Movies · TV

The One Vampire Movie That Surprisingly Hasn’t Been Turned Into a TV Show Yet

By  · Published on August 30th, 2016

It’s only a matter of time before Once Bitten hits the small screen.

Now that The Lost Boys and Let the Right One In are being turned into TV shows, it seems as if we’re eventually going to run out of notable vampire movies to adapt to the small screen. Let’s see, we’ve had Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, and From Dusk Till Dawn. And there’s a Hotel Transylvania cartoon on the way. Okay, it’s not a lot, but how many more movies are there that you could actually see making the transition? Anne Rice could probably inspire a series, Twilight will get there eventually, maybe Fright Night could be done, and Only Lovers Left Alive would be a hoot. And then of course there’s Once Bitten, a feature-length sitcom that surprisingly hasn’t already been turned into an actual sitcom.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 1985 horror comedy, Once Bitten is about a teenage boy who is seduced by an older Countess who happens to be undead. She needs the blood of a virgin to keep her youthful appearance, and he fits the bill, because his girlfriend isn’t ready to have sex yet. It’s a total male fantasy, and he gets to bed his true love in the end to thwart the plans of the vamp, but that was the times. It also fits with a number of ’80s movies where young goofballs are romantically involved with strange beings, be they mermaids, angels, mannequins, aliens, or perfect women magically created by computers. Actually all of them were ripe for TV versions, yet only the last of them went through the transition.

Much of the talent involved with Once Bitten were better suited for TV at the time, including Jim Carrey, for whom it was his first big-screen starring role following his lead on the short-lived sitcom The Duck Factory, and Karen Kopins, who is next best remembered for a stint on Dallas and as the grown-up Veronica in the TV movie Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again. Lauren Hutton, who plays the vampire, wasn’t exactly movie star material, either, having recently tried for a small-screen gig with the quickly canceled primetime soap Paper Dolls, though she was the closest thing to a theatrical draw here. And Cleavon Little, who plays her assistant, is most famous for Blazing Saddles yet known for little else on the big screen.

The most notable screenwriter who worked on the movie is Jonathan Roberts, who came off The Sure Thing but then wrote for and produced such series as Beverly Hills 90210, Head of the Class, and the brief show based on Fast Times at Ridgemont High (then worked on 1990s Disney animated features, but we’re focusing on the period around the release of Once Bitten). As for the director, this was the one and only movie ever helmed by Howard Storm, who started out in television as an actor in the 1950s and went on to work prolifically behind the camera in the 1970s, a main staple for stuff like Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Full House, Valerie/The Hogan Family, Head of the Class, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Basically, if The Samuel Goldwyn Company had wanted to venture into television production at the time, they could have easily spun-off Once Bitten into a series and very likely retained the main cast and creative team. How they would have kept going an idea based around both a deadline in Hutton’s biological thirst and a deal breaker in Carrey’s character’s virginity loss isn’t really for me to figure out, but very few movies that spawned TV adaptations were any easier in continuing an otherwise closed narrative – of course, that’s part of the reason why so few were successful, too. Sitcoms in particular have a tough time going very far, but if Weird Science can turn into a five-season series, Once Bitten could be made to work.

Actually, it could be rather similar in its premise, only with a reversal of the relationship between teen boy and supernatural woman. Here the Countess would rule over the guy, also sort of like a gender-swapped I Dream of Jeannie except it’s also the master who has special attributes this time (there’s maybe a rule that in movies the creature is “the other” while in sitcoms they’re the main focus). And then there’s also the girlfriend in the picture for an ongoing love triangle plot. Sure it sounds like it could be dumb, but only as much as the original movie is and about as much as most other sitcoms are. Besides, this isn’t necessarily about how or why there should be a Once Bitten series but an examination of something that seems obligatory, as much now as in the 1980s, and speculation about how it might happen if and when it does.

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Maybe it wouldn’t even get past the pilot stage (maybe Let the Right One In won’t either) or will last just enough episodes to make it barely remembered, like the sitcoms based on ‘80s movies Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, Working Girl, Gung Ho, Bustin’ Loose, Stir Crazy, Baby Boom, Look Who’s Talking, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Parenthood (the first attempt). If it centered around the Countess and maintained a more feminist angle, maybe it’d be like the rare ‘80s movie-to-sitcom successes 9 to 5 and Private Benjamin. It’s worth noting that others to go beyond one season involved some sort of fantastical element, like Weird Science, Harry and the Hendersons, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and more recently MTV’s Teen Wolf.

However it turns out, don’t be surprised when a Once Bitten series is announced, and not just because we can’t be surprised at any TV adaptation news anymore. Everything will be remade as a show at some point. And vampires in particular never seem to get old for TV viewers, and as What We Do in the Shadows proved, there’s no shortage of comedy to be mined from them (not that a Once Bitten show would be nearly as great unless Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement were somehow looped in). And high school-set sitcoms are basically immortal as far as their popularity is concerned. In fact, if anyone reads this and is inspired to make the show themselves, have at it because you don’t need to credit us since it’s such an obvious idea.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.