Movies based on TV shows - is it ever a good idea?

Our writers debate whether films based on TV shows are creatively worth pursuing.

multiple writers
18th April 2020
Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness took the world by storm. Now Hollywood is seeking to capitalize on that popularity, which made us think: are TV shows turned to movies ever a good idea?

I believe that TV shows turning into films can be a great addition to the shows

I believe that TV shows turning into films can be a great addition to the shows if done correctly, as well as advance on the source material without being constricted by a half an hour time slot.

The best example of this is, in my opinion, David Brent: Life on the Road (2016). The Office had become a massive hit overseas, with the American counterpart being so widely successful people often forgot it was based off of Ricky Gervais’s original UK sitcom. In fact now when discussing The Office, people will assume you mean the US version unless you clarify despite the fact the UK Office came first! By creating this movie years later Gervais managed to re-establish his connection to his original creation as well as reviving the show without having to create a new series. It also meant it was possible to focus on only the character of David Brent and became a character study film which gave us development we hadn’t been shown on the TV show. There is also the addition of music which can be listened to without having seen the film and still be enjoyed.

This also worked for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), which managed to lend it’s format smoothly into a musical with a clear 3 act structure without having to be broken up into 3 half an hour episodes which the show has also done, and suffer from having to create cliff hangers as well as having to add filler and alter the pacing to make it fit into this format. The movie wasn’t a character study like the David Brent film, but managed to convey a bigger story than what is usually shown on the show. The plot is far more developed and no aspects are rushed or extended to make the film a certain length.

What these films do is add to the source material for existing fans of the shows to enjoy as well as not creating contradictions or being necessary to watch to understand the original show. They allow the writers creative freedom to expand on the show and to be enjoyed by fans who want to see more of what they already love.

Tilly Williams

This might be my most controversial bit yet but… please stop making TV shows into films

This might be my most controversial bit yet but… please stop making TV shows into films. Hear me out here, because seven year-old me would also be confused given how many times I remember watching 2007's The Simpsons Movie (I think I averaged about eleven).

TV and film are two completely different formats; merging them is risky business. In a television show, there’s a good few hours (roughly twice or three times the length of a normal film), to develop the characters and expand the storyline. In film – good films at least – we should be thrown in at the deep end, as 90-120 minutes isn’t much room for loads of exposition. And it’s not like this transition can be an easy process – nevermind dealing with studios and production companies, what about the actors contracts? If they were to announce a Fleabag film tomorrow, I’d be expecting Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the helm. But with the industry being the somewhat chaotic mess of contractual rights – what if she couldn’t be? Would it change our perception of just how amazing the TV series was?

For all the bad adaptations, there are a few good films; (some of) the Mission: Impossible film franchise, the Monty Python films, or Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). But we've had to get through so much nonsense to get to the good stuff. Even the brilliant critic Mark Kermode had absolutely no idea where, or what, My Little Pony: the movie (2017) was doing on the big screen. Although studios obviously rely on success – and making a film from a pre-existing TV show means they’ve already got an audience for it – there are so many stories that haven’t been told yet, or smaller but brilliant projects in development that studios should take a risk on instead of another Alvin and the Chipmunks film. Some of these just have to be sheer cash-grabs, otherwise I'll need someone to explain to me just how we got four Futurama films.

Leave TV shows just how they are; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Harriet Metcalfe

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