Not to put a damper on all this talk about “The New Golden Age of Television,” but despite the glories of ABC and HBO, it suddenly seems like TV has been seized by the same strain of “prequelitis” that plagues movie studios. Did you want to know how and why Norman Bates mummified his mummy? Here’s “Bates Motel” on A&E, which will spin this serial killer’s origin story for as long as the ratings demand. Did you need additional backstory to Thomas Harris’ “Red Dragon,” which introduced readers to an imprisoned Hannibal Lecter as the FBI’s go-to serial killer expert? You’re in luck, because NBC’s “Hannibal” will spin at least two seasons out of the relationship between Lecter and Special Agent Will Graham.
With news that “Gangs of New York,” “Fargo” and “Zombieland” are racing to serialize, it seems that our small screen will simply be full of stories we’ve already seen on the big one. While this deluge of small screen adaptations is certainly new, we weary cinephiles must remember that television has been gleefully ripping off the movies for decades. Many movies have found themselves repurposed into episodic bites. Sometimes, the result was so popular and successful that it outstripped the movie in pop culture, but more often than not, these television adaptations were hastily canned and buried, never to be discussed again.
Here are the good, the bad and the downright weird attempts to repurpose the silver screen for the television set. (For reasons of space and sanity, we’ve limited the list to live-action adaptations. Also because the cartoon “sequels” of everything from “Back to the Future” to “Men in Black” were pretty darn awesome.)