove that the so-called Golden Age of television has its caveats, millions revelled in the adventures of Queens-boy turned rising star Vincent Chase (played by charisma Roomba Adrian Grenier) and his hangers-on: best pal and manager E (Kevin Connolly), brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and amphibian-transformed-into-a-human-by-a-wizard* Turtle (Jerry Ferrera), plus excitably profane agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).
* = this may not be strictly speaking accurate, but it would have been much better
The show ran for eight seasons, but clearly following in the footsteps of the creative triumph of the “Sex & The City” movies, Warner Bros. has declined to let the body grow cold, with Doug Ellin’s film seeking to answer all the burning unanswered questions from the show, like [FILE NOT FOUND].
The practice of TV series being turned into movies has grown increasingly popular over the last couple of years, as the Hollywood big shots that the Ari Gold character is based on are increasingly hired to run studios. It’s been rare to see a year without at least one gogglebox favorite expanded, blown up or simply translated into theaters, for better or for worse.
It’s normally for worse, it should be said, but there’ve been a few gems (though as our review indicates, “Entourage” is not among them). With Vinny and the boys currently taking up valuable multiplex space, we decided it was a good time to look back at the history of the TV-to-Film transition, and below you’ll find twenty of the most notable. Which are the Turtles of the pack and which are the Character Not In “Entourage”? Take a look below, and let us know your own favorites in the comments.
“21 Jump Street” (2012)
How exactly does one update a not-terribly beloved 1980s TV series, which even its biggest star (Johnny Depp) subsequently more or less disowned, which feels about a decade too old to even have much nostalgia value for the all-important under-30s audience and which dealt with police officers going undercover in high schools? Duh, you give it to the guys who directed that animated ‘Meatballs‘ movie, of course! As unlikely as all of that seems, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller truly proved themselves with “21 Jump Street,” which is not so much a spin off of the TV show as an entirely new take on the same inherently daft premise. But this time, the daftness is acknowledged and made a virtue. Featuring a lab’s worth of chemistry between Channing Tatum (was ever a clearly smart actor so perfectly adept at playing blockishly dumb?) and Jonah Hill (who like Tatum has proven his dramatic chops so frequently now that he could never have done another comedy if he’d wanted), the film is so good humored that even Depp and original co-star Peter DeLuise gamely turned up to allow their characters to be killed off in cameo roles. Tongue in cheek, foot in mouth, but heart very much in the right place, it’s no wonder Lord & Miller were given cate blanchett on the sequel, and after helming “The Lego Movie” and shepherding well-received TV comedy “The Last Man On Earth” are now regarded as little short of Holy Saviors of The Hollywood Action-Comedy.
“The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle” (2000)
The prize for ‘worst film that Robert De Niro ever appeared in’ is a fiercely contested one, but despite his baffling miscasting as the thickly-accented Blofeld-ish supervillain Fearless Leader, it’s not one that “The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle” has a chance of winning: though its reputation as a giant flop and a total misfire is fair, it’s fairly interesting and sincere enough to keep it from the lower echelons of the DeNiro canon. None of which is to say it’s a good movie, though. A live-action/CGI redo of Jay Ward’s beloved cartoon series about a talking moose and a flying squirrel, it’s a meld of “Muppet Movie”-esque meta antics and “Austin Powers”-ish spoof, and is seemingly more interested in attracting nostalgic parents than their bored offspring (the box office performance certainly hammered home that turn-of-the-21st-century kids did not remotely give a shit about Moose and Squirell). There is some occasional cleverness to the script (credited solely and bafflingly to “Margaret” mastermind Kenneth Lonergan), but what is there is betrayed by embarrassing, instantly dated pop culture references to the likes of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and the “Wazzup” ads, while the direction by Broadway veteran Des McAnuff, alternates between being workmanlike and dull. As for De Niro? He’s pretty wretched as Fearless Leader (Rene Russo and Jason Alexander are more fun as his henchmen Boris and Natasha), but he at least fares better than Piper Perabo as the bland human lead, or the raft of mostly embarassing cameos from people like Janeane Garofalo and (almost inevitably) Whoopi Goldberg.
“The Avengers” (1998)
Emphatically not the Marvel film, “The Avengers” (1998) starred Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman and was based on the gently surreal British TV show of the 1960s in such a way you have to believe that writer Don McPherson and director Jeremiah Chechik held some sort of grudge against the series. This film is genuinely putrid, one of the worst examples of missing the point of the source material (for which many non-U.S. oldsters have a great deal of residual affection) while still being oddly faithful to its more baroque trappings, creating a kind of Frankenstein’s monster of irrelevance. The cast is relatively blameless: if anyone was going to do justice to the bowler-hatted model of English urbanity John Steed (originally and always Patrick Macnee, who shows up in a cameo here and shouldn’t have), Fiennes could’ve been just the ticket, and if anyone was going to look as bendy and toothsome in Emma Peel’s iconic catsuit as Diana Rigg, Thurman certainly had the goods. Nor did Sean Connery‘s appearance as the rain-obsessed arch villain have to be as garishly awful as it was —though it did gift us this extraordinarily meme-worthy scene. Disjointed due to a gutting in the edit suite after stinking test screenings, the result not only stinks but makes no sense and famously bombed hard at the box office: appropriately, given the dastardly plot to control to the world’s weather it contains (also, yawn), it’s a perfect storm of shit.
Undoubtedly a major inspiration for Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy in terms of what kind of film to not make, the real question posed by the 1966 ‘Batman’ is “how much of this kitsch value is intentional?” The answer is “a high proportion” as even back then, “Batman” was a campy, comedic take on a character who in the comics of the preceding three decades had slid into a kind of self-parody. It wasn’t until later that the seeds of the New Serious Batman, with his self-doubt and tortured identity would be planted; this incarnation, a “fully deputized agent of the law,” is someone who, along with Robin his “youthful ward” (so difficult not to hear that as a euphemism) deduces Catwoman’s involvement in the film’s dastardly master plan with “It happened at sea! That’s “C”! For Catwoman!” Without even the TV-mandated inclusion of a moral that kids should eating their vegetables or wear a seatbelt, there’s nothing to interfere with the sustained charming nuttiness, as the gamely self-serious duo of Adam West and Burt Ward take on Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Lee Meriweather and Frank Gorshin as The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman and The Riddler respectively. If it brushes against topicality with the inclusion of a Polaris missile and references to geopolitical unrest, it’s happiest when being really stupid, like when Batman battles a rubber shark dangling from a helicopter or during fight scenes that are masterpieces of pulled punches, non-connecting blows and oversized foam spanners. And even with all that, it’s still about 20 times more believable and enjoyable than Joel Schumacher‘s 1997 go-round.
Supposedly a metatextual reworking of the long-running but hilariously outdated 1964-72 magical sitcom, there’s actually more insightful humor in one “30 Rock” gag —Carrie Fisher: “I grew up wanting to be Samantha Stephens on ‘Bewitched.’ The closest I got was being married to a gay guy for two years”— than in all 102 wretched minutes of the benighted movie adaptation. We’re plumbing some pretty deep depths on this list, but it’s possible “Bewitched” is the nadir, since there just doesn’t seem to be any reason why it has to be this bad: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley Maclaine and Michael Caine? Written and directed by romcom great Nora Ephron? What’s not to love? Well, everything actually. Taking the show’s fizzy, dizzy premise of a housewife who is also a witch and draining it of every iota of charm, the movie sees Ferrell’s movie star searching for a co-star in his putative remake of the sitcom and happening upon Kidman, who just so happens to herself be a witch. But throughout the film there’s not a joke that lands, and with Kidman in the role of wacky japester and Ferrell the straight man, which is already all sorts of wrong, “Bewitched” is just a couple of soundtrack cues away from being a terrifying horror film, given an added dimension of bone-chilling fear by the light of panic that occasionally flashes through Ferrell and Kidman’s otherwise fish-dead glassy eyes. Soullessly zombified yet garishly chipper in tone, the film is not just poor: it’s ghastly.
“The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995)
A trend over the last couple of decades has been, when reviving a TV classic of old, to come at it with a certain layer of contemporary irony, rather than playing it straight. “Starsky & Hutch” and “21 Jump Street” are among the successful attempts at pulling it off (“Land Of The Lost” and “Bewitched,” not so much…), and it all started with 1995’s “The Brady Bunch Movie,” a subtly twisted take on the 70s family sitcom classic directed by Betty Thomas. It is, if you were never around when the show was originally broadcast or have never seen it in syndication, the story of a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls, and of a man named Brady, who was busy with three boys of his own, with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as the matriarch and patriarch of the united clans. But the smartest stroke of the screenplay is by lifting the Bradys essentially unchanged from their original incarnations and dropping them into the cynical, apathetic 1990s, creating a sort of culture clash comedy that pokes fun at its ridiculous clean-cut heroes, while also showing a certain admiration for their integrity. The performances from everyone, particularly Cole and Long, are committed and a little demented, though it’s character actress veteran Jean Smart who steals the show as the hard-drinking wife of Michael McKean’s villain. It’s undeniably lightweight stuff, an extended SNL sketch that’s just brisk enough to stop the joke from wearing thin (it was definitely tired by the time “A Very Brady Sequel” rolled around a few years later), but there’s such a sense of subversive fun to it that it’s still highly enjoyable twenty years later.
“The Fugitive” (1993)
Very occasionally, a TV premise works so well as a movie that it’s hard to remember how it was ever serialized in the first place, and so it is with Andrew Davis‘ rendering of the classic ’60s TV series “The Fugitive.” The show, reportedly loosely based on “On the Road” and “Les Miserables” (!) takes a wrong-man premise and spins it out into road-movie-style episodes in which Richard Kimble (David Janssen), a man on the run from the law represented by Lt Gerard (Barry Morse), circuitously tracks down the one-armed man who killed his wife but gets involved with many little dramas from friend or foe along the way. The film largely dispensed with the “lonely journey” aspect of the show to turn in a much tighter, more effective thriller, and exhibits exactly the kind of solid linear plotting and characterful casting that marked out the best of the action genre in the early 1990s. Casting Harrison Ford as the resourceful everyman was a clever move, but netting Tommy Lee Jones as his pursuer, here changed into a U.S. Marshal rather than a policeman, was even more central to the film’s stoic, grounded, gruff action. A highlight for the based-on-a-TV-show category, the film picked up seven Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and gave Jones his sole Oscar win to date, and is also a career high watermark for the “Under Siege” and “Collateral Damage” director (although “Holes” is a much underrated later effort).
“The Honeymooners” (2005)
The way it’s supposed to work is: get the rights to a beloved TV series, make a movie out of it, and boom! you appeal to the show’s original fans while also sprucing up a possibly dated scenario for a whole new audience. But then something frankly inexplicable like John Schulz‘s “The Honeymooners” happens, which neither honors the original concept nor creates something new, and in fact just drips with contempt for whoever the intended audience is. It’s a parade of lame gags involving Cedric the Entertainer becoming exasperated in various locations: at a dog track, in the sewers, on board a bus, in the home he shares with his wife Gabrielle Union —there’s nowhere this guy can’t get exasperated! Replacing the original 1950s cast of Jackie Gleason and Art Carney with a largely black main cast including Cedric and Mike Epps (and having John Leguizamo play a racing dog trainer, and Eric Stoltz play a wily corporate developer so paper thin he’s practically ghostly) is not in itself the worst idea: the 1950s mores of the original show could do with a fresh spin, particularly in terms of the gender politics. But Schulz’s screamingly pointless film doesn’t even do that: the wives are here only to give occasional sarky rejoinders, roll their eyes and eternally forgive their dangerously inept menfolk, and the moral appears to be that everything will work out great provided you constantly act without thinking and congenitally refuse to learn from your past mistakes.
“Jackass: The Movie” (2002)
Even on television, comedy can be a rarified thing. Something that speaks hilarious or witty truths about the human condition, that makes you think even as it makes you chuckle, that uplifts, saddens or makes you swoon. It can also sometimes be a bunch of idiots with a high pain threshhold and no sense of shame that hurt themselves in various creative ways for your amusement. “Jackass” had become a surprise MTV smash at the turn of the 21st century, a glorified version of the compilation tapes of skateboarders wiping out spectacularly, that utilized various figures from the skating world (including now-Oscar-winner Spike Jonze, who co-created the series) to perform ridiculous and painful pranks and stunts. An instant hit among thirteen-year-olds of all ages, the show soon caught the eye of corporate-synergy-chasers at Paramount, and “Jackass: The Movie” was born, with the promise that it would give Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and the gang the chance to push boundaries even further. They certainly lived up to that, with piss sno-cones, car toys in anuses, plenty of nakedness (it was at least refreshing to see a movie where the number of dicks on screen vastly outweigh the female nudity) and some uncensored swearing to earn that R-rating. And much of it is very funny, even if the least button-pushing stunts are often the funniest. Few would argue that it doesn’t get exhausting even in light of a slim 90-minute running time (let alone the two sequels and one spin-off, “Bad Grandpa”), but if you sat through this and claim you didn’t laugh at least once, you’re probably lying and definitely deserve to be human-catapulted naked into a beehive.
“Lost In Space” (1998)
Spy shows weren’t the only 1960s TV shows to be getting the big-screen treatment in the mid-1990s, with Irwin Allen-produced family favorite “Lost In Space” making the translation in big-budget fashion. The concept was always a strong one: a family stranded far from home faces all kinds of strange alien creatures (including a memorable anthropomorphized giant carrot), but it was a shame that the film turned out to make the transition in such weak, uneven, noisy form as Stephen Hopkins’ 1998 film. The film replicates the same Swiss Family-style set-up as the show —the Robinson family (William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert and Jack Johnson) are stuck somewhere out in the galaxy with pilot Don West (Matt LeBlanc) and campy saboteur Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman)— and then needlessly overcomplicates it with intergalactic terrorists, spider-monsters and time travel. It’s a tonal mess, alternating between kid friendly antics with a robot and a sort of space monkey, and dark self-serious sci-fi reminiscent more of one of the rubbish “Star Trek” movies than anything else. By the time Jared Harris turns up as an older version of the younger Robinson, and Oldman transforms into a spider, you’ve long since tuned out. Despite some nifty design work, the script (penned by Akiva Goldsman in the same summer he wrote “Batman & Robin” —how did no-one break his fingers that year?) is wretched and lifeless throughout, right up until the film’s conclusion, which essentially returns you right back to square one.
“Miami Vice” (2006)
Though its pop cultural legacy mostly involved pastel colors, oversized jackets with the sleeves rolled up and a conspicuous use of popular music, “Miami Vice” was at least at first a gritty and acclaimed TV crime drama that provided an early hit for showrunner and producer Michael Mann. So when the inevitable big-screen reboot rolled around, Mann, hot off the hit “Collateral,” was the natural choice to take charge of a serious, action-heavy big-budget redo. The result underwhelmed at the box office (taking barely over $60 million in the U.S.) and proved something of a strange beast, dividing fans of both the series and Mann in general. It’s the dividing line in Mann’s career where he used digital photography to move into a sort of abstracted form of the action movie, leaving narrative as a secondary if not tertiary concern. It’s easy enough to mock the 2006 “Miami Vice” —the po-faced seriousness, which takes Mann’s ultra-professional protagonists to a new level, the lack of chemistry between stars Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, and the frankly dull story, which is about a hair’s breadth away from being “Bad Boys III.” But the film’s virtues ultimately overshadow its flaws: Mann’s feel for the environment around his characters in his first all-digital movie reaches an almost supernatural level, the action sequences crackle and thrill, and in the thwarted love story between Farrell and Gong Li’s Cuban-Chinese cartel accountant, Mann finds his most effective and sexiest screen romance since “Last Of The Mohicans.”
“Mission: Impossible” (1996)
Launching a franchise that’s been dangling Tom Cruise from great heights for close to twenty years now, the original “Mission: Impossible” might be (at least until this summer’s “Rogue Nation”) the height of the series to date. It might not have the stunning IMAX set pieces of the fourth, the great villain of the third, or the shitload of doves from the second, but it’s probably the most consistent of the films and a model of how to reboot an old TV favorite. The story, which sees Cruise’s Ethan Hunt on the run after the murder of the rest of his IMF team and out to uncover the mole who exposed them, is a good fit for director Brian De Palma, who brings the right mix of paranoia and playfulness and a hint of real-world post-Cold War messiness while pulling off some of the best set pieces of his career (the Langley break-in, with Cruise trying to catch droplets of his sweat as he hangs above a pressurised floor, is still the most iconic moment of the franchise). The cast, particularly a brief, chewy cameo from Vanessa Redgrave as an ambivalent middle-woman, is a lot of fun, but more than anything, the film has a ballsiness that few TV reboots attempt. Taking the hero of the original series, Jim Phelps, played here by Jon Voight, and making him the bad guy was a bold move, even controversial at the time, and you wish more modern blockbusters took chances like it —for all J.J. Abrams’ mystery box trapping, he’d never have made Captain Kirk the villain in his rendition of “Star Trek.”
“The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad!” (1988)
These days, almost every TV show that ran any length of time has some kind of campaign for a big-screen revival or Netflix pick-up, and given that we’ve seen the unlikely return of shows like “Veronica Mars” (see below) or “Coach,” almost everything is fair game. There’s a long history of this —“Star Trek” gained much cultural cachet once it was brought to the big screen in the wake of ‘Star Wars”— but perhaps the best example of this is “Police Squad!” a small-screen flop that aired just six episodes in the early 1980s, yet which somehow went on to spawn a beloved trilogy of comedies just a few years later. It’s essentially just a longer, starrier episode of the short-lived cop-parody, as Leslie Nielsen’s bumbling, deadpan Lt. Frank Drebin tries to avenge the attack on his partner, Nordberg (O.J. Simpson, uncomfortably) and bust a heroin ring run by Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán) before a visit to the U.S. by Queen Elizabeth. Director David Zucker and his brothers have a wider, less specific target to hit than they did with “Airplane” or even “Top Secret,” riffing on everything from “Dragnet” through “The Manchurian Candidate” to ’80s actioners, and the film has more of a shotgun approach than their earlier comedies as a result. But their facility for packing the film with such a density of jokes, with a far higher number of them working than in most spoof pictures, means that it’s consistently and sometimes painfully funny. The sequels (1991’s “2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear” and 1994’s “33 1/3: The Final Insult”) were less strong, but still have more inspired gags in their individual running times than Freidberg & Seltzer have managed across their entire careers.
“The Saint” (1997)
For whatever reason, the mid-1990s saw every studio scrambling to revive Cold War-era spy properties, and it seemed to work for a time: “Goldeneye” was a huge hit, and then “”Mission: Impossible” was even bigger. But the revived genre came crumbling down soon after, starting with “The Saint.” At one time, a revival of the British pulp favorite, a Robin Hood-esque criminal and master of disguise most familiar from a 1960s TV show starring a pre-Bond Roger Moore, could have been more successful of any similar effort, with Hollywood legend Robert Evans producing, “Schindler’s List”’s Steve Zaillian writing, Sydney Pollack directing and with Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Grant courted to star. But as it went through the development wringer, the film ended up with Philip Noyce directing, and Val Kilmer, just as he went from post-“Batman” megastardom to completely crazypants, in the lead role. The plot, with Kilmer’s Simon Templar hired to steal a cold fusion formula from American scientist Elisabeth Shue (cashing her post-Oscar paycheck) for Russian presidential candidate Rade Šerbedžija, couldn’t be much more generic if it tried, and the film buries the winning ambivalence of the title character, and Noyce, who could usually do this kind of grown-up thriller in his sleep, seems palpably disengaged, with a distinct lack of invention or flair in the action sequences. In the end, all the film has propping it up are Kilmer’s progression of disguises, most of which unfortunately prove accidentally hilarious, but are at least not as boring as the rest of the film.
Has there ever been as passionate a collection of fans as the Browncoats, as the fans of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” call themselves? Other collectives of enthusiasts have managed to stave off cancellation for their beloved shows, or kept them in the popular consciousness long after they were cancelled, but few have managed to persuade a major studio, in this case Universal, to finance a multi-million dollar continuation of their favorite show, one that had been cancelled due to low ratings after only a season. The studio’s hope was clearly that “Serenity” would follow in the footsteps of “Star Trek” and create a big sci-fi film franchise. It ultimately failed to break past the geek ceiling, but it’s had a longer-lasting effect, introducing the crash-zoom to the sci-fi genre, providing something of a template for Marvel’s mega-hit “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and giving Whedon, who directed, enough big-screen credit that he could go on to make “The Avengers.” It’s also, while flawed, pretty good. Whedon tries to tie up the loose ends from the series, with the crew of the titular ship attempting to find the (disappointingly prosaic) secret behind human weapon passenger River Tam (Summer Glau), and successfully ups the scope and scale while retaining the quick wit and desperate stakes that won over the show’s fanbase in the first place, in particular thanks to villain Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of the more memorable adversaries that Whedon’s ever created. “Firefly” virgins probably aren’t the ideal audience, but even they should have plenty of fun with it.
“Sex and the City” (2008)
As one of the vanguard shows of the HBO-led prestige TV revolution, “Sex and the City” should have been a more natural fit for the big screen than many older series: after all, it was around the late ’90s and early ’00s that TV was for the first time felt to be rivalling cinema in terms of its storytelling and production values. But instead, the “Sex and the City” movie is a cautionary tale for how to make a big-screen adaptation that makes people feel like idiots for ever even tolerating the small-screen incarnation. Featuring the off- and on-screen talent from the show, including writer Michael Patrick King as director, it’s little more than a TV episode with added bloat (145 mins!): the puppyish self-centredness of Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Carrie, which could be charmingly self-effacing on TV, is rendered desperate and screechy when it’s twenty feet high. Featuring such relatable life problems as whether one should wear the Vivienne Westwood dress one modeled for Vogue to one’s wedding and an almost self-parodic subplot about closet size, the inflation of the ‘SATC’ concept onto the big screen just unavoidably showed how vacuous it was in the first place. Still, it did allow critic Anthony Lane to coin the subtitle “The Lying, The Bitch & The Wardrobe” which, along with the fact that it looks like a masterpiece of politically sophisticated Marxist doctrine next to the grotesquely offensive excess of its sequel, is about all the faint praise we can heap on it.
“Sgt. Bilko” (1996)
A 1996 film that somehow feels more dated than the black-and-white 1950s TV sitcom that inspired it (“The Phil Silvers Show“) “Sgt Bilko,” from journeyman comedy director Jonathan Lynn (“My Cousin Vinny,” “Nuns on the Run“) is an interesting case study for how movie adaptations can go wrong when being shaped to fit a new era and a new star. With Phil Silvers owing his fame to the success of his show and not the other way around, the original TV character was very much what he made it, exhibiting a slightly down-at-heel quality that let us relate to him even when he wasn’t likeable and even when his schemes became all-out ridiculous. Movie Bilko, by contrast, played by Steve Martin (whose Inspector Clouseau in the “Pink Panther” remake similarly misinterpreted the original character), is basically just a smug bastard, who always wins and if he temporarily seems down, it’s only ever part of his master plan to get the other guy to go double or quits. It’s a shame, because the film features a stacked cast, including Dan Aykroyd as his genial, ineffectual commanding officer and Phil Hartman as his nemesis, along with roles for “Louie“‘s Pamela Adlon, Chris Rock, Glenne Headly and Steve Park, among many others. But the film is a mess of incoherent plotting and labored gags, that runs out of steam long before the tired final instance of Bilko inevitably coming out on top one last time.
“You’re either SWAT or you’re not,” quoth Samuel L. Jackson‘s Hondo in the action movie named for the TV show that was named for the tactical paramilitary law-enforcement unit. It’s nice of him to offer an opt-out clause, because we’re, yeah, pretty much not. A perfectly average, supremely forgettable mid-range action film starring a slightly better-than-it-deserved cast in Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Olivier Martinez, Jeremy Renner and Josh Charles, “S.W.A.T.” bears its TV provenance so stoically that to be honest, we had little idea it was even based on a TV show at all. The show “S.W.A.T.” was a short-lived Aaron Spelling spin-off of “The Rookies” that ran in 1975/76 for 37 episodes before being forgotten by seemingly everyone except writers David Ayer and David McKenna who wrote the script for the movie, which was then seemingly passed on by every major action director in Hollywood before trickling down to prolific TV director Clark Johnson (the Kiefer Sutherland starrer “The Sentinel” being his only other major theatrical film, among a forest of impressive TV credits). In fact, the film is so glossily unmemorable in every other way (it’s basically an Ayer-by numbers getting-a-new-team-together narrative complete with alliances and self-sacrifice and internal betrayal) that we might be embarrassed to confess we had no idea it was once a TV show. But hey, it’s “S.W.A.T.” so we’re not.
“Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (1992)
Both a prequel and a sequel (sprequel, anyone?), both a prologue and an epilogue (prepilogue?) to the events depicted in the two seasons of beloved cult TV show “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch‘s ‘Fire Walk With Me” has had one of the more interesting trajectories in the critical evaluation derby. Truly reviled on release (Vincent Canby: “It’s not the worst film ever made; it just seems to be”) and loudly booed at Cannes, even previous Lynch superfan Quentin Tarantino hated it, saying “David Lynch had disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie” (stones, glass houses, pots and kettles). But it’s been slowly reevaluated in the years since, to the point that in some quarters it now is regarded as a masterwork, a grotesquely glamorous yet grimy deconstruction of a lot of the show’s central themes. The truth is probably somewhere in between, certainly as fans of the show ourselves, the film’s release initially left us cold: it was too long a wait to feel like a seamless continuation but too soon to allow us to consider it in isolation. But with the intervening decades, even we have warmed to it —if nothing else, the imagined “Twin Peaks” universe had much more purely cinematic value than many other shows on this list, and with the rawness of the peerless show’s cancellation soothed by time, it’s now possible to look at the film as a frightening, weird and seductive entity in its own right.
“Veronica Mars” (2014)
2014: “Wow, you guys, the fan-assisted ‘Veronica Mars’ film is totes going to revolutionize movie financing!” 2015: “What’s a Victoria Marsh, again?” Ok, harsh perhaps, but the only thing to cool quicker than the ‘Mars’ movie at the box office was the excited chatter around its kickstarter model, whereby it raised $2m on the crowdsourcing platform in record time allowing director Rob Thomas and fans of the 7-years-defunct show one more visit to the plucky noir detective heroine of Neptune, California. But in showing what was possible when fans came together to get their wish of another glimpse at Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Ryan Hansen, Tina Majorino et al (we were totally only there for Enrico Colantoni of whom there was not enough), the “Veronica Mars” movie inadvertently also highlighted the shortcomings of this sort of fan service. Where the money would probably have been better channelled into a few new TV episodes, instead we got a movie that didn’t really know why the hell it even was a movie. It’s proof positive that fan desire, not to mention the desire of a committed and genuine staff of actors and behind-camera talent, is not enough to substitute for a story that needs to be told. “Veronica Mars” is not a bad film, but feels like a victory lap: a movie amounting to delight that such a movie could be made. As much as we loved those characters as well, it took the “Veronica Mars” big screen outing to make us realize they belonged on the small screen.
There are a great number more than just this selection of 20 of course, most tending toward the “dire” side of bad, but a few that are decent enough like “The Addams Family,” “Get Smart,” “The Muppets Movie” and other specials (and a further remove from that, “The Muppets“), “Dragnet” “Star Trek: Generations” and sequels, “Starsky and Hutch,” “The Equalizer,” “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” and British entires “Bean,” “”The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse,” “Alpha Papa” and “The Inbetweeners.”
But there are far more that are quite irredeemably poor: “The A-Team,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Dark Shadows,” “Dukes of Hazzard,” “I Spy,” “Land of the Lost,” “Maverick,” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Reno 911: Miami,” “Wild Wild West” and “The X-Files.” And that’s not even getting into tweenie or kids’ films like “The Lizzy McGuire Movie,” “Hannah Montana The Movie,” or “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
For the sake of our own sanity, we also mostly avoided animated TV shows turned live action movies, but there’d be enough there for a list of its own someday. Again these are mostly stinky, while animated shows turned animated movies such as “The Simpsons Movie” and “South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut” tend to fare a little bit better. Finally, we also excluded films based around characters from sketch shows, so the “Monty Python” films were not quite what were were looking for, while “Borat,” “Bruno” and “The Dictator” (from “Da Ali G Show“) as well as “The Blues Brothers,” “Wayne’s World” “A Night at the Roxbury” and all the other spin offs of “Saturday Night Live” were deemed ineligible, even though they’ve probably a slightly higher hit rate than in this category overall. Phew! Let us know what you think about the phenomenon —have we neglected to mention any of the better examples? Tell us below, if you’re not too busy planning your weekend around multiple viewings of “Entourage,” brah.