When it first hit homes in America, Hollywood felt no significant threat from television. After all, would viewers really reject the theatrical experience to see their favorite films projected on a “big, enormous, 12 inch screen?” The answer quickly became “yes,” as TV took the country by storm. It wasn’t long before Tinseltown was crafting all manner of quirky gimmicks (3D, Cinerama, Todd-O-Vision) to get butts back into Cineplex seats. Over time, the studios started to cave until applying a kind-of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” concept, taking boob tube favorites and turning them into (hopefully) hit films. Here are 10 of our favorites, though purists be warned: many of these are non-traditional at best. Why? It’s too easy to make Star Trek or The Fugitive into a film. In these cases, we looked at unusual source material that made the final results even better.
By the time this movie adaptation came around, the adventures of America’s most white bread clan were so well known and mocked that producers decided to add to the irony. Instead of a serious effort about a “blended” family, the Bradys became the targets of a spot-on spoof, the film using their clean cut wholesomeness circa 1995 as a way of critiquing the whole suburban sect conceit. It even used the recognizable elements of the ’70s staple as ammunition against itself.
He came from a family of screenwriters. His first effort, adapting Buffy the Vampire Slayer for TV, became a massive cult hit. He even worked as an uncredited script doctor on several high profile films (Speed, Waterworld). So when Joss Whedon introduced his space Western Firefly to the small screen, everyone expected a hit. Instead, the show failed, leading the future Avengers guide to turn his frustration into a film. Fans feel this is one of the high profile genre ace’s best.
Before they became Saturday morning kid vid staples, Sid and Marty Krofft were known for their bawdy burlesque nightclub puppet act. But when their live action oddity about a young boy (Jack Wild) arriving on a “living” island filled with witches, weirdoes, and a giant talking dragon hit and hit big, the guys decided to make a quickie movie for the matinee crowd. Adding a couple of cast members, including Sid’s next door neighbor Cass Elliot from the Mamas and the Papas, the end result was like LSD for the elementary school set.
Perhaps the first meta movie ever, long before that term had any real creative meaning. A commentary on a commentary on a commentary, Chuck Barris decided to undermine his calamitous cult of personality by putting out a quasi-autobiographical screed against everything that made him a household name. In due course, he criticized his audience, mocked those looking to him for their (limited) 15 minutes of fame via his notorious TV show, and argued for a much nicer, more normal man than his on-air persona suggested.
Many of you out there have probably never heard of the British TV series Bottom. Those in the know will instantly recognize it as one of the many amazing post-The Young Ones efforts by the comedy duo of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. Think The Three Stooges’ brand of physical humor, except far more dark and disturbing, and you get the basic idea. The show’s success allowed the pair to produce their own movie loosely based on their TV characters, and it’s a devilish treat.
#5 – Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
How do you turn a 12 minute long late night cartoon which thrives on weirdness and the bizarre into a full-blown feature film? The creators behind this Adult Swim favorite simply took their standard Hellsapoppin’ approach and amplified it ten-fold. The plot is incomprehensible, the humor divided between pointed and pointless, but like the best of surrealism, it finds a way to make sense out of its often indecipherable ideas. The marketing actually sparked a terrorism alert when street displays were mistaken for terrorists’ bombs.
Johnny Depp went from unknown to star with this Fox cop drama, and ever since it premiered fans were eager for a proper feature film. What they got instead was an amazing bit of backwards glancing as directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller decided to make a buddy comedy spoof instead. Putting Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the leads, the movie mocked the entire concept of “undercover/underage” policeman while reinterpreting the current action movie tropes. They even managed to work Depp back into the mix. Of course.
By 1968, The Monkees were sick and tired of their Pre-Fab Four label. They hated the repetition of their hit TV show and felt completely left out of the growing dissent without the counterculture movement. So they determined to bite the hand that fed them in the most confrontational way possible. Teaming up with a young Jack Nicholson (who co-wrote the screenplay) and aiming squarely at the mainstream, they created a psychedelic master-reworking of their show which simultaneously destroyed and rebuilt their artistic aspirations and limitations.
#2 – South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Who would have thought that one of TV’s most biting satires would make the translation to cinema intact — and even better than that, more witty and sociologically insightful as ever. And it was a musical! Taking on the cause of free speech, the MPAA, public PC outcry, and the always hilarious concept of little kids cursing like drunken shore leave sailors, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone elevated the cultural conversation through straight-up toilet humor. And you can sing along! It was Oscar nominated, even!
#1 – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
When the famed TV series finally fell off the cultural radar, creator/director David Lynch decided there was still more to be said about the strange case of Laura Palmer. So he devised the amazing movie, a prequel masterpiece explaining the title town, as well as the perplexing population within. Even today, the movie mesmerizes as it both attempts to provide backstory while expanding the Peaks mythology in all manner of stylistically surreal directions. Even those who gave up on the series admit that TPFWWM is special.