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TV needs more sci-fi. And while we've probably seen enough remakes and reboots in the world, it seems only fair to acknowledge that sci-fi has some pretty fantastic -- and in some cases, underrated -- feature properties with stories or settings that would be perfect for the small screen.
Not to be confused with Nick's list of 10 classic sci-fi movies that would make for good TV shows, I went with a broader array of films, including a number of modern movies with stories or settings so compelling, they'd be well worth revisiting on the small screen...
The Last StarfighterBasic movie premise or setting: A frustrated kid from a trailer park is recruited to pilot a spacecraft in an actual space war after he beats the high score on a video game.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Pretty much everything... with a lot of updates.
Where it should air: Syfy... possibly CW.
How it could work as a TV show: The Last Starfighter's general plot and characters could make for a great TV series, with the right updates. Turn the arcade game into a video game and set the pilot episode up as an introduction to Alex -- the frustrated underdog -- who's the last kid to get into the training academy on a video game scholarship. Center the story on Alex's efforts to defend the Rylan Star League, while also serving as a demonstration that this fizzling starfighter program still works. Incorporate characters from other parts of the a galaxy -- including Centauri, obviously (RIP Robert Preston) and other teens/young adults -- to make this series a true sci-fi adventure. Make room for humor, especially if the series included the android-Alex plot, which would have a robot duplicate of the lead character attempting to blend in back home while Alex is off in space.
A Last Starfighter show could fit in perfectly at Syfy, possibly opening itself up to future spinoffs if the network wanted to branch out. But I wouldn't complain if CW or MTV took a swing at the space genre, as long as they kept it in the realm of sci-fi. And I wouldn't hate it if the show incorporated Craig Safan's excellent score.
The MatrixBasic movie premise or setting: Turns out, we're all existing in a virtual reality and computers rule the earth.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Mainly the setting, pre-Neo. Possibly Morpheus.
Where it should air: Syfy, Netflix or Starz.
How it could work as a TV show: I'm not opposed to this being a prequel story about young Morpheus (like twenty-something or late teens) being unplugged and beginning his quest for "The One," but I'd also be fine with this being a pre-Neo story with an entirely new set of characters who are searching for the person to free them, and maybe that leads them to eventually unplugging Morpheus. The plot of the series could have the characters consisting mainly of those who've been unplugged themselves, and can thusly split their time between life inside Earth, and their adventures within the actual Matrix. But I'd also want to see a mixture of Zion-born characters who've never been inside the Matrix, and Matrix-born characters, who have no knowledge of their actual surroundings. Split the story between two worlds and things could get very interesting.
Syfy would be a good home for this, if they were willing to give it the right budget and find the right writers. But I'm more inclined to see it land on either premium cable -- of all of them, I believe Starz would be most likely to give a sci-fi adventure project a working chance -- or Netflix. Given the nature of the setting, and the boundless flexibility of the Matrix, cable, streaming or -- at the very least -- basic cable seems like a Matrix live-action series' best chance of fully exploring its potential, both in terms of the content explored and the budget it has to explore it.
In TimeBasic movie premise or setting: Time is money, and everyone stays young and pretty forever (or until they're out of time).
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Mostly just the setting, but possibly also Cillian Murphy's Timekeeper character.
Where it should air: Fox or CBS
How it could work as a TV show: It's mostly the setting of In Time that appeals to me, as I wasn't nearly as drawn in by the characters or story of Andrew Niccol's film as I was intrigued by a world that sets time as the currency. People stop aging at 25 and after that, they have one year to live. They can and will spend and (hopefully) earn time in order to extend their life and buy things like food, shelter and -- if you're among those with tons of time to spare -- fancy cars and other luxuries. A world like this is brimming with potential for exciting and weird stories, which is why I think a TV show -- specifically, a crime procedural -- would be a perfect medium to explore the concept.
Beyond the concept of time being currency -- and everyone being young and pretty until their clock runs out -- the nature of the show could center on the work of time keepers, or follow some of the film's format in showcasing two or more characters determined to muck up the system by robin hooding time from one zone to the next. If they want to connect the story further to the film, show us the earlier years of Cillian Murphy's character Ray Leon. Fox seems ambitious enough to try something like this, but CBS is probably more likely to actually keep it on the air (I'm still not over Almost Human's cancellation).
DivergentBasic movie premise or setting: Set in dystopian Chicago, teens are made to choose one of five factions, which will determine their way of life.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Setting, but in an earlier time period. Possibly Tris' mother.
Where it should air: CW. Possibly Netflix or Amazon Prime.
How it could work as a TV show: Vague spoilers ahead if you haven't read the Divergent books! I don't want a sequel to Allegiant In the form of a TV show, but I would love to see a series that's centered in the factioned world of dystopian Chicago, before Tris' time. Veronica Roth's novel barely scratches the surface of the world she created before she -- through her character Tris -- begins to unravel it. Why not tell a new story set in a city where people are divided up by their personality traits? It'd be great to see how society functioned before steps were taken to tear it down and unravel the truth.
Part of me sees the benefit of a prequel series that focuses on Tris' mother when she's first getting used to faction life. But I wouldn't mind a series that centered on characters who are either mostly or completely unrelated to the core story, as it would give the series flexibility to evolve into its own thing without having to link to the events of the books and films. CW seems like the right network for this, but Netflix or Amazon Prime wouldn't be a bad destination either.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindBasic movie premise or setting: Guy has his memory modified to erase all traces of his ex-girlfriend.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: The concept of selective memory erasing.
Where it should air: BBC America or Netflix
How it could work as a TV show: Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind doesn't need a TV remake, or any remake for that matter. But there's plenty of potential for a world in which memory modification is possible. From there, I'm actually torn between a procedural centered around the memory-modification agency, and a limited or anthology series focused on one person. The former concept has the potential of exploring all of the different reasons people might want to forget something, made even more interesting if it's discovered that someone within the agency is secretly offering the technology for criminal purposes (people pay him/her to modify someone else's memory).
The limited series would instead focus on one person coming to the realization that their memory has been modified. It would then follow their efforts to figure out why it happened and what memories were lost. What they thought about their past, their loved ones and their life as they know it would completely unravel in the process. Insert massive reveal in the final episode that answers all the questions in some brilliantly satisfying way. Do it up anthology-style, Season 2 could center on a new mystery.
For either a limited series or a procedural format, it'd be great if an Eternal Sunshine series aimed for dark humor, in which case, BBC America might be a perfect fit for it, paired with a show like Orphan Black. Netflix would also be a great option, but mainly because it'd probably make for a great binge watch.
Men In BlackBasic movie premise or setting: A man is recruited to join a top secret, non-government agency that keeps an eye on alien activity on Earth.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: The agency and setting.
Where it should air: TNT, FX or Amazon Prime.
How it could work as a TV show: There's no reason Barry Sonnenfeld's 1997 movie -- based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book series -- couldn't work as a TV series. Shaped as a procedural with two leads serving as the titular Men in Black, investigating issues and strange occurrences related to Earth's population of extraterrestrials could make for a great series. Ideally, the show would incorporate a mixture of sci-fi and dark humor, but I imagine it being less of a comedy as the films were.
A Men In Black series might fit in well on network TV, but the budget could present an issue, pushing it toward a streaming service or basic cable. On the latter front, I'm inclined to think TNT or FX could make for an interesting fit, especially if the series aims for a darker approach and incorporates some really colorful and sometimes dangerous alien characters.
SurrogatesBasic movie premise or setting: People can plug into a device that allows them to live their life through android "surrogates."
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Plot, characters, crime angle.
Where it should air: Any broadcast network would work.
How it could work as a TV show: Jonathan Mostow's 2009 film seems like it could be easily adapted to a crime procedural for network TV. In the film, Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent who's investigating the murder of two people who died when their surrogates were destroyed. A TV show could revisit the film's plot as a jumping off point for a crime procedural. Add in a season-long arc involving a hacker causing problems among the surrogates, and maybe divide the human population between people who live through their surrogates and people like Willis' character, who prefer to walk around as themselves. That could make for a very interesting mix of characters -- some shiny and perfect, some more human looking -- mixing with one another and forming relationships, while also trying to solve crimes. Put it on any major network and with good writing, it could easily make for a compelling TV drama.
Bill and Ted's Excellent AdventureBasic movie premise or setting: Two aspiring-rocker teens are given a time machine phone booth to use in an effort to obtain information to pass their history project.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Characters, setting.
Where it should air: MTV. (Station).
How it could work as a TV show: Two words: Teen Wolf. Love it or hate it, the show's updated and darker take on a beloved 80s movie worked out for MTV and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure could benefit from a similar treatment. Take two teens, throw in a couple of their friends and send them through time for epic and occasionally educational adventures. I'd probably argue for a history-cant-be-altered approach to keep the plot from getting too messy. Or maybe find a way to limit that, at the very least. Make the tone mostly serious and occasionally a little bit dark, but with some humor. Bill and Ted can be slackers at the start, but not total goofballs.
Bill and Ted has actually already made it to the small screen, both as an animated series and a very short-lived live-action show. Still, enough time has passed since both programs aired, and who knows if the third film will ever actually happen. With Teen Wolf in mind, MTV would be the perfect fit for the series, especially when we take into account Project Almanac, which just so happened to focus on a group of kids dabbling in time travel.
TimelineBasic movie premise or setting: Historians are recruited by a science corporation to go back in time to retrieve a previous team.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Plot, setting.
Where it should air: HBO, Syfy, CW, Netflix.
How it could work as a TV show: Michael Crichton's novel worked well enough for a film, but Timeline might actually be best suited for television. The same premise could apply, as a group of brilliant historians have the opportunity to go back in time, with the help and resources of a mysterious corporation, and the objective of tracking people down. This would be part period-piece, as the bulk of the story would center on the historians in the past, and part of it could focus on the characters back at the lab, working to make sure the team can get back.
Each season, a new mission, a new time period and destination, new problems, and maybe some new technology. I imagine this series at HBO mainly because i'd love for it to have a really good budget, but I wouldn't be opposed to it landing on Syfy or even CW, the latter of which is proving it knows how to handle period dramas (Reign) and genre programming (The 100, Supernatural, etc). Netflix would also be a great option, because if a Timeline series happened, I imagine it being as good as the book, in which case, I won't want to put it down.
Star WarsBasic movie premise or setting: Jedis, a Death Star, a galaxy far, far away. If you need the details, skip this entry.
Elements to be used for the TV Show: Endless possibilities.
Where it should air: ABC
How it could work as a TV show: The galaxy is vast, and thusly, there's no shortage of potential for a Star Wars-related series. Make it a spinoff from the films, or if they don't want to connect a Star Wars series too closely to the characters and events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, focus on something elsewhere in the galaxy. Jedi academy perhaps? Or maybe go the anti-hero route and center in on some smugglers or a bounty hunter.
Star Wars has seen its fair share of small screen time, between animated shows like Clone Wars, Rebels and made-for-TV projects like Ewoks: The Battle of Endor. But fans have been waiting for years for a live-action TV series, and with Disney having the rights to the property, perhaps ABC will make that happen.
Which of these movies would you most like to see made into a TV show?