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Monday, November 26, 2012
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‘Catfish’ Adaptation Hinting At Success Story Among TV Series Born From Films

By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist


We here at ScottFeinberg.com recently discussed the phenomena of TV shows becoming movies as well as TV series spinning off into other series, but we have yet to approach TV shows that spawned from movies — until now.

MTV’s new series Catfish: The TV Show, based on the 2010 documentary Catfish, follows people who form romantic relationships solely through online communication as they meet their significant others for the first time.

The most recent ratings for Catfish: The TV Show prove it’s clicking with audiences beyond the big screen: Among Monday night cable programs, the series came in third place, following ESPN’s Monday Night Football and SportsCenter. Specifically, 2.743 million viewers tuned in to last week’s episode, resulting in a 1.7 rating in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic.

Catfish: The TV Show is only a part of a recent string of shows adapted from film — some resulting in hits, and others becoming huge misses.

NBC can boast two of these series, as the network oversaw the creation of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. The former is based on the 2004 film of the same name, which is derived from the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream, whereas the latter is loosely originated from the 1989 film of the same name.

MTV is responsible for another program of this type with its successful series Teen Wolf, which aired its second season this summer. The drama is based on the 1985 comedy starring Michael J. Fox. Speaking of Fox, albeit a different breed, the network has recently seen two series that were spun off from movies come and go: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which is based on The Terminator films and lasted for two seasons from 2008 to 2009, and the animated series Napoleon Dynamite, which is an adaptation of the 2004 movie of the same name and was canceled this year after one season.

The CW also airs Nikita, an adaptation of the the 1990 film La Femme Nikita. Although the drama struggles in the ratings, it’s managed to make it to three seasons.

That’s not to say all TV series that come from films have a hard time finding viewers, though.

The concept for CBS’s M*A*S*H derived from the 1970 film starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. The series ran for 11 seasons, from 1972 to 1983. The finale is the most-watched finale in U.S. TV history and the fourth most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history (It attracted 106 million viewers and is only behind three Super Bowls).

ABC’s The Odd Couple, headlined by Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, is another success story. The program spun off from the 1968 movie The Odd Couple, which in turn is an adaptation of the Neil Simon play. The show aired for five seasons, from 1970 to 1975.

The 1994 film Stargate also spawned numerous TV versions. The most successful, Showtime and Syfy’s Stargate SG-1, saw a lifespan of 10 seasons, airing from 1997 to 2007. However, the film also provided inspiration for the series Syfy’s Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate Universe and Fox’s animated Stargate: Infinity.

With every success comes a failure, though, and there have been plenty when it comes to TV series born from films.

CBS’s My Big Fat Greek Life tried to translate the popularity of the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the small screen, and it even starred film lead Nia Vardalos. However, viewers didn’t tune in, and the program ran its course after seven episodes.

NBC also tried to capitalize on the success of a comedy, but in this case, it was the 1986 teen classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The 1990 series, titled Ferris Bueller, lasted only a few months and is mostly known for casting a young, pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston.

Even one of the best films in history couldn’t remain untouched: The 1942 drama Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, became a TV series on NBC in 1983. Ray Liotta was a cast member of the program, which was a prequel of the movie, but it only remained on TV for five episodes. The show picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series before it was never heard from again.

Despite such failures, TV executives remain unfazed about turning films into TV shows.

Joss Whedon is responsible for bringing The WB’s successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer, based on the 1992 film, to life. It aired for seven seasons, from 1997 to 2003. But he’s not stopping there, as he’s developing an ABC series called S.H.I.E.L.D., which will be an slight adaptation of this summer’s The Avengers and based on the Marvel Comics.

Likewise, Eddie Murphy and Shawn Ryan (creator of FX’s The Shield) are creating a TV version of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. If picked up, the series, which is a continuation of the movies, will air on CBS.

This spring, viewers will also see the debut of NBC’s drama Hannibal. Although it’s spun off of the Thomas Harris novels, audiences will most likely link the series to the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs and its 2001 sequel, Hannibal.

Whether or not these series will survive, they usually cause some skeptics to complain that Hollywood has no original ideas left. Although this initially seems to be true, looking at such programs as Parenthood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s evident that these programs tend to take the concept of their films and make them into much more. Instead of copying, they expand and put their own spin on them. TV has seen some of its finest series as a result, and we should welcome the process of looking at what appears to be an old idea with a new pair of eyes.

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