Last night saw A&E premiering its latest primetime drama, Damien, Glen Mazzara’s small screen follow-up to the horror classic The Omen. Your own mileage may vary on the series – possibly hitting 666 mph – but critics have not been kind to Damien in these early days. This got us thinking about other well-known features that inspired unrequested and undesirable TV spinoffs and sequels.
Surprise! Here are 9 movie-to-TV efforts that not only failed to outshine their cinematic counterparts, but also failed to do anything beyond fade into the pop culture abyss, only to be remembered in scenarios such as this, and perhaps for an actor’s resume if they’re desperate. Now let’s start with a project that never should have made it to the “idea spoken aloud” stage.
Everything about John Hughes’ 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off worked, from Matthew Broderick’s endearingly smug performance to the character relationships to the very structure. Four years after the film came out, NBC tried to capitalize on the film’s success by spreading the story out over more than just one day with Ferris Bueller, starring Charlie Schlatter in the title role. Beyond the character names and Ferris’ popularity, there are almost no real similarities between the two projects, with the TV show going so far as to move the setting from Chicago to Santa Monica. Even Ferris’ snoring sound effects were bored with this, and it’s no surprise it got canceled in the middle of its freshman season, with only 13 episodes produced. Jennifer Aniston, though, right?
One of my favorite horror movies of all time is Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, which introduced audiences to the sleep-haunting baddie Freddy Krueger. After two sequels, New Line wanted to milk this franchise a little more and put together the anthology series Freddy’s Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series, which shoots for the moon with its rare double-colon title. Unfortunately, save for a few Freddy-themed episodes that were genuinely solid, that colon distinction was more interesting than most of the show’s 44 installments. Despite the always welcome presence of Robert Englund as Krueger for intros and outros, as well as a host of oddball guest stars – Brad Pitt and Kyle Chandler, say what? – this show sadly lived up to its name as a nightmare to behold.
1978’s Animal House is remembered fondly for lots of reasons, with arguably the biggest being the larger-than-life performance from John Belushi. ABC’s 1979 sitcom Delta House is best remembered…in the moments after you hear about it for the first time. As you can imagine, there was literally no way for the R-rated shenanigans and personalities of the movie to get faithfully adapted for television, and there was a serious watering-down of the subject matter as it made its way to the small screen. And although Belushi’s Bluto Blutarsky did get referenced, the actor never touched this steaming heap. Delta House did give Michele Pfeiffer an early acting gig, though, although her memories of the experience have not been fond.
The most recently aired entry on this list, Minority Report’s downfall came from it just not having that much in common with its source material in the area of “shit that people actually liked.” Although there’s an executive credit here for Steven Spielberg, director of the 2002 film of the same name, the show featured very little of his imaginative approach to storytelling, and had far more in common with other lackluster sci-fi series that Fox has been responsible for over the years. There are definitely other stories to tell in a world where precrime and precogs exist, but this probably wasn’t it, and while Fox has yet to make a decision on the show’s future, we think we know what to expect.
While not a perfect comedy, 1980’s Stir Crazy boasted Sidney Poitier behind the camera, and the comedy team of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in front of the lens. Five years later, CBS decided to bring none of those aspects back for its 1985 adaptation of the prison-set film. Starring non-household names Larry Riley and Joseph Guzaldo, TV’s Stir Crazy was an absolute mess, and it definitely was not a criminal offense when CBS took the hokey show off the schedule after just six episodes had aired. It returned temporarily a couple of months later before permanently being sentenced to staying the hell off of anyone’s televisions.
Sometimes it’s best to remake financial successes rather than solely just beloved films, and that’s what CBS tried to do with Jake Kasdan’s 2011 black comedy Bad Teacher, only still not realizing that it wasn’t a network set up to turn raunchy R-rated laughs into entertainment for all demographics. However, this was the somewhat rare case in which the show’s cast was nearly as top-notch as that of the original film. Ari Graynor was a suitable replacement for Cameron Diaz, and she was surrounded by talent such as Sara Gilbert, Kristen Davis, David Alan Grier, Colin Hanks, Brett Gelman and Ryan Hansen. But this was more an issue of the writing and subject matter just not being worth anyone’s time, and CBS canceled classes after just five episodes, later airing the rest in a low-rated summer burn-off.
A film that defines an entire generation, Amy Heckerling’s Cameron Crowe-scripted Fast Times at Ridgemont High hits almost all of the benchmarks in the life of a high school teenager, particularly the parts about sex. As you might have imagined, CBS’ 1986 TV remake was not championed for its masturbation scenes, and the show was a paler-than-Judge-Reinhold imitation of its predecessor. Even if the movie wasn’t there as a point of comparison, and even if you had a bag full of Spicoli’s best herbage, this show would still be a disaster. The best thing that can be said about it is that CBS only intended for it to exist as a seven-episode limited series.
Police Academy: The Series
Of all the entries on this list, Police Academy is the movie that seems most likely to inspire a quality jump to the small screen. A group of inept cops bumbling their way into success while testing the sanity of their superiors? That’s basically what Brooklyn Nine-Nine is, and it’s been on the air for three hilarious seasons so far. Neither “three seasons” nor “hilarious” can be used to describe the TV run of Police Academy, though, an overly cartoonish and humorless take on the film’s set-up. Despite the recurring presence of Michael “I’m the guy that does the sound effects” Winslow, as well as the great SCTV vet Joe Flaherty, this hour-long series (!!!) was nothing to handcuff oneself to, and it was shelved after one season.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Say what you will about the acting skills of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but there are no two actors on Earth that were better equipped to handle Bill S. Preston, ESQ and Ted “Theodore” Logan. But Fox still wanted to see what would happen if someone else tried, and the short-lived 1992 comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures featured non-non-heinous performances from Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy in the respective roles, with Rick Overton somehow expected to fill George Carlin’s shoes as Rufus. The show was utter shit and was easily outshined by the animated series from a couple of years before, which brought back most of the film’s cast for the voice roles. It only lasted seven episodes, but that was seven episodes too many. Station!
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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