Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Five early '90s movies that would make great TV shows

This was a depressing TV development season for new ideas. Over 30 scripts that were bought were based on movies, all part of the latest trend of hedging bets by banking on a familiar title to grab the attention of an audience. If you're interested in a complete accounting of all of these projects that were purchased last fall, check out this Slashfilm ranking of the 31 properties that were being rebooted in one form or another:

A number of these just sound dubious on their face. The fact that the 1990 film Problem Child apparently has more value 25 years after its debut than a fresh idea would is just a kick in the balls to creative television. Look, I SAW Problem Child in theatres - TWICE. I was also ten, and let me tell you, you age out of that humor fast. (This is backed up by the grosses for the sequel, which only made half as much just a year later.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer will always be the rebuttal to a concern that a weak film can't make a good TV show... but is anyone really dying to see the further adventures of Junior?

Even in 1991, would this have been a good idea for a series? Hell, Uncle Buck (another property ordered to pilot) wasn't even a good idea for a series IN 1990!

I don't think all of these ideas are terrible (The Truman Show could be pretty interesting, and as a fan of Kevin Biegel and Mike Royce, I'm pulling for their Big limited series.) Still, looking at that slate, my heart goes out to the original ideas that were passed over in favor of Bachelor Party. It's really weird when a network is trying to adapt a show based on a film old enough to be in the desired ratings demographic.

Lest you think I'm picking on the film's age, after giving the matter some thought, I came up with five early nineties movies that might actually make for good TV series. So if you're looking to get a jump on the next development season, start tracking down who controls the rights to these:

Dave (1993) - A normal guy becomes the President. Yeah, you could go the single camera route with this, sort of a The West Wing meets Scrubs, but the real money probably comes from doing this as a three-camera sitcom. Cast it with Matthew Perry, Tim Meadows or Bill Hader. (My first pick would have been Stephen Colbert, but he's not going to be available.)

The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) - The only thing with more comic potential than sending a normal guy into the White House is sending a con-man there. I've always thought this Eddie Murphy movie was under-rated and had a lot of great bits buried in an admittedly-predictable plot and character arc. I don't think Congress has ever had a lower approval rating than in recent years, so why not embrace that with a sitcom that hangs a lantern on all the scum nursing at the government teat? So who can replace Eddie? I keep coming back to Neil Patrick Harris, who can play sleazy with just the right amount of class you'd want from a con-man. Or to go in a totally different direction - J. B. Smoove.

Sister Act (1992) - There's a ready-made story engine here - a lounge singer hides in witness protection as a nun, doing good deeds while trying to stay under the radar. It's case-of-the-week storytelling with a backgrounded mytharc. You could go the sitcom route with this, but maybe the more interesting way is to make it a Ryan Murphy-esque dramady. You can't do Sister Act without the singing nuns (which is one reason why Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit is a terrible film), and with them interpreting classic hits anew each week, you've got a ready-made iTunes cross-promotion. All of this adds up to it being a good fit for Fox. My picks for Sister Mary Clarence? You need someone who can sing, so if you're drafting from GLEE: Naya Rivera. I also really like the idea of Jane Krakowski, but I feel like there's a really good option I'm not thinking of.

Guarding Tess (1994) - A Secret Service agent has to guard a widowed First Lady who's beloved by the country but a total pain in the ass. It's another one that could completely adapt to the three-camera format. It's fairly easy to confine most of the action to the First Lady's estate, and when you're making a film where the lead was played by Nicholas Cage, using a format that encourages "bigger" acting isn't bad. I'm seeing Carrie Fisher as the First Lady, with Jason Segel as the beleaguered Secret Service Agent.

King Ralph (1991) - A boorish American turns out to be the last heir to the British Royal family. Culture-clash makes for a great engine for comedy. I say get John Goodman to reprise his role, perhaps with Ioan Gruffudd as the British Prime Minister who regularly butts heads with him. not for network TV, but would fit great on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. I read the list at /film, and I noticed 12 Monkeys on it. I've sampled the series and it has been a decent surprise for me. Of the list, the ones that stand out to me are Mortal Instruments and Shooter, generally do to the fact that both films are based on a book series, and can be mined for such purposes.

    As to what's not on the list...I'll go one 80s film and the rest 90s.

    Silver Bullet (1985) based on Stephen King's Cycle Of The werewolf. Hey, we got Haven, Under The Dome. A number of years back there was Dead Zone. I think another series based on a King property isn't that far off.

    Nightbreed (1990) Based on Clive Barker's Cabal. Fantasy. horror, character ensemble piece. The original film wasn't a huge success, but it does have a cult following. And y'know, Buffy as you mentioned, did better on TV than film, and Highlander was a decent spinoff for the most part in the 90s.

    Backdraft (1990) follows the 'Probies' in a Firefighter dept. This is a no-brainer.

    Dances With Wolves (1990)- of course, this is a strong chance at being done, seeing how its novel sequel, The Long Road, is in development n TNT as a mini series (last I checked)

    Pulp Fiction (1994) or more specifically...FOX FORCE FIVE.
    (sorry, couldn't resist!!)