TV shows and movies, as entertainment mediums, are often compared but have some innate differences. By nature of the format, television are episodic, telling a new story every week. While the characters and overarching plot arc are consistent across the series, each episode has its own conflict and resolution. This not only allows for very complex plots but also fleshed out character progression and a stronger connection with the audience.
Based on these characteristics it may seem like almost all stories would be better off as shows than movies but there are several other factors to consider. The simplest reason is that not all stories need to be that long. More doesn’t always mean better, especially in storytelling. Some shows have great concepts but overstay their welcome and eventually grow dull.
Another issue is that, as the series goes on, it can become overly complex and won’t satisfyingly wrap up all the loose ends (*cough cough* Game of Thrones). The biggest drawback to the format, unfortunately, is the financial and organizational structure where the showrunner has to contend with the TV station input and can ultimately be cancelled before the story is over.
Shows have been getting the movie treatment for decades with huge variation in quality. Many of them are simply cash grabs by studios to tap into nostalgia and the existing fanbases. There are numerous of these, Bewitched, CHiPs, Charlie’s Angels, to name a few, that have taken successful series and delivered empty rehashes of the concept. Plenty of them, however, have offered fresh takes on solid concepts, and in some cases have exceeded the reputation of the source show entirely, like the Mission Impossible series.
The following ten shows are some that, for various reasons, would thrive if given the chance at a film incarnation.
10. The Six Million Dollar Man (1974 – 1978)
The 1970s had more fun television shows than any other era. Sure, they weren’t always the highest quality but the concepts were intriguing and were full of zany camp and thrilling action. The Six Million Dollar Man is maybe the definitive example of this style of show. Lee Majors stars as Col. Steve Austin, a test pilot who gets in a horrible crash, turned into a cyborg and put to work as a secret agent. Plots often surround kooky technology, political intrigue with Russian baddies and teaming up with the similarly gifted Bionic Woman.
Why it would make a good movie: It’s got all the makings of a modern action success: a great origin story, interesting premise and unlimited possibilities for story. This open slate, similar to the MIssion Impossible franchise, is more appealing to talented directors and writers who can come in and make it their own. The thematic material also allows for deeper exploration into the connection between man and technology a la Robocop or more recently Upgrade. Just maybe the filmmakers should stay a little on the serious side and avoid straying too far into camp, like the Wild Wild West remake.
Dream Directors: Christopher McQuarrie or Alex Garland, depending on if the focus is more on sci-fi or espionage.
9. Frisky Dingo (2006 – 2007)
Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, creators of the hit animated series Archer, started their television career on Adult Swim at its inception in 2000 with the hilarious show Sealab 2021.
Sealab was a clever parody of children’s adventure cartoons and after it ran its course they came out with Frisky Dingo, a parody of superheroes. The show revolves around a supervillain, named Killface, a giant bony monster, and his arch-nemesis/sometimes friend AwesomeX, a Batman parody. Like their other shows, Frisky Dingo’s best asset is its clever writing and colorful characters, but also has potential for action and social relevance.
Why it would make a good movie: Superheroes are much more relevant now than when the show aired, giving them much more content to work with. Parodies also tend to work better in shorter stints where the jokes can be boiled down to the best of the bunch. While a similar movie to this has been made already (Megamind), this take would be a more biting satire, similar to the comedy found in Deadpool. Frisky Dingo could fill a cult niche at a very relevant time for it’s subject matter, and with the Reed and Thompson currently writing better than ever, could be a hit
Dream Directors: Adam Reed and Matt Thompson would need to be involved in the writing. Maybe veteran directors of fun superhero films like Matthew Vaughn or James Gunn would be a good fit.
8. Nip/Tuck (2003 – 2010)
Medical drama mixed with crime show, Nip/Tuck combines the two most popular TV formats into a unique program. It follows the practice of two hotshot plastic surgeons: Sean McNamara and Christian Troy. McNamara is a family man trying to keep his tumultuous career from shaking up his marriage, while Troy is a brilliant doctor but unpredictable womanizer. Together they not only conduct lots of controversial procedures, but soon get too involved in LA’s seedy underbelly.
Why it would make a good movie: The concept is unique with lots of intriguing paths for the plot to go. The two main characters, while not tremendously original in design, offer decent enough chemistry and, if written correctly, have potential to be interesting studies. The show itself is not incredible, especially when compared to some of its contemporary dark dramas. One of it’s main problems is that it overstays the longevity of such a plot, an issue that wouldn’t be present in a film.
Dream Director: Brian DePalma or Paul Schrader, especially if this was made in the 80s. Although both directors have gone down different paths since then, both are capable of handling thrillers with a modicum of sleeze.
7. Fantasy Island (1977 – 1984)
One of the most iconic shows of the era, Fantasy Island is a highly conceptual show, perfect for film adaptation. Ricardo Montalban plays the mysterious Mr. Roarke, proprietor of Fantasy Island. The only other main character across the series is Roarke’s diminutive sidekick Tattoo. For the shows seven season run, there isn’t much in the way of continuity or overarching plot from episode to episode, just a new story each week. The plots are all of the same basic make-up: people come to the island to live out their wildest fantasies. Often, they don’t turn out quite how their dreamers expect.
Why it would make a good movie: Each episode is essentially its own separate story anyway so a film would just be a stretched, more complex, iteration of one, maybe with a brief introductory segment. Finding a suitable Mr. Rourke might be a challenge, but outside of that the writer/director would have free reign to create their own collection of moral tales, perhaps tinged with the supernatural or an O.Henry-esque twist.
Dream Director: It’s such an open ended concept that any strong director could take it and run with it. Steven Spielberg would give a balanced approach. Tim Burton would make it his own dark world. Yorgos Lanthimos might give us something a little deeper/weirder.
6. Gargoyles (1994 – 1997)
The 1990s were a golden age for children’s cartoons, with many animators catering as much to kids as they did adults. The high watermark for these was the operatic, noir laced Batman: The Animated Series, but right below it ranks Gargoyles. The show is about a group of gargoyles, mythical beasts from ancient Scotland who find a home on the NYC skyline. When the sun is out they become trapped in stone but at night, mobilize and protect the citizens from crime and evil. Similar in concept to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but less goofy jokes and more Shakespeare.
Why it would make a good movie: There are many aspects of the show that make it more appealing today than when it came out. For one, the market for big budget creature features is bigger than ever, and can even gain critical acclaim. WIth this film’s dramatic literary influences, as well as possibility for big action, not to mention interesting lore, it seems like a home run if put into the right hands.
Dream Directors: The obvious choice is Guillermo Del Toro, whose had more success than anyone in this genre. James Wan would also be good to mix action and horror into a blockbuster.