This Week's Top 10: The Best Movie-to-TV Adaptations
Lethal Weapon has not only become a pretty sizable ratings hit for Fox, but it also has entered into the pantheon of great TV shows that were translated from movies. There are plenty of disasters dotting the landscape, but these 10 examples were exceptionally well-executed, and in some cases rank up with the greatest television shows of all time.
10. Friday the 13th: The Series
Jason Voorhees is almost never involved, but this syndicated anthology show—which tracked the cursed and haunted relics sold at an apparently-damned antique store—still managed to capture the campy spirit of my favorite '80s slasher franchise.
9. Bates Motel
And speaking of slashers, this prequel to Psycho could have easily been a cheesy introduction to the Norman Bates who will eventually murder Marion Crane, but instead it was a fascinating psychological exploration of a character's mind that sets up a far more satisfying resolution than the original Psycho did. Plus, it fleshed out the town just enough to provide a healthy balance of soap and pulp, and the central performances from Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga were dynamite.
8. Ash Vs. Evil Dead
The horror trend continues with a show that essentially pairs Bruce Campbell with a pair of youths and sets him loose against a series of demons while road tripping through flyover country. Add a little Lucy Lawless and you've got yourself a winner of a franchise extension.
7. The Real Ghostbusters
The cartoon's slavish devotion to Slimer was a little puzzling (though I suppose he was sort of cute and vaguely marketable in the original films), but its visual flair and its commitment to the core four 'Busters make it both a faithful-enough adaptation (minus spectral blowjobs, obviously) and a visually adventurous extension of the films.
6. Lethal Weapon
I still can't get over how truly cinematic this looks, particularly when they stage car chases (which are both plentiful and elaborate). Plus, it lets you enjoy the energy of Lethal Weapon without having to square the general horribleness of Mel Gibson!
5. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
Seemingly inspired by the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that saw River Phoenix play a teenage Indy bent on coining his "It belongs in a museum" catchphrase, this was another syndicated series that was light on budget but managed to capture the spirit of the movies way better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did. In fact, let's quickly rank the Indiana Jones movies: 1) Raiders of the Lost Ark 2) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 3) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 4) National Treasure 5) National Treasure: Book of Secrets 6) Getting kicked in the jaw by a bull 7) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Sure, we're only one season in, but I love the full-throated immersion happening in Westworld. As the finale of the first season teased, we've only seen a tiny fraction of the world in which Delos operates, and even if they fly completely off the rails in forthcoming seasons (fingers crossed!), the creators have still zeroed in on the ideas in the original film and blown them open in dozens of directions.
3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
As it tends to happen with these lists, any of the top three could have settled into that number one spot. Buffy is an unlikely champion, as it's based on a box office bomb that few people even remembered when the show arrived on a then-nascent WB in March of 1997, but it ended up becoming one of the finest teen shows of its generation thanks to its combination of high drama, cool villains, nerdy comedy and a commitment to character that most every genre show now attempts to steal.
2. Friday Night Lights
I don't even like this show—I gave up during the Landry murder plot in the second season—but I recognize both its impact on the modern TV landscape and its deft execution. Plus, both the original movie and the Buzz Bissinger book that started it all are secretly terrible, so the fact that Friday Night Lights got so much blood from that stone is deeply impressive.
Its series finale remains one of the most-watched television broadcasts of all time, and it's pretty easy to see why. M*A*S*H began in earnest as sort of a heightened workplace comedy, but it soon expanded into a half-hour dramedy that not only tackled the horrors of war but also the doom of the hippies, the fraying of faith in American democracy, and the very nature of authority, all without getting too preachy until the very end. The Robert Altman film that came first was a massive success, so the fact that the TV series managed to do all that without sullying the antecedent is doubly impressive.