6 Films That Could Make Great TV Shows

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Remember when you first heard that Fargo was being turned into a miniseries? Remember thinking, “why?” Remember when you watched it and realized, “you know what, this is pretty good.” Well, you weren’t alone. Fargo went on to win Best Miniseries on Monday night’s Emmys, and now, as the television industry does (or any industry for that matter) when things go right, everyone is trying to catch up. This last week has brought news that TV shows based on Minority Report and Shutter Island are in development, which only means one thing–television series inspired by films are now a trend.

While I’m a huge fan of Minority Report (one of Spielberg’s finest), and not so much of Shutter Island (not one of Scorcese’s finest), I’m not opposed to TV series drawing inspiration from films. The idea of shows being a drawn out version of the movie seems a little absurd, but lifting themes, plot devices, settings, characters, etc. allows the series to seem like an original story being told in the same universe as the film. A perfect example is Friday Night Lights, one of best TV series I’ve ever seen. It didn’t tell the same story as the film it’s based on, but a similar one, indeed. And yet, it still seemed fresh.

If making TV series out of films is the next big thing in television, hopefully studios continue to follow the precedent already set by Friday Night Lights and Fargo. That being said, here are some films that could make some interesting TV series if done right.

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1. Boogie Nights

Sex. Porn. The 70’s. Internal Conflict. Drugs. Old School Music. People love period pieces (just look at Mad Men and Masters of Sex), and this is a period piece on steroids. Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic follows the story of fictional porn star Dirk Diggler as he rises (no pun intended) and falls as the porn industry transitions from it’s 1970s heyday to it’s home video distribution in the 1980s. The film itself is nearly three hours, and covers numerous years. Drawing this story out would allow for more breath, as well as more attention being paid to the already great group of supporting characters. Obviously, the subject material would mean having to be aired on a network such as HBO or Showtime, but with the right direction and the right cast, this series could easily retain the spunk of the original film.

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2. The Departed

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Scorcese film that should be getting a television adaptation. I’m thinking an anthology series, just like True Detective. In other words, a new season equals a new case. Each season would tell a story about an undercover somebody, a rat, or someone just going to desperate measures to please someone else. The Departed is a brilliant film, and season long stories would really allow for a lot of character exploration in a story that is primarily character driven.

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3. Up in the Air

People love shows about people running away from something, especially if that something is internal (look at just about any drama on television right now). Take the premise of Up in the Air, and you have a story with a ton of possibilities. Keep the three main characters’ personalities to some degree (Clooney, Kendricks, Farmiga) in the form of new characters for the show, and you have a character study set against the economic backdrop of the time in which it takes place. Yes, I know I’m stealing the basic concept of Mad Men, but it’s a winning formula seen time and time again.

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4. Michael Clayton

Yes, I know, another George Clooney film, but I love Michael Clayton. Clooney’s character is fascinating, but the film leaves a lot about him unknown. While the mysteriousness is intriguing to an extent, it’d be interesting to really delve into what makes Michael Clayton…Michael Clayton. The same idea is being used right now with Better Call Saul, and if that’s as successful as AMC is hoping, TV audiences could be craving more lawyer shows. Michael Clayton could fill that craving.

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5. Babel

A idea of epic proportions (that our actions directly affect others, all around the globe) could play out really well in a miniseries style. Tell a story of how four or so story lines intertwine over the course of a handful of episodes, and you’re solid. If done in the style of the film, you have international appeal. Babel divided critics, but the idea behind it is one with unlimited possibilities.

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6. Elysium

Say what you will about Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 (I personally wasn’t a fan), but there’s one thing he does really well in this film, and that’s world building–so much so that there is so much left to be explored. The world Elysium takes place in is the best thing about the film, and it really is too bad the story couldn’t do it justice. Using this world as a setting, it could give Blomkamp a chance to redeem himself with not only a better story, but further exploration of this fascinating place he created.

What are your thoughts? What are some other films that would make great TV series? Let me know below.

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2 comments

  1. I certainly like the notion of The Departed becoming a miniseries. There was a lot of stuff I missed the first time I watched it. A television adaptation could touch on different ways people go under cover. Different gang mentalities, different motivations policemen might have and how they fluctuate on a dynamic moral compass. I’d watch that.

    I think Elysium kinda wrapped itself up decently though despite the world building. Typically, allegorical films like that and District 9, films that serve as ulterior representations (Social hierarchy/apartheid respectively) might seem overly drawn out and after four episodes have the audience saying “Okay, we get it, caste systems still exist. They typically serve a singular message that tend to wrap up nicely in the confines of 2-3 hours. Hence why Animal Farm and 1984 didn’t need sequels. Their messages were said.

    Up in the Air though. I know it’s an understated, intense drama, but sign me up to it as a comedy. I think it could be great from a more lighthearted perspective.

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    1. Peter, thanks for the comment! I hear what you say about Elysium. My only point is that the story/execution didn’t do the themes and the world Blomkamp created justice. If anything, it’s me wishing he’d give it another shot with what he already set up!

      And yeah, there are hints of darker comedy in Up in the Air, but really bringing that aspect out could make it appeal to a broader audience.

      Like

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