With the Entourage film out and performing pretty terribly at the box office and in the critic's column, I thought I'd take a look at the route some television shows have taken to the big screen. As results will show, it hasn't always been a good idea. There have been, surprisingly, a lot of big time shows that transitioned to the silver screen, but said transition wasn't always a smooth one.
Below are eight television shows that aren't named Star Trek that tried their hand at a larger audience (not to mention a larger screen).
*for the purposes of this list, I am only including TV Shows that had movies directly related to their continuity and came during or, mostly, after their run on television. So no remakes or reboots (Charlie's Angels, The A-Team, etc).
+I should also add that this is not a comprehensive, historical examination. I just looked at the various ways TV has come to the big screen and the myriad results. There never has been a 'formula' to television success on the big screen and these select looks show that.
The TV Series: Batman (1966-1968)
The Film(s): Batman: The Movie (1966)
In 1966, Batman was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Best Comedy Series and an acting nom for Frank Gorshin as The Riddler. Goofy and campy, sure, but high honors indeed for the show. Critically, everyone, in hindsight, seems to know it is a product of its time and obsolete but sees it, in general, as a classic.
Premiering after the first season aired, Batman: The Movie won a Golden Gryphon Award at the 1972 Giffoni Film Festival in Giffoni, Italy according to IMDB. The movie came out in 1966 so not sure how it won but ... it won. So there's that.
Technically the film was an immense success commercially, seeing as the box office was $3 million on a $1.3 million budget with an additional $1.7 million coming in from rentals (once again, per IMDB).
But all joking aside, the film has 30 reviews logged on Rotten Tomatoes and scores an amazing 80% fresh rating. People like it.
Analysis: If you turned on Batman: The Movie in a vacuum, it would just look like the TV Show. And that isn't a bad thing. The producers did all the right things and utilized the budget by adding location shooting, putting all the super villains together and adding new vehicles and such.
Story wise and production wise (outside of location shooting), the film looks identical to the TV Show. Most importantly, it carries the feel of the TV Show and, though that age of TV and storytelling is long past, that must be considered a good thing.
It remains one of the godfathers of this niche market of TV Shows-becoming-movies and is one of the first, if not the first, to do it.
Related Examples: The X-Files (see below), Mystery Science Theater 3000
The TV Series: The X-Files (1993-2002)
The Film(s): The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
How'd They Do?: The television show lasted for nine seasons and cranked out 201 episodes. Some felt it went four or five seasons too long and there was some cast changes (okay, just Duchovny) that seemed to doom the show for the general public (count me as one who loved it until the end).
The X-Files was kind of a rarity in that it was a genre heavy show specializing in sci-fi and horror that not only the public loved, but the critics as well. The X-Files was nominated for 12 Golden Globes and 62 Emmys and we aren't talking strictly technical awards that most genre shows get nominated for (though the X-Files did do well in those categories too).
In the Emmy field, the show was nominated for Best Dramatic Series three times (never winning) and boasted nominations for writing and acting in all major categories (actress, actor, guest actor, etc.) with even some wins (Gillian Anderson won one out of four times as lead actress in a drama series).
It is considered a seminal program of both the 1990s and of television in general (at least in its prime years of 1993-1999).
The films are an entirely different and kind of bizarre story. For one, two movies got made at completely different ends of the show's place in the cultural zeitgeist. The first film, The X-Files: Fight the Future, was made in-between the show's fifth and sixth seasons and released in 1998, arguably at the height of the show's popularity.
By the time the second film came out, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, in 2008, no one really gave a shit about the show anymore (except me and a few other dudes). Add to that, it came out six years after the show limped to a finish on the small screen.
Analysis: Fight the Future made $189 million worldwide on a budget of $66 million, so it was a success commercially though critics weren't overly plentiful with praise. The show runners had a difficult task on many levels. For one, like Batman above, the show was going on in the middle of the show's run. The film's plot would contain elements that advance The X-Files mythos after Season 5. That's fine and all, but the movie was greenlit when the show was still filming season 5 (and season 4 was premiering). The X-Files mythology was confusing enough but filming a major motion picture whilst also shooting the fifth season at the same time can be a logical headache.
And, in the end Fight the Future is kind of a headache. You've had to watch the show to understand all of it but it does seem like some details are missing ... almost like they didn't happen ... because the show runners, while writing the film, had failed to write the pieces that come before it on television. A fine piece of filmmaking to look at ... and it does answer some questions, sure ... but the first film almost seemed like a confusing fan's only event.
And if that film's status made you think you had to be a fan to like it, The X-Files: I Want to Believe became a $30 million dollar epilogue to the TV Show (even though, oddly, it ignores much of the continuity it tried so hard, sometimes in spite of itself, to maintain for nine seasons on TV and one feature film in-between. Not to mention many of the elements that made the show popular were also ignored).
I enjoyed it ... but I am a super fan. The film makes no attempts to grab a new audience and acts, like said above, as an epilogue to what came before. And, unlike Fight the Future, X-Files 2 bombed in the US, only making a return on its budget with the worldwide grosses tallied (to be fair, overall it grossed over twice its budget).
So despite keeping the main cast and the core creative teams from the TV Show, the two films do a lot to alienate potential new fans. Also, confusingly, in one case, they too heavily on what came before and, in another case, also completely abandoning what made the show great. Unless you're a fan, the two films don't necessarily add to the television experience and fall well short of the television show's status as legendary.
Related Examples: Twin Peaks
The Film(s): Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie for Theaters (2007)
How'd It Do?: Wanna know what happens when you upgrade a television show barely anyone watches (at least, without drugs) to the big screen? Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie for Theaters.
The film has three things going for it. One is the title. Two is that the film was so cheap to make (seeing as it does nothing with the movie format outside of increasing the running time from 15 minutes to 86 minutes) that even extremely minuscule box office gross numbers, in this case, a gross of $5.5 million, means a huge net profit. Third is this:
But that's about it, really.
Analysis: I watched the shit out of ATHF in college. But I spent a lot of college smoking weed, getting drunk and barely banging girls. That fits the majority of ATHF viewers (nerdy, pothead types who might have a girlfriend and if they do, they put up with his bizarre taste in 'comedy'). So, already, the niche TV show on a niche television network (Cartoon Network) on a niche sub-programming of said niche network (Adult Swim) alienates a large portion of the population.
So, in the end, you make a movie and no one really watches it except ... well, nerdy, pothead types who might have a ... well, you know what I mean. This film may be more memorable for the publicity stunts it pulled. For one, Adult Swim released the yet-to-be-released-in-theaters film on the Cartoon Network itself but on an epically small screen in the right hand corner of any episode playing at that time.
In a more dire situation, everyone thought ATHF's movie promotion of sticking lighted Mooninites in random public places was actually 9/11 part deux:
I can't say much for the film. The show is still on TV and the movie garnered its 15 minute of fame. So as long as there are potheads out there willing to binge watch a show involving a talking milkshake, a ball of meat and an alien from the moon who flips you off, the show and, likely by proxy and not by necessity, the movie, will thrive.
To Be Continued ...