There’s certainly nothing new in the idea of taking a successful movie and turning it into a television series. Truth is, it’s been done for many decades already, although the other truth is that most of them are complete disasters that fail to capture the elements that made the movie a hit. That being said, there have been some great and long-running ones along the way, like MASH, The Odd Couple, and Bates Motel. You can also find shows that have been so much better than the source material, a list that includes shows like Westworld, Teen Wolf, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In any case, with this particular brand of time machine we’re using, join us on a trip back to provide a round-up of the good, the bad, and the meh.

12 Monkeys

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(Photo Credit: Universal Pictures)

Released in 1995, the film focuses on James Cole (Bruce Willis), who is sent from the future to stop the creation and unleashing of a plague that will decimate humanity. Co-starring are Brad Pitt (Jeffrey Goines) and Madeline Stowe (Kathryn Railly). The TV series debuted 20 years later, and expanded the premise to include a wide-reaching conspiracy through time. Aaron Stanford is James Cole, with Amanda Schull as Dr. Cassandra Railly and Emily Hampshire as Jennifer Goines (getting a gender switch from the film).

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(Photo Credit: NBCUniversal)

Alice (from Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore)

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

The film version, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, was released with Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son, Tommy, heading to California so she can pursue her dream of becoming a singer. Running out of money, they end up in Arizona where she begins working as a waitress in Mel’s Diner, and could be staying when she finds herself in a romance with a rancher. The TV show Alice (1976-85) follows a similar premise. Linda Lavin plays Alice. One carryover from film to TV is Vic Tayback as Mel.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

Alien Nation

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

In the film (1988), an alien race given the name “Newcomers” crashlands on Earth and assimilates into society, facing racism in most quarters. George Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) is a Newcomer Detective teamed up with the racist Matt Sykes to solve a murder, finding common bonds between them. A year later it became a television series starring Eric Pierpoint as Francisco and Gary Graham as Sykes. The show, which delved much deeper into the aliens (now called the Tenctonese) lasted a single season, but did spawn five TV movies. Since 2009 there’s been talk of a new version.

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20th Century Fox

Bad Teacher

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(Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey in the 2011 film, a woman who, after her wealthy boyfriend breaks up with her, is determined to get breast implants and becomes a middle school teacher to raise the money to do so. Needless to say, she is the worst. The TV version that followed in 2014 features Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis, whose goal is to find her next husband. The series was short-lived, and basically was all about Meredith doing something terrible, seeing the error of her ways by the end of the episode, and then back to doing something terrible the following week.

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(Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television)

Bates Motel (from Psycho)

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(Photo Credit: Universal Pictures)

Now you’re messin’ with the classics! Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) introduced the world to serial killer Norman Bates as played by Anthony Perkins. Norman, having murdered his mother, kept her persona alive by actually becoming her at key moments, and killing anyone who may find out the truth (including Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane in the famous shower death scene). Through a total of four films, Norman somehow always remained sympathetic. Then we got his backstory in the Bates Motel series (2013-2017), with Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as his mother, Norma. What’s kind of cool is that the expectation was that the series would ultimately dovetail with Psycho, but, instead, it diverges quite a bit.

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(Photo Credit: NBCUniversal)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The concept was an instant classic: Flip the horror film cliché of the dumb blond being killed by a monster in a dark alley on its head, by having her be the one who walks out of that confrontation alive. Her name is Buffy Summers and she is the slayer born to this generation, her destiny to confront the demons that come to our world. In the 1992 film she was played by Kristy Swanson, and nobody really cared. When the Buffster made her leap to television five years later, as played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, everybody cared. Writer Joss Whedon, being able to have the show truly represent his vision, in many ways redefined both the horror genre and storytelling on the small screen. And the show even spun off David Boreanaz’s character Angel, a vampire with a soul, and her lover (gee, a slayer in love with a vampire, how mismatched can you get?), into his own show that ran five years to Buffy’s seven.

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20th Television

(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Dead Zone

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(Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Based on Stephen’s King’s novel, an accident plunges Johnny Smith into a five-year coma. When he awakens, he finds he has acquired the ability to touch someone or something and get a sense of the past or future. Shaking the hand of would-be senator Greg Stillson, he has a vision that this man will some day become president and trigger World War III. What does he do with that knowledge? In the 1983 film, starring Christopher Walken as Johnny, that question is definitively answered. The 2002-06 TV show, stretched that the answer out in between more standalone episodes and never quite got the chance to answer it. Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club, among others) plays Johnny on the TV verison that ran for six seasons

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(Photo Credit: CBS Television)

The Exorcist

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

The 1973 film, about a little girl possessed by the devil, scared the hell out of America and turned Linda Blair — and all her pea-soup spitting, head-turning antics — into a household name. The TV series, launched 43 years later in 2016, follows a pair of priests who, it seems, are moving from one season-long demonic case to another.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)


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(Photo Credit: MGM)

The 1980 film was a look at a group of teens who for and working towards a career in show business. Sounds uplifting, but there was a dark side as well. Cast member Irene Cara’s life would go through a big change three years later when she starred in Flashdance. The TV series that ran from 1982-87, continued the themes of film, but was able to take the time to tell more fleshed out stories.

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(Photo Credit: MGM)


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(Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures)

The film, released in 1996, is set in Fargo, ND and brings an assortment of odd criminals and police officers together in a murder investigation. The TV show, which debuted in 2014, still has Fargo as its locale, but each year is a different story with different characters that take place in different time periods. Certainly keeps things from getting boring.

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In the Heat of the Night

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(Photo Credit: MGM)

Sidney Poitier is police detective sent to a racially divided southern town to investigate a murder, but he must first deal with racist Sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger). Released in 1967, the film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The TV show debuted in 1988 and ran until 1995, with Howard E. Rollins, Jr. as Tibbs and All in the Family‘s Carroll O’Connor as Gillespie. It was nice seeing him not be Archie Bunker.

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(Photo Credit: MGM)


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(Photo Credit: Gaumont Film Company)

Writer/director Luc Besson exploded on to the scene with this story of convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin. The premise pretty much holds true in the 1997-2001 series La Femme Nikita, starring Peta Wilson in the title role. However, the 2010-13 series Nikita, which cast Maggie Q in the role, is an unofficial sequel in which she returns to the organization that trained her to take it down.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

Lethal Weapon

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Warner Bros

(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

One of the great action buddy cop films ever made, with Mel Gibson as suicidal cop Martin Riggs who is teamed up with this-close-to-retiring detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). Action and humor like you wouldn’t believe, it spawned three sequels with rumors of a fourth on the way, as well as the 2016-debuting series starring Damon Wayans as Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford as Riggs. What’s so impressive about the show is that it maintains a high action quota and the repartee between the guys, but it digs so much deeper into character. Most importantly, it works.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)


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(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The surgeons operating out of the MASH 4077th medical unit in South Korea during the Korean War. The 1970 film in many ways was more of a satire on war, whereas the 1972-83 show started off more comedic, but became a true ongoing discussion of the impact on war from a variety of points of view. The film starred Elliot Gould, Donald Sutherland and Sally Kellerman, but, with all due respect, they couldn’t come anywhere near what Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit and the rest did on the series.

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(Getty Images)

The Odd Couple

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(Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures)

In 1965, Neil Simon introduced the world to mis-matched roommates Oscar Madison and Felix Unger as played by Walter Matthau and Art Carney on the Broadway stage in The Odd Couple. Three years later, Matthau brought Oscar to the big screen accompanied by Jack Lemmon. From 1970-75 Jack Klugman and Tony Randall perfected the formula. Another attempt was made in 1982 with Demond Wilson (Sanford and Son) as Oscar and Ron Glass (Barney Miller) as Felix. Foolishly, the producers used scripts from the original series for many of the episodes, which fell flat. But when they went original, it worked really well and it was unfortunate they didn’t have more time to hone it. More recently, from 2015-17, Matthew Perry was Oscar and Thomas Lennon was Felix. They got three seasons out of it, but if the scripts were just a little sharper it could have gone a lot longer.

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CBS Television Distribution

(Photo Credit: CBS Television)

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(Photo Credit: CBS Television)

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(Photo Credit: CBS Television)

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images)


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(Photo Credit: Dimension Films)

When it was released in 1996, Scream was clever in the slice-and-dice genre in that it was a slasher film in which the potential victims were well aware of the cliches of slasher films. As such, it was a lot of fun, the sequels less so. The TV show (which launched in 2015 and returns for a third season in March) takes its cues from American Horror Story in that each year represents a new story with a new set of characters.

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(Photo Credit: TWC)

Teen Wolf

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(Photo Credit: Atlantic Releasing Corporation)

Michael J. Fox had a big hit with the 1985 film, which probably had more to do with the success of Back to the Future (released a couple of months earlier) than the quality of the film itself. It deals with high school student Scott Howard, who discovers he’s a werewolf. High school was hard enough, this just makes things even more difficult. Definitely plays more to the comedy. A much darker take on the subject was presented in the MTV series that ran from 2011 to 2017 and starred Tyler Posey as Scott McCall. A much deeper exploration of the werewolf mythology was explored.

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(Photo Credit: Viacom Media Networks)


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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

Michael Crichton (the author who gave the world Jurassic Park) wrote and directed this 1973 film where vacationers at a Western-themed amusement park for adults are suddenly threatened by malfunction robots playing the various characters they encounter. Yul Brenner (some of you may remember it from The King and I) is fearsome as “The Gunslinger.” In 2016, HBO provided us a far more nuanced, complex and deeper exploration of themes about humanity versus the machine (thanks to producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy) in the show which will be returning for its second season some time this year.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)