The movie industry has become something of a whipping boy in recent years. Not only have we seen a tidal wave of articles arguing that TV has become the new place to go for real, important art in the wake of high-minded and beloved series like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, but there has also been a ton of sentiment spreading that that movie industry is just plain out of ideas.
In addition to the ridiculous amount of sequels and reboots that have filled up the Hollywood release schedule, there have also been a noticeable amount of TV shows that have been turned into feature films recently. Whether this is just an attempt to market consumers something that has a title they’re familiar with or is an admission that TV is the only medium still coming up with good ideas is arguable, but the trend is undeniable. Starting sometime in the 90s and lasting all the way to today we’ve seen an avalanche of old TV shows becoming new movies—The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, Starsky & Hutch, Mission: Impossible, Charlie’s Angels, Miami Vice, The A-Team, The Man From UNCLE—the list goes on and on. And that’s not taking into account TV shows that made the jump to the big screen without being re-imagined, like The X-Files, South Park, The Simpsons, Sex and the City, or Veronica Mars. A string of news reports from over the weekend makes it seem like this trend could possibly be reversing though.
Already this year the highest-rated pilot for a new drama was ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, which was clearly something audiences were excited about due to its being spun out of Marvel’s wildly successful movie universe, and now Deadline has posted a string of three stories announcing that successful feature films are currently being adapted into potential television series, which further enforces the theory that TV could become increasingly more reliant on the film industry for quality material in the near future.
First up is the news that Tom Hanks and Shelley Long’s comedy hit from 1986, The Money Pit, has been put into development as a TV series over at NBC. The original film saw Hanks and Long playing a married couple who were tricked into buying a house that ended up being a falling apart wreck that was in need of an endless string of repairs, so one would imagine that the TV series would cover similar material, but stretched out over a longer period of time. How many home repairs would it take to fill a full 22 episode order of network TV? That’s likely the question that former The Office writer Justin Spitzer is asking himself right now, because he’s been hired to pen the pilot.
Secondly, the 2012 feature Act of Valor, which was an action movie notable because it used real Navy SEALs in its production, has just been optioned to become the first scripted series that the National Geographic Channel is going to attempt. Band of Brothers writer Erik Jendresen has been hired to write this one, with his focus being on pararescuemen—or PJs—who are “the unsung heroes tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments.” The show is scheduled to start production in 2014.
Thirdly comes the news that Relativity Television is looking to take a project that was a hit over at the company’s film division, 2011’s Limitless, and turn it into a television property. For those who need a refresher, Limitless was the movie that starred Bradley Cooper as a schlubby character who took an experimental drug meant to enhance his intelligence, which ultimately worked to make him an overnight financial success as well as to get rid of the unsightly bags under his eyes and to give him a better hairdo. Cooper will serve as an executive producer on the show, which Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh has described as being, “the perfect example of Relativity’s multi-platform approach to creating quality content.” He goes on to explain that, “the film has an organic, natural extension into a compelling and sophisticated one-hour drama that is both a thrill-ride and a social commentary.”
Could Kavanaugh’s comments be an indicator of a change in thinking that’s currently happening among television executives? After all, quite a few of the most successful films that come out every year could be described as being potential “organic, natural extensions” into one-hour dramas. And one of the big compliments that gets thrown at the most critically successful TV shows—like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones—is how “cinematic” they are. In an environment where everyone is starting to be expected to make thematically rich, visually experimental television in order to compete, why not look to the medium of film, which has been shooting for thematically rich and visually experimental since its inception, for your inspiration for new show ideas? It just makes sense, and it works as pretty strong proof that no matter how good TV shows get in the future, the movies will never be in any real danger of being made obsolete as an art form. All it takes is one trip away from a multiplex and toward a reputable film festival to see that. Perhaps TV boosters will be able to crow a little louder once it takes entire TV festivals to spotlight all of the exciting work being debuted in the medium every year, but, until then, all of our different forms of entertainment are just going to have to learn how to get along.