Top 10 Films Turned Into TV Series

Having cast a glance over the numerous TV shows that have spawned feature films, Cinema Paradiso flips the coin to consider the hit movies that have found their way on to the small screen. 

The first regular TV broadcasts were transmitted by General Electric's experimental station in Schenectady, New York in January 1928. Seven months later, W3XK went live in Wheaton, Maryland and made television history by sponsoring the first live drama, The Queen's Messenger, on 11 September 1928. Based in New York, W2XCR became the first station to show films in 1931. But, while big players like CBS and NBC had entered the fray by the end of the decade, it wasn't until after the Second World War that television sets became a must-have consumer item and the Hollywood studios started to fear the threat posed by the blinking box offering free entertainment in the comfort of one's own living room. 

Television learned a lot from the movies. It recognised the value of centring shows around recurring characters, as the studios had done with the likes of Andy Hardy, Maisie and Blondie, as well as such crime fighters as Charlie Chan, The Saint and The Falcon. Moreover, it continued the literary tradition that had underpinned the classic movie serials of telling stories over several episodes and ending each one on a cliffhanger. Yet the networks were viewed with such suspicion by the studios that they were denied access to contracted players and had to make do with stars on the slide, Broadway stalwarts and their own promising newcomers. However, as box-office takings began to decline after the peak year of 1947, executives around Hollywood started selling the rights to hit pictures in order to boost their revenue streams.

Playing It Straight

Among the first spin-off shows to settle into a long run was Mama (1949-57), which was based on I Remember Mama, George Stevens's 1948 adaptation of John Van Druten's play about a Norwegian immigrant family in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Irene Dunne had earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Marta Hanson, as had co-stars Barbara Bel Geddes, Ellen Corby and Oscar Homolka. Peggy Wood inherited the title role for a series that was almost cancelled as soon as it started when coffee makers Maxwell House withdrew their sponsorship. However, in an early flexing of viewer power, CBS received over 175,000 letters of complaint and the show became a Friday night institution for the next eight years.

Having an Oscar pedigree was no guarantee of a show's success, however. Sam Wood's 1942 take on Henry Bellamann's novel, Kings Row, was nominated for Best Picture. But the ABC version, with Jack Kelly, Nan Leslie and Robert Horton in the roles made famous by Robert Cummings, Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan was cancelled after only seven episodes. Assuming the role of Fr Chuck O'Malley that had earned Bing Crosby an Oscar in Leo McCarey's Going My Way (1944), Gene Kelly quickly realised that his first and only stab at small-screen drama was a misfire and he quit the show after the 1962-63 season. The network had more luck with The Farmer's Daughter (1963-66), which saw Inger Stevens take over the role of Katy Holstrum that had brought Loretta Young the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as a Swedish-American farmgirl who is elected to Congress. 

Don Murray received a Best Supporting nomination for his work as Beauregard Decker opposite Marilyn Monroe in Joshua Logan's adaptation of William Inge's play, Bus Stop (1956). But, despite Robert Altman directing eight episodes, the ABC spin-off series starring Marilyn Maxwell (1961-62) failed to spark the audience imagination.

By contrast, NBC's Dr Kildare (1961-66) easily surpassed the 15 pictures in the MGM series based on the novels by Max Brand that had run between Young Dr Kildare (1938) and Dark Delusion (1947). With Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey taking over the roles of James Kildare and Leonard Gillespie that had been played by Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore, this hospital soap educated and entertained America during 191 episodes that set the standards for all future medical melodramas.

Several other programmes went down the soap opera route, including Alice (1976-85), which saw Linda Lavin assume Ellen Burstyn's Oscar-winning role in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974); The Paper Chase (1978-83), in which John Houseman reprised his Oscar-winning role as Harvard law professor Charles W. Kingsfield in James Bridges's 1973 drama; Executive Suite (1976-77), which echoed the boardroom bickering of Robert Wise's 1954 saga (which Houseman had produced); and Hotel (1983-88), which gave producer Aaron Spelling the chance to out-glitz Richard Quine's 1967 take on Arthur Haley's bestselling novel. 

Whereas costume dramas have always gone down well with British audiences, they haven't always struck a chord with their American counterparts. But, while spin-offs from Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954; 1982-83) and Nicholas Meyer's Time After Time (1979; 2017) were perhaps odd choices, one would have expected Anna and the King (1972) to last for more than one season, as Samantha Eggar was teamed so engagingly with Yul Brynner reprising his Oscar-winning role from Walter Lang's The King and I (1956).

Numerous drama shows have slipped under the standards set by their cinematic predecessors, but, while Bates Motel (2013-17) could never hope to better Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), this slick prequel darkly sketches in the mounting tensions between Norma Louise Bates (Vera Farmiga) and her teenage son, Norman (Freddie Highmore), at the Seafarer motel in White Pine Bay, Oregon.  

Make 'Em Laugh 

Everyone in show business agrees that there's nothing more difficult than comedy. But some of the sitcoms spun off from hit movies in the 1960s had the odds stacked against them, as the stars simply couldn't hold a candle to their precursors. Hope Lange might have won two Emmys for The Ghost & Mrs Muir (1968-70), but her partnership with Edward Mulhare fell short of the intensity generated by Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1947 adaptation of R.A. Dick's source novel. Similarly, Ken Howard and Blythe Danner hadn't a hope of besting Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in the 1973 reboot of the classic George Cukor screwball, Adam's Rib (1949). 

Spare a thought for Elaine Stritch and Shirley Bonne in My Sister Eileen (1960-61), however, as they had to compete with two previous movie pairings in Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair (1942) and Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh (1955). But John Daly and Mark Roberts had a tougher time in the newsroom comedy, The Front Page (1949-50), as they took on the roles of Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson that have been played down the years by Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien (1931), Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (in His Girl Friday, 1940) and Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (1974).

In Mr Belvedere (1985-90), Christopher Hewett had the equally unenviable task of taking over the part of Lynn Aloysius Belvedere that Clifton Webb had made his own in Walter Lang's Sitting Pretty (1948). But, he did a decent job, as did Sally Field, in following in the footsteps of Sandra Dee in Gidget (1959; 1965-66), and Whoopi Goldberg and Jean Stapleton in succeeding CCH Pounder and Marianne Sägebrecht in Bagdad Cafe (1987; 1990-91). But, sometimes, not even inspired casting can make a show click, as Jodie Foster and Sandra Bullock discovered in respectively replacing the Oscar-winning Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973; 1974) and Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (1987; 1990). The producers of 9 to 5 (1982-88) came closer to pulling off the feat, however, by hiring Dolly Parton's sister, Rachel Dennison, to play Doralee Rhodes alongside Rita Moreno and Valerie Curtin, who were tasked with replacing Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as Violet Newstead and Judy Bernly.

It also proved a shrewd move to rehire Eileen Brennan to play Captain Doreen Lewis in the CBS refit of Private Benjamin (1981-83), as she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe after resuming the character she had created opposite Goldie Hawn in Howard Zieff's 1980 film. But lightning didn't strike twice for Nia Vardalos, as My Big Fat Greek Life (2003) proved a disappointing follow-up to the sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).

Director Amy Heckerling also found it tricky to convert the success of Look Who's Talking (1989) into Baby Talk (1991-92), while two teams (in 1990 and 2015-16) failed to recapture the appeal of John Hughes's Uncle Buck (1989). The Bad News Bears (1976; 1979-80), Harry and the Hendersons (1987; 1991-93) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989; 1997-2000) went the same way, as did the British sitcom, Mike Bassett: Manager (2005), despite affording Ricky Tomlinson the opportunity to revisit the character he had created in Steve Barron's Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001). ITV had better luck in hiring such writers as Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Barry Cryer for Doctor in the House (1969-70), which derived from the Richard Gordon novels that had been filmed to such amusing effect between Doctor in the House (1954) and Doctor in Trouble (1970) by director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty Box, who were the brother and wife of the Carry On duo of Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers.

Not As Bad As They're Painted

Dozens of animated shows have been produced by the makers of the original features. Much more interesting are those live-action movies that have been reinvented in cartoon form, among them the Jim Carrey triptych of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994; 1995-97), The Mask (1994; 1995-97) and Dumb and Dumber (1994; 1995). Other series spun off from cult comedies include Spaceballs (1987; 2008), Clerks (1994; 2000-02) and Napoleon Dynamite (2004; 2012), while Back to the Future (1991-92) advanced the action of Robert Zemeckis's Back to the Future Part III (1990) and saw Christopher Lloyd reprise the role of Doc Brown in the live-action bookends.

There was also little need to hide behind the sofa with such genre items as Beetlejuice (1988; 1989-91), Men in Black (1997; 1997-2001) and The Mummy (1999; 2001-03), or the Ghostbusters (1984) derivatives, The Real Ghostbusters (1986-91) and Extreme Ghostbusters (1997). Equally mild was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990-91), which took its cues from John DeBello's Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) and Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988), which afforded George Clooney an early movie role. But the pick of these animated revisions is David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng's The Pink Panther Show (1969-78), which is a rare hybrid, as its origins lay in the cartoon opening sequence for Blake Edwards's The Pink Panther (1963), which gave the world Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and Henry Mancini's enduringly cool theme (from an Oscar-nominated score) featuring Plas Johnson on tenor saxophone.

Evenin' All

The curious thing about the longest-serving copper in screen history is that he was shot dead by Dirk Bogarde in Basil Dearden's The Blue Lamp (1950). But the BBC resurrected PC George Dixon and Jack Warner went on to appear in all 432 episodes of Dixon of Dock Green between July 1955 and May 1976. Warner was 80 when the series ended and the landscape of TV policing had changed dramatically, thanks largely to imported American crime shows like Madigan (1968; 1972-73); Shaft (1971; 1973-74) and Serpico (1973; 1976-77). The first two saw Richards Widmark and Roundtree reprise the roles of Dan Madigan and John Shaft, but David Birney took over from Al Pacino in the latter, while Dennis Weaver landed the title role in McCloud (1970-77), which was based on Don Siegel's Clint Eastwood vehicle, Coogan's Bluff (1968).

Although the American networks favoured the urban settings of The Naked City (1958-63) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950; 1961), which were based on noirs by Jules Dassin and John Huston, they also found room for shows centred on sleuths who had graduated to the cinema screen from the pages of hard-boiled pulp literature. Among them were Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles, who had been played by William Powell and Myrna Loy in six films (1934-47) before Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk took over for NBC's The Thin Man (1957-59).

Back in Blighty, the BBC brought another character back to life in The Third Man (1959-65), which saw the ruthlessly charismatic black marketeer essayed by Orson Welles in Carol Reed and Graham Greene's classic 1949 British noir transform into a globetrotting, crime-solving art lover played by Michael Rennie. Programme makers were more respectful in their approach to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, who had been played on the big screen by Austin Trevor and Albert Finney and by Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury and Helen Hayes before David Suchet (1989-2013) and Joan Hickson (1984-92), Geraldine McEwan (2004-09) and Julia McKenzie (2009-13) imparted their inimitable spin on the roles.

A favourite format for American crime shows saw mismatched cops overcome their fundamental differences to get the job done. Taking over from James Caan and Alan Arkin, Tom Mason and Hector Elizondo helped set the template in Freebie and the Bean (1974; 1980-81), which was followed by Cameron Daddo and Kevin Dobson assuming the roles of the special effects artist and the NYPD detective taken by Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy in F/X: Murder By Illusion (1986; 1996-98). Racial tension has often been key to the success of this odd couple scenario, with Howard Rollins and Carroll O'Connor taking over from Sidney Poitier and the Oscar-winning Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night (1967; 1988-92), Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford replacing Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon (2016-), and Justin Hires and Jon Foo doing duty for Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour (2016; 1998-2006). 

Although set 15 years after the 2001 movie with the Oscar-winning Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, Training Day (2017) similarly pitched Bill Paxton and Justin Cornwell as a good cop/bad cop combination in a series that put as much emphasis on action as character, as was also the case with Nikita (1997; 1997-2001), Lock, Stock (1998; 2000) and The Transporter (2002-08; 2012-14).

All Action

It's often said that crime stories are Westerns with an urban setting and shows like Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour contain unmistakable echoes of The Lone Ranger (1949-57), which teamed Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as John Reid and Tonto, who had featured in the serials The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939), in which Lee Powell and Robert Livingston were respectively paired with Victor 'Chief Thundercloud' Daniels. However, few of the best-known TV sagebrush sagas owed their origins to the cinema and those that did have been long forgotten, including Hondo (1953; 1967), How the West Was Won (1962; 1976-79), The Magnificent Seven (1960; 1998-2000) and Sugarfoot (1957-61), which was based on Michael Curtiz's The Boy From Oklahoma (1954) rather Edwin L. Marin's Sugarfoot (1951), which had starred Randolph Scott.

A number of comic-book heroes also figured in serials before reaching the small screen. Kirk Alyn had headlined Superman (1948), but he was replaced by George Reeves for Adventures of Superman (1952-58), while Dean Cain was teamed with Teri Hatcher in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97). But the Man of Steel had first appeared in cartoon form with the voice of Bud Collyer in Superman (1941), which earned Max and Dave Fleischer an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short. They produced 16 further titles and they can be enjoyed on disc from Cinema Paradiso. 

Animal instincts served the heroes of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997-98) and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998-99). Set in the aftermath of Stuard Gillard's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), the former saw the introduction of a female Turtle, in the form of Nicole Parker's Venus de Milo. The latter saw Mark Dacascos take over the role of avenging rocker Eric Draven that Brandon Lee had been playing in Alex Proyas's The Crow (1994) when he died during surgery after being accidentally hit by a defective blank.

A touch of the supernatural also underpinned the series spun-off from Russell Mulcahy's Highlander (1986), as the fortunes of the Clan MacLeod unfolded in Highlander: The Series (1992-98), Highlander: The Animated Series (1994-96) and Highlander: The Raven (1998-99). The forces of dark magic shaped the action in the animated Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1996) and Mortal Kombat: Conquest (1998-99), which riffed on the adventures started in Paul W.S. Anderson's video game actioner, Mortal Kombat (1995). Blasts from the past were also key to The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (1992-93), which saw Corey Carner and Sean Patrick Flannery play the youthful Indy, while George Hall took the role of the 93-year-old Dr Henry Jones looking back over his eventful life. However, Harrison Ford guested in the bookend sequences of the 1993 episode, 'Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues'.

Planet Earth and Beyond

Few science fiction movies in the pre-blockbuster era could boast a cast with such big names as Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre, Robert Sterling, Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon, who also sang the theme to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), which director Irwin Allen brought to the small screen for a 110-episode run between 1964-68. But, while he reused sets, props, costumes and special effects models, Allen couldn't persuade any of his original stars to sign up for another stint aboard the nuclear submarine SSRN Seaview and command passed to Richard Basehart and David Hedison.

Some time during the 1970s, producer George Pal had attempted to bring Byron Haskin's 1953 adaptation of HG Wells's The War of the Worlds to television. But almost two decades passed before Greg Strangis realised Pal's dream with a spin-off that ran for two series on CBS between 1988-90. A post-apocalyptic planet provided the setting for Dominion (2014-15), which moved the action on 25 years from Scott Stewart's 2010 fantasy feature, Legion. But the backdrop was prehistoric in Conan the Adventurer (1997-98), which saw two-time Mr Universe Ralf Moeller step into the loincloth vacated by Arnold Schwarzenegger after Conan the Barbarian, John Milius's 1982 reimagining of the stories of Robert E. Howard, and Richard Fleischer's 1984 follow-up, Conan the Destroyer

Things That Go Bump

It's hard to think of a bigger casting contrast than that of Anthony Michael Hall following Christopher Walken into the role of psychic schoolteacher Johnny Smith. But that's what happened when Lionsgate and CBS Paramount teamed up on The Dead Zone (2002-07), which followed on from David Cronenberg's 1983 feature adaptation of a bestseller by Stephen King. Two more literary sensations spawned hit movies in the 1970s. But neither The Exorcist (2016-18) nor Damien (2016) found a following, despite seeking to advance the action depicted in William Friedkin and Richard Donner's 1973 and 1976 adaptations of David Seltzer's The Omen and William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

Bruce Campbell rocked up when director Sam Raimi asked him to reprise the role of Ash Williams that he had played in the Evil Dead franchise (1981-92) in Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-18), while John Jarrott was back for Wolf Creek (2016-17) to reprise the role of sinister Aussie Mick Taylor that he had taken in Greg McLean's Wolf Creek (2005) and Wolf Creek 2 (2013). But, while Robert Rodriguez was happy to helm From Dusk Till Dawn (2014-16), there was no sign of George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino, who has played Seth and Richie Gecko in the 1996 movie.

None of the survivors of writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven's 1996 slasher classic, Scream, felt compelled to revisit Lakewood in MTV's anthology reboot (2015-), while Wesley Snipes was content to pass the baton (and all his other weapons) to rapper Kirk 'Sticky Fingaz' Jones in Blade, the 2006 small-screen version of the movie trilogy (1998-2004) that had been inspired by a Marvel Comics character. But you simply couldn't keep the Graboids away from the 2002 Sci-Fi Channel series based on the six-strong Tremors franchise (1990-2018).

  • Casablanca (1942)

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    1h 38min

    One could have forgiven Michael Curtiz if he had lamented, 'Of all the movies in all the studios in the world, they messed up mine.' He had won the Academy Award for Best Picture for Warner Bros with his 1942 take on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unperformed play, Everybody Comes to Rick's. Of course, he had been lucky to have had Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in peak form as Rick Blane and Ilsa Lund. But executive producer William T. Orr came to rue the fact that Jack L. Warner refused to sanction the casting of Anthony Quinn as Rick Jason in his 1955 TV adaptation, which saw the action moved from the depths of the Second World War to the Cold War present. Director John Peyser opined that his eventual star, Charles McGraw, 'couldn't act his way out of a hat'. But he lasted for 10 episodes, while David Soul was canned after just five when Warners tried to revive Rick Blane in 1983.

    Director:
    Michael Curtiz
    Cast:
    Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
    Genre:
    Collections, Drama, Classics, Romance
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • The Colditz Story (1955)

    94 minutes

    Ensemble excellence unites Guy Hamilton's 1955 adaptation of Pat Reid's bestselling account of his experiences in Oflag IV-C and the BBC remake, Colditz (1972-74). This can partly be explained by the fact that Reid served as technical consultant on both productions, while Bryan Forbes, whose Jimmy Winslow escapes from the Saxon camp with John Mills's Reid in the film, returned to write for the 28-episode TV series. Moreover, Hamilton could call on the likes of Eric Portman, Ian Carmichael, Lionel Jeffries and Anton Diffring, while the Beeb enlisted marquee names like David McCallum and Robert Wagner to serve alongside Edward Hardwicke, Jack Hedley and Bernard Hepton. But both versions placed considerable emphasis on character and the strain that confinement could have on service personnel eager to do their bit for the cause. Moreover, the writers avoided any stereotypical depiction of the Nazis, with the result that the arrival of Anthony Valentine's Major Mohn in the second series brought a palpable sense of menace to proceedings.

    Director:
    Guy Hamilton
    Cast:
    John Mills, Eric Portman, Christopher Rhodes
    Genre:
    Drama, Classics, Action & Adventure
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Peyton Place (1957)

    150 minutes

    While Grace Metalious's 1956 novel had scuffed the homespun image of America that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had striven so hard to cultivate, the ABC soap opera that aired within a year of the assassination of John F. Kennedy confirmed that the American Dream was nothing but a myth. In between, Mark Robson's big-screen adaptation equalled the record of William Wyler's The Little Foxes (1941) in failing to convert any of its nine Oscar nominations. But Lana Turner and Diane Varsi could count themselves as particularly unlucky to miss out as Constance and Allison MacKenzie, the mother-daughter roles that would be taken with evident relish in the scandal-strewn tele-series by Dorothy Malone and Mia Farrow, after Eleanor Parker and Carol Lynley had kept them warm in José Ferrer's Return to Peyton Place (1961). The critics had hated Robson's feature, with many cursing the Production Code for drawing the sting from Metalious's ferociously fearless prose. But the public loved it and remained glued to all 514 episodes between September 1964 and June 1969.

    Director:
    Mark Robson
    Cast:
    Lana Turner, Lee Philips, Lloyd Nolan
    Genre:
    Drama, Classics
    Availability:
    DVD
  • The Odd Couple (1968)

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    101 minutes

    They say write about what you know and Neil Simon based his 1965 Tony Award-winning play, The Odd Couple, on the misfortunates of his brother. Having also scooped a Tony for playing grouchily slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, Walter Matthau was a shoo-in for Gene Saks's film version. But Paramount didn't think Art Carney was a big enough name to reprise the role of finicky advertising executive Felix Ungar and suggested a reunion with Jack Lemmon, Matthau's co-star in Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie (1964). The casting proved inspired and the duo was just as effective when Simon penned a long-overdue sequel, The Odd Couple 2 (Howard Deutsch; 1998). Jack Klugman and Tony Randall were equally exquisitely matched in the spin-off sitcom, which ran for 114 episodes between 1970-75. But Ron Glass and Desmond Wilson, as an African-American Felix and Oscar in The New Odd Couple (1982-83), and Matthew Perry (Oscar) and Thomas Lennon (Felix) in a CBS reboot (2015-17), failed to gel in quite the same way.

    Director:
    Gene Saks
    Cast:
    Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler
    Genre:
    Classics, Comedy
    Availability:
    DVD
  • M.A.S.H. (1970)

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    111 minutes

    One of the most fondly remembered shows in US television history might never had been made if the producers hadn't been thwarted in their bid to make M*A*S*H Goes to Maine as a sequel to Robert Altman's lauded adaptation of Richard Hooker's 1968 bestseller, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. Then again, the 45-year-old Altman (who was more in demand for his TV than his cinema work) was only approached to direct after several A-listers had turned up their nose at Ring Lardner, Jr.'s Oscar-winning screenplay about the exploits of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould often struggled with Altman's improvisational methods, but the casual nature of their banter filtered into the sitcom when Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers took over the roles of Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre. Such was the show's popularity that the last of 256 episodes, 'Goodbye, Farewell and Amen', was seen by 125 million viewers, making it the most watched programme of all time.

    Director:
    Robert Altman
    Cast:
    Donald Sutherland, Ted Knight, Elliott Gould
    Genre:
    Comedy, Classics, Drama
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Westworld (1973)

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    85 minutes

    It's often forgotten that science fiction writer Michael Crichton made his directorial debut with this chilling story about a malfunctioning theme park, which was inspired by a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. Moreover, in addition to being the first feature to employ digital image processing to pixellate the visuals, it was also the last film to be handled by MGM's distribution arm before it was closed down. The studio made life difficult for Crichton at every turn and he was deeply indebted to production designer Charles Schulthies, costumier Betsy Cox and effects artist Brent Sellstrom for making the Roman, Medieval and Wild West worlds at the Delos resort so authentic on such a meagre budget. Yul Brynner is exceptional as the rogue gunslinger, with his nail-biting climactic pursuit of James Brolin being executed in near silence. Despite the failure of the 1976 sequel, Futureworld, and the short-lived spin-off, Beyond Westworld (1980), Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy triumphantly revived the concept in HBO's Westworld (2016-).

    Director:
    Michael Crichton
    Cast:
    Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin
    Genre:
    Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Classics
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Parenthood (1989)

    118 minutes

    If at first you don't succeed. Despite bombing with its 1980 small-screen take on Ron Howard's hit comedy about the travails of family life, NBC tried again in 2010 and the show ran for 103 episodes over the next five years. Howard had come up with the idea for the original film during a nightmare air flight with his three young children and, as producer Brian Grazer and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel had another 11 kids between them, there was always a genuine sense that the film-makers knew what they were talking about. Although Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen play the lead couple, this is very much an ensemble exercise, with Jason Robards and Tom Hulce matching the Oscar-nominated Dianne Wiest while doing well not to be upstaged by rising stars Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. Despite Howard serving as executive producer and Ed Begley, Jr. and Jayne Atkinson taking over the parental leads, the first tele-incarnation lasted just 12 episodes.

    Director:
    Ron Howard
    Cast:
    Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest
    Genre:
    Children & Family, Comedy
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

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    81 minutes

    Although initially delighted that director Fran Rubel Kuzui wanted to film his script about a teenager (who was originally conceived as 'Rhonda the Immortal Waitress') embracing her responsibility to keep the world safe from evil, Joss Whedon was dismayed when Kuzui adopted a broad comic approach to the material. So, when producer Gail Berman invited him to rework the scenario for television, Whedon leapt at the chance to subvert the horror clichés that had accumulated around female characters and say something positive about girl power. With Sarah Michelle Gellar replacing Kristy Swanson, the series quickly acquired a devoted following, as Buffy Summers learnt how to use her powers with the help of her Watcher, Rupert Giles (Anthony Head), and her faithful Scooby Gang at Sunnydale High. In all, Gellar would combat dark forces in 144 episodes between 1997-2003. But the Buffyverse expanded to incorporate the spin-off series, Angel (1999-2004), as well as novels, comics and video games, and rumour has it that Whedon is currently developing a reboot.

    Director:
    Fran Rubel Kuzui
    Cast:
    Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens
    Genre:
    Horror, TV Series
    Availability:
    DVD
  • Fargo (1996)

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    94 minutes

    Masterpieces don't usually take kindly to tweaking. But Joel and Ethan Coen's bleakly hilarious crime saga seems to thrive on it. Having earned Joel the Best Director prize at Cannes and wife Frances McDormand the Oscar for Best Actress, the spin-off series has also proved to be an awards magnet, with the first season landing 18 Primetime Emmy nominations and the Golden Globes for Best Miniseries and Best Actor. Ewan McGregor matched Billy Bob Thornton's achievement in the third season, which was set in 2010 after the second had harked back to 1979. This freewheeling approach to time is due to continue in the fourth series, which will be set in Kansas City, Missouri in 1950. All of which is a far cry from the original storyline, which centres on pregnant Minnesota cop Marge Gunderson's investigation into the botched kidnapping of the wife of car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) by inept villains Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare).

    Director:
    Joel Coen
    Cast:
    William H. Macy, Warren Keith, Frances McDormand
    Genre:
    Comedy, Drama
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Flipper (1996)

    91 minutes

    Entranced by how intently his children watched Lassie on television, actor Ricou Browning must have thought back to filming Jack Arnold's Revenge of the Creature (1954), the second of his three outings as the Creature From the Black Lagoon, as it contained scenes involving 'Flippy the Educated Porpoise'. Keen to ditch sci-fi for animal movies, producer Ivan Tors agreed to make a drama about a young boy's growing friendship with the dolphin he has been nursing back to health after it suffered a harpoon wound. Under James B. Clark's deft direction, Luke Halpin and Mitzie the dolphin formed an irresistible team and the hit picture was followed by Flipper's New Adventure (1964) and the TV spin-off, Flipper (1964-67), which saw Halpin develop a new partnership with a bottlenose named Kathy. Payton Haas and Jessica Alba took the human leads in the 1995-2000 small-screen reboot, while Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood shared the limelight with some animatronic dolphins designed by Walt Conti for Alan Shapiro's 1996 big-screen remake.

    Director:
    Alan Shapiro
    Cast:
    Paul Hogan, Elijah Wood, Jonathan Banks
    Genre:
    Children & Family, Action & Adventure
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
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