Weekend Roundtable: TV-to-Film Adaptations

Hollywood is going to continue adapting old TV shows into new movies. That much is a given, and there’s no sense in fighting against the trend. For this week’s Roundtable, we toss out some suggestions for source material yet to be mined for its feature film potential.

Shannon Nutt

Until ‘The Simpsons’ surpassed it several years back, ‘Gunsmoke‘ was the longest-running primetime television series in U.S. history. It’s still the longest-running drama, tied now with NBC’s ‘Law & Order’, both having a 20-year run. From 1957 to 1961, it was the top-rated TV show in America. Back in 2009, there was some chatter about ‘Gunsmoke’ finally being rebooted on the big screen, but five long years later, nothing has materialized. Even though Westerns no longer draw what they used to at the box office, I can’t imagine a better franchise to revive the genre than a film based on this popular series. But, please… I beg of you, Hollywood… don’t cast Johnny Depp as Marshal Dillon.

Mike Attebery

Any time the topic of a ‘Magnum, P.I.‘ movie comes up in an interview with Tom Selleck, he makes a point of saying that if Hollywood made one and tried to turn the series into a joke (like the awful ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ or ‘Starsky & Hutch’ movies), he most definitely wouldn’t want any involvement, cameo or otherwise. I think he’s right. Why spit in the faces of fans who made the series a hit? And why buy a property just to make fun of it?

Why not take what’s still a good premise, and have Selleck play it straight? An older, wiser, perhaps less carefree Magnum, played by Selleck himself, might be a lot of fun to watch. Of course, given the weight gain or Earthly departures of some of the original cast, many of the other characters would have to be switched around or recast. Still, I’d be willing to check it out.

Luke Hickman

It’s taken me days to find the name of an old TV series that I loved as a kid, but I finally found it: ‘Hard Time on Planet Earth‘. The show followed a humanoid alien who won countless battle for his planet, but was found guilty for participating in a rebellion. Because of his heroic feats and service, his punishment was reduced from death to having to live on a lesser planet: Earth. To keep their eyes on him, the extraterrestrial leaders sent a floating robot to keep tabs on his Earthly actions. Continuing his heroism once on Earth, he found people that needed saving.

As I watch clips of the old episodes now, I realize that it was a horrible 13-episode series that borrowed the plot of ‘Thor’. Even so, I’d give anything for a blockbuster remake of an unknown series rather than the standard sequelmania that summers have turned into

Junie Ray

I am not a fan of adapting TV shows into movies. Plenty of books and plays have been successfully adapted into movies, but something about the multi-week story arcs of TV shows don’t translate well. Or it might be the psychological blocks in my head that expect the story to happen in 23 minutes, not two hours – and that I shouldn’t have to pay to watch it.

If I had to choose, I could see ‘The Rifleman‘ being a good movie. There’s a lot you could do in developing the backstory about the character’s time in the Civil War, how he developed his shooting skills, and more about his relationship with his wife and her untimely death. You could also choose a great Western plot and throw in a few celebrity cameos. This has a lot of potential.

Casting the Chuck Conner replacement would be the biggest challenge. I can’t seem to think of a good rugged upstanding Western type in the younger generation of male actors. Mark Walhberg or Viggo Mortensen (too old)? Chris Hemsworth? Any other ideas?

Josh Zyber

I watched a lot of crap on TV when I was a kid. I make no apologies for my nostalgic attachment to shows like ‘Knight Rider’ or ‘Airwolf’ that are almost certainly in the pipeline to eventually be adapted by Hollywood. If they turn out as bad as the ‘A-Team’ movie, I think I’d rather just leave them in the past.

However, I still contend that the alien invasion miniseries ‘V‘ is fertile ground for a big-screen remake. The ABC network attempted to reboot the series for television a few years back to mostly poor results (which didn’t stop me from watching it, of course). That show’s failure probably put the kibosh on any other potential adaptations, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s too bad, because if taken seriously and given a respectable (though not outlandish) budget, ‘V’ could be the basis for a genuinely intelligent treatment of the alien invasion genre.

Sadly, I’m not holding my breath for that. If it ever happened, a ‘V’ movie would most likely turn into a stupid ‘Independence Day’ knockoff.

What TV shows would you like to see adapted into movies? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Chris B

    I gotta go with Quantam Leap starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell. The concept of a scientist leaping through time to alter to change the past for the better seems like fertile ground for a great summer blockbuster. With a great script and suitable director (Chris Nolan I’m looking in your direction), I think it could be pretty fantastic.

          • Chris B

            Oh yeeaaahhh…I had a real problem accepting the premise of thaalt movie. I’m all for sci-fi flicks with new ideas and concepts but the idea that Gyllenhall was just a dead soldier’s consciousness floating in limbo or something (I don’t remember the exact details since I only saw it once) just seemed utterly ridiculous…it just rubbed me the wrong way.

  2. Mike A. may or may not know this, but the late Tom Clancy actually WANTED to write a screenplay for a big budget MAGNUM P.I. Selleck was on board for it, but Universal nixed the idea, saying “no one cares about Magnum PI anymore.” 🙁

        • Didn’t have to be all serious, just more than the make fun of format they are stuck on. At least the Brady Bunch movie was funny and the original was a comedy. But adapting a series that took it self (albeit a little too) seriously and trying to turn it into a knee slapper does not work. But then 21 Jump street happens and we are stuck with another 10 years of this stuff. Though you have to admit the sleestack joke about how slow they were WAS funny, but that joke was 40 years old, it’s got legs.

    • Morons, they probably think even less of Simon and Simon and Airwolf. Truly a golden age of TV, though the 13 year old version of my self. But to be honest, most TV from that era is pretty crappy in retrospect. But I still have a soft spot for most of them.

  3. Boston007

    I’m pissed V never continued. I liked that show a lot. There were some really stupid scenes that cried AMATEUR but I liked it a lot.

    • Elizabeth

      The original V miniseries is still very watchable. Despite the rather large cast, it does a great job of establishing characters and making you care about them (or hating them as appropriate). Too bad The a Final Battle was pretty lousy (with all the ridiculous Star Child nonsense) and The Series was wretched.

      I rather liked some of the reboot series ABC aired but it was clear the writers had no clue where the series was headed so they just made crap up no matter how ridiculous it got.

      I have no doubt that Kenneth Johnson would jump at the chance to write a script for a big screen V movie. Could Warner Bros be convinced to allow a kick starter project for it?

      I really wish the TV series Threshold would have survived to finish the story they had mapped out, through Foothold and Stranglehold. I enjoyed it. Plus it had Peter Dinklage, which is never a bad thing.

      • Not all of the series was bad, the fight between Marc Singer and Duncan Regehr is still a fond memory. Very surprised Regehr was not a bigger star in those days. He played a great bad guy.

  4. Eric

    Dollhouse clearly didn’t work as a series, but I think the premise would make a very interesting sci-fi movie. Eliza Dushku is still a perfect choice for the lead, and Joss Whedon will be finishing up Avengers at some point. Plus, we’ve already seen one big screen film based off a Whedon series, and I think Serenity was incredible.

  5. David

    Hollywood already ruined one of my childhood favorites (Wild Wild West), but I’d be interested in big screen versions of Time Tunnel and Jonny Quest (live action instead of a cartoon) if they were done the right way.

  6. shawn

    Junie I love your idea for the Rifleman movie, I just recently watched the series for the first time and I couldn’t believe they hadn’t remade it already. I think that the replacement for Chuck Connors could be Alexander Skarsgard or Jared Padalecki they’ve got the height and looks to pull it off.

    As for another series to become a movie I think Chuck would make a good action comedy film.

  7. Jak Donark

    Two of my favorite shows when I was a kid were Dukes of Hazzard and Chips. The Dukes movie was okay, and I was hoping if they ever made a Chips movie it would live up to my expectations. In 2007 I got an idea for a Chips movie, and eventually wrote a feature length script. I was really excited about it, I seriously considered loading up the truck and moving to Beverly. Hills, that is. However after the reality of getting a script actually made, let alone being read, would not be easy, I pretty much gave up on it. While doing research for the project I found out there actually was one in the works. I figured it might be out in time for a 35th anniversary but that came and went. It was a show I continued to watch as into my teens, and even bought the first two seasons on DVD and I still enjoyed it. So it’s probably one of my all time favorite shows, and even if it never gets a feature version at least I still have my vision. And I’ve watched it a few times, lol.

  8. Bill

    How about a movie version of Have Gun Will Travel? The story of a gunslinger for hire opens up all kinds of possibilities.

  9. Timcharger

    Josh, this your 1st Father’s Day, right?

    …and it’s NOT a Father’s Day theme to the Roundtable this week?

  10. William Henley

    Full House (with a cameo by Judie Sweeten or the Olsen Twins playing Becky)
    Saved By The Bell
    The Sarah Jane Adventures
    Muppet Babies
    Legend of the Seeker

    On a more serious note:
    Star Trek: Enterprise

    Do made-for-television movies count? Because there are quite a few shows that have had made-for-television movies (ie Doctor Who) that I would love to see movies released at theaters (and no, the 50th aniversary special does not count, as that was a television special and not a movie). If so, I would also like to throw in the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Stargate Atlantis.

  11. Alex

    Magnum P.I. and my personal pick for a big-screen translation, “MacGuyver”, would both have the same problem: how do you cast them? Both shows had such iconic leads that putting anyone else in the role would be virtually impossible. Tom Selleck IS Magnum. Richard Dean Anderson IS MacGuyver. I don’t know could replace them. I mean, look at what happened with the A-Team movie. It wasn’t a bad film, all things considered, but Liam Neeson wasn’t George Peppard and Rampage Jackson sure as heck wasn’t Mr. T.

  12. Mike

    I would still love to see a new series of Columbo movies with Mark Ruffalo in the lead. I think he could pull it off.

  13. Lord Bowler

    One of my favorite 80’s shows was Simon & Simon which aired while Magnum PI and Murder, She Wrote was on the air. They even had cross-overs among the three shows.

    I would love to see a serious movie about brother Private Detectives again…

    I would love to see Space: Above and Beyond be a movie. It followed a fighter squadron fighting aliens.

    There’s been talk of rebooting Jericho into a movie, that would be interesting.

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