From Small-Screen to Box Office: The Best and Worst TV-to-Movie Adaptations
At first glance, it makes sense that a TV show you love would make a great two-hour, big-screen movie, given the likely higher budget, larger production team, etc.
And while some shows have indeed been adapted into equally as good—if not better—movies, some were utter trash that most die-hard fans of the original shows would rather forget.
Below are three of the best TV show-to-movie adaptions that we loved, and three of the worst that made us sorry we forked over the money to see them at the theater.
21 Jump Street (2012) & 22 Jump Street (2014)
The “undercover-cop-posing-as-a-high-schooler” trope started in the ’80s with then-teen heartthrob (even though he hated being one) Johnny Depp headlining Fox’s 21 Jump Street (1987-91). The show ran for 103 episodes, and each episode conveyed an implicit moral regarding issues such as alcoholism, hate crimes, homophobia, sexual abuse and many others. 21 Jump Street was Fox network’s first big hit, and the 2012 movie starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, directed by The LEGO Movie‘s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, followed its success.
The movie and its sequel, 22 Jump Street, were nowhere as in-depth as the series, but the hilarity came from the shock that high school wasn’t the same as in the ’80s: What was once cool is now lame, and being different is what makes you cool. The premise remains, but the movie took the trope to a whole new level with self-aware comedy. We wish Johnny Depp had made a cameo in the Tatum/Hill version, but the Richard Grieco and Dustin Nguyen cameos in the 2014 film were just as satisfying.
The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)
In The Brady Bunch (1969-74), The Brady family set the style for family sitcoms that carried on through favorites such as Full House, Family Matters, etc. During its initial run, the show’s ratings weren’t what the producers hoped they would be, but the show was successfully syndicated for decades after it first aired.
Two families coming together under one roof serves as a humble but predictable sitcom premise filled with valuable lessons, but makes for an even better spinoff big-screen parody, as seen in 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie. The Bradys, still rocking their ’70s lifestyle, mechanisms and morals, are thrown into 1995 where, simply put, things are different. Besides the obvious culture clashes, everything you loved about the Bradys is hyped up in this fun-for-all comedy, including Jan’s insane jealousy of her perfect sister Marcia (cue “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”). A follow-up film, A Very Brady Sequel, was released in 1996, with more mixed results.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
The iconic Simpsons — that lovable, crude and never-aging TV family from Springfield — have currently starred in 618 episodes of their Fox show since 1989, making it the longest-running American scripted half-hour primetime television series. Fans might have thought that creating a 90-minute movie after releasing so many episodes would be easy for the show’s producers. However, the script was rewritten over a hundred times, and hours of footage were cut from the final release.
Despite the movie’s struggles, The Simpsons Movie did not disappoint (for most people; Empire disagreed). Full of cultural references fans would expect from the TV series and cameos from Tom Hanks and Green Day, the movie made over $74 million in its opening weekend, setting the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend for a non-CG animated film and for a film based on a television series. For the satirical humor you love in the show, but also a dive into Homer’s inner thoughts and motivations, you’ll appreciate this movie, which features classic moments of its own, including Homer’s instantly memorable “Spider-Pig” (performed in the video below).
Blue Mountain State: Rise of Thadland (2016)
Blue Mountain State (2010-11) was popular among men 18-24, as you would expect from a Spike comedy about a college football team and their alcohol-related/sexual ventures. Reminiscent of that American Pie style of comedy, fans would love to hate-watch BMS, and were devastated when the show was not renewed for a fourth season.
A kickstarter for a BMS movie started in 2014 and reached its goal of $1.5 million in less than a month. Unfortunately, the resulting film, BMS: Rise of Thadland, was not what fans asked for. Absent of any football and BMS school spirit, the movie shifted focus from sometimes-clever and self-aware frat-boy humor to absolute debauchery in a ridiculous party scene revolving around Thad (Alan Ritchson). Thad is a great character, but fans can only handle him in small doses. Where the show had a few redeeming qualities, the movie seemed to have left those qualities on the field with the football as well.
Although Baywatch the TV show was initially canceled after only one season on NBC in 1989-90, the “hot lifeguard” trope and slow-motion-running-on-the-beach bit is known among audiences of all ages. The series became one of the most shows watched on television around the world when it was picked up to air in syndication—where it ran from 1991-2001—and it remains iconic in pop culture.
A movie based on the Baywatch premise, and featuring attractive and personable cast members including Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Priyanka Chopra, should have been the perfect equation for a seamless and hilarious beach film. Unfortunately, the movie failed to capture the sort of campy and cognizant humor fans expected in TV show spinoff (like 21 Jump Street, as discussed above). Instead, the film had poor character development and relied on action-induced drama more than comedy. The 2017 movie lifeguard characters constantly fell flat, and Chopra was sadly not a believable villain in this world. Even a David Hasselhoff appearance couldn’t save this tragedy of a film. If you’re looking for a better Baywatch movie, catch these two minutes of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie where Hasselhoff slow-mo runs on the beach to be a human speedboat for Spongebob and Patrick.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! made its debut as a franchise on CBS in 1969 and continues in various forms to this day. Whether you grew up watching it or saw your kids tuning in on Saturday mornings, Scooby-Doo became a household name and dominated through DVD releases, TV movies, video games, LEGO sets and even stage plays.
But every franchise has regrets, and the live-action Scooby-Doo and its forsaken 2004 sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed are this one’s low points. The movie is overflowing with childish toilet humor, completely unlike the nostalgic amusement from the cartoon. The plot itself is absurd and features (spoiler alert) Scooby’s nephew Scrappy, the most hated dog in all of Hollywood. Even Freddie Prinze Jr.’s charm as Fred, and Rowan Atkinson’s humor, couldn’t save this monstrosity of a film.
If you were to watch the movie for any reason, it should be for Matthew Lillard’s on-the-nose depiction of Shaggy, but other than that, don’t bother to pull out your DVD player for this. Hollywood would have gotten away with making more of these, too—if it weren’t for those meddling kids opting to not want to go see them.
How about you? What are your favorite—and not-so-favorite—TV shows that have been adapted for the big screen? Let us know in the comments section below!