From Silver Screens to Small Ones: Is the Film to TV Series Still King?

When a film hits the big screen, there is always a TV producer looking on with interest. They will be analysing about whether there is the potential for a successful TV spin-off that will gain high ratings, often off the back of the successful film or film franchise.

Kurt Russell by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It is surprising how many television shows start out in life as a movie and then later are adapted for television. Some of the better-known examples include Shaft, which was a successful film of 1971 that was later adapted for TV and produced a number of TV movies that ran on the new CBS channel in America. In all, there were seven Shaft episodes shown on TV during 1973 and 1974.

Another successful crossover was that of the movie Stargate, which hit the big screens in 1994 and had star names like Kurt Russell and James Spader playing the key roles. This was then adapted for TV in the form of the series Stargate SG-1, which hit television screens in 1997 and ran for 214 episodes. It was the longest-running sci-fi series on TV until it was surpassed by Smallville in 2011, which itself was adapted from the Superman movie franchise.

This theme has continued and will likely carry on for the foreseeable future. Even the BBC are producing series such as Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch that originally were films adapted from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The TV series has been one of the BBC’s flagship programmes over the last few years and has already produced four series each containing three episodes. At its peak, the show had around 11.6 million views per episode and has received a number of accolades.

So where can the next big TV hit come from? There is a lot of potential and certainly plenty of different themes and genres that can still be explored and adapted from the current stock of successful movies.

Jump with me to read more and to find out a couple of ideas…

Jim Sturgess by Jessie Craig (The Picture Journal) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The film 21 made in 2008 and adapted from the book by Ben Mezrich, follows a young man, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a math major who hasn’t got the money to get into medical school. He joins his math professor’s (Kevin Spacey) blackjack team. The team is made up of a highly intelligent group of mathematicians that use their ability to win big money.

This could easily be adapted for TV and could see the team expand their skulduggery into other games. They could not only try win at blackjack but could expand into areas such as roulette or poker. They could even try to devise a way to use technology to win at online casino games such as 32Red roulette, which offers player six different versions of the game playable on any device — a move that would serve as a modernising plot point that nods at the increasing popularity of online casino gaming. This would give our team the perfect opportunity to use mobile technology to help them pull off incredibly big wins using less-than-legitimate methods.

To counter this, the series could have a group of undercover policemen that are monitoring the actions of the group and trying to foil their cheating. They could apply this to various different online games offered by 32Red or like the slot games offered by Jackpotjoy or slotboss, where our team could devise software that cracks the games allowing them to make huge profits on the sly. This would likely make a good TV series, and the twists and turns of the villains double-crossing each other would give it an interesting edge to keep audiences guessing.

The 2011 movie Limitless was another one adapted for TV that kept a similar premise to the movie but made several changes to help it have more longevity and adapt it to a 22-episode series. It followed a character, Brian Finch, who was in a rut in life but discovered a drug, NZT, that allowed him to realise the full potential of his mind. He subsequently went about improving his life and worked with a US Senator who gives him an injection to combat the dangerous side effects of the drug. He also works with the FBI to help them in their investigation into the drug, without letting on that he himself is using it.

Another movie that would work well as a TV series is the Jurassic Park films. There is a lot of scope to bring this film franchise to a television audience and the most recent film Jurassic World was the third-highest grossing movie at the box office of all-time. It just shows how much of an appetite there is amongst audiences for the dinosaur-based adventures. You could produce a series that sees a group of scientists trying to protect the species from those that would wish to use them for their own gain or for military purposes. The series could have a number of 45-minute to one hour-long episodes that follow an overriding storyline throughout the series.

The film to TV series is still going strong and is likely to be used as a regular source of inspiration for TV producers going forward, and why not? The continued success of these productions will only help persuade networks to carry on commissioning new series that started life as a film and will continue to wow audiences for the foreseeable future.

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