Has 2014 been a banner year for TV shows finding hits from movies made within the last 10 to 20 years? With a new TV adaptation of “Fargo” just ending its first season to somewhat mixed reviews, it’s still been one of the most talked about shows of the season. The finale alone was analyzed to the hilt and gave rise to the notion that just about every movie can probably be adapted into a TV show eventually, no matter how stand-alone the initial movie was. Nobody would have thought that “Fargo” could make it as a TV show when the movie came out in 1996, let alone 18 years later.
The same could be said about recent NBC’s “About a Boy” that’s turned into somewhat of a hit thanks to somehow managing to have the excellent Minnie Driver aboard. With other shows based on movies still going strong (NBC’s “Parenthood” arguably the best of them all), what more will networks do in tapping movies to create new TV shows? Considering most shows based on movies have come from a strong line of dramas or family-oriented animated movies, “Fargo” and “About a Boy” came from the comedy line if not even satire.
Can more movie comedies ultimately be improved by turning into expansive TV shows? Or is TV still going to focus mostly on dramas where people seem to be more riveted to their seats in progressively seeing things they haven’t seen on TV before?
Finding the Balance Between Comedy and Drama
One reason why “Fargo” likely received a green light after all this time is because it manages to straddle the line of more graphic drama that’s hot now on cable right now along with wacked out comedy. Dark comedy, especially, is the name of the game lately in cable shows. Having the seemingly innocent comedy of the Fargo residents colliding with a gory murder tale isn’t so far away from “M*A*S*H” 40 years ago. Aforementioned show is still one of the most successful TV show adaptations of a movie in history.
The reason is because “M*A*S*H” managed to capture an interesting balance between sitcom comedy and painfully serious themes. It’s still amazing to see the reruns today and notice how it went from a zany laugh-track comedy to dealing with serious war situations, sometimes all in one episode.
“Parenthood” managed to do the very same thing in the excellent version still doing well on NBC now. With the 1989 movie being initially a comedy, the TV show is one that manages another perfect balance between being a drama and droll humor. After all, you can’t have any show with Craig T. Nelson and Ray Romano without knowing some of their lines aren’t going to have some lines uttered with tongue in cheek.
What kind of comedies should the networks tap when you consider comedies haven’t been taken all that seriously in the movies lately?
Are Raunchy Comedies Best to Adapt to Cable?
With all the Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler movie comedies (and Judd Apatow directed movies) taking up most comedy screen time over the last decade, will TV tap any of their concepts? Considering most of them are far too R-rated for commercial TV adaptation, will cable inevitably adapt some of them, or will they have to look backwards to movie comedies of an earlier era? What about the screwball comedy era that you still see mimicked today sometimes in romantic comedies? In those, you had very sexual comedy veiled in a million metaphors perfect for commercial TV.
If the above sounds like the double entendre innuendo once done on TV in the 1970s and ’80s, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so blatant now. Even some of the dirtiest romantic comedies made today can’t show absolutely everything without ending up with an NC-17 rating and forgetting about finding an audience.
Then there’s also slapstick comedy that we haven’t seen adapted onto TV in many years. While the Three Stooges type of comedy is usually more conducive to being loved by males, other classic slapstick from movies past might be more popular now than you think if done in the right context and with stunt doubles to prevent high insurance premiums.
You also have the misunderstood satires in movie history to mine through. Movies like “Network” would be fantastic to adapt into a TV show now where we see what a fictional network of the near future might look like. Or, it could even be the same network as seen in “Network” (UBS) to update us on how far it’s evolved since going over the edge almost 40 years ago.
Are Sci-Fi Movies Going to Be the Most Adapted for TV?
Since dramas are going to be more logical so networks don’t take risks, sci-fi may be the safest haven for TV shows taking from movies. We’ve already seen more sci-fi movies adapted into TV shows than perhaps dramas even have. It’s not hard to see why when sci-fi is a larger canvas that’s easily expandable into infinite territory. When some of them connect directly to the original movie, it makes it even more intriguing since we don’t have to separate two different universes.
As A-list stars continue to arrive to TV, don’t be surprised to see movies with big stars be turned into TV shows with the same stars. When this happens, TV will finally start to turn into something completely different from where it’s ever been.