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Top 10 TV Shows Based on a Movie

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nick Spake. Going from movies to television used to seem like a downgrade. Now it’s all the rage. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 TV shows based on a movie. For this list, we’re taking a look at TV shows that captured all the best aspects of their film predecessors, while also creating something fresh and innovative for the small screen. Special thanks to our users sarahjessicaparkerth, Sup3rHallmanBr0s, DoctorXander, Ravnbone, AllonsyAlonso10, Alex Johnson, Andrew A. Dennison, StormGames, Chris S W Simons, Joe Downard, sylvabrayden@yahoo.c, CuriousUserX90 and Ideaman25 for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Nick Spake.

Top 10 TV Shows Based on a Movie


Going from movies to television used to seem like a downgrade. Now it’s all the rage. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 TV shows based on a movie.

For this list, we’re taking a look at TV shows that captured all the best aspects of their film predecessors, while also creating something fresh and innovative for the small screen.

#10: “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2008-09)

Although “Terminator 2” had wrapped up virtually every loose end, the Connors’ story was far from over. Following the events of “T2,” “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was the kinda show you had to watch from day-1 if you had any hope of “getting it,” thanks to its complex time-travel-y narrative. While the series was short-lived, it still offered superior ideas and character development than a certain sequel from McG. At the show’s heart was a meaningfully dynamic between Lena Headey’s Sarah, Thomas Dekker’s John, and Summer Glau’s Cameron, reminding us that this franchise is about much more than action.

#9: “La Femme Nikita” (1997-2001)

“La Femme Nikita” took the concept of Luc Besson’s 1990 thriller and tweaked it with one small, yet game changing, alteration. In the film, Nikita is a convicted cop killer who’s recruited by the government to be an assassin after they fake her death. In the show, Nikita is wrongfully accused of murder in a grave misunderstanding and recruited. This makes for a more complicated character ark as Nikita is forced to transform from a helpless homeless woman to an unstoppable weapon, all while trying to hang onto her humanity.

#8: “The Odd Couple” (1970-75)

The cinematic adaptation of Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” was essentially a feature-length sitcom elevated by superb comedic writing and acting. It made sense for the franchise to branch out to TV to produce a show about two divorced men, scruffy Oscar and the neurotic Felix, trying to coexist in the same apartment. But who could replace the unmatched mismatched pair of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau? Fortunately, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were more than up to the task. In the spirit of previous incarnations, this show produced grade-A comedy based on chemistry and situation.

#7: “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (2008-14)

After getting off to a rocky start with the panned 2008 animated feature, “The Clone Wars” saga got on the right track with this TV continuation. Taking place between “Episode II” and “Episode III,” “The Clone Wars” wasn’t without some of the more annoying elements of the prequel trilogy. Hello, Jar Jar Binks! But, like the previous 2D animated series, “The Clone Wars” ultimately proved to be a worthy entry to the “Star Wars” saga with sharp CGI, impressive action, deep philosophies, Yoda kicking ass, and the return of Darth Maul.

#6: “Hannibal” (2013-)

Like all other screen adaptations in the “Hannibal Lecter” franchise, “Hannibal” is based on characters developed by novelist Thomas Harris; but unlike Ridley Scott’s 2001 film “Hannibal,” for example, the show is never grotesque for the sake of being grotesque. While its network home might seem limiting, Bryan Fuller and company inject every shot with a haunting atmosphere coated in dark cinematography. Driving the story is a fascinating relationship between Hugh Dancy’s emotionally unstable Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen, who creates a chilling Hannibal Lector of his own without ever impersonating Anthony Hopkins’ immortal performance.

#5: “Friday Night Lights” (2006-11)

Peter Berg’s film version of the novel “Friday Night Lights” was a solid success, but he completely topped himself with his similarly-themed TV series. Like any true underdog, the show went through a number of tribulations, like low ratings and switching networks. In the end, however, “Friday Night Lights” transcended all expectations with its representation of Middle America, powerful themes concerning what it means to grow up, the impact of community, and the most powerful depiction of a TV marriage in some time. If you assume this is merely a football show, prepare to be blindsided.

#4: “Bates Motel” (2013-)

Ever wonder exactly what the deal was between Norman Bates and his mother? Well, in this series, we get a peek behind the shower curtain in “Bates Motel,” which acts as both a prequel and modern day reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Freddie Highmore is pitch perfect as Norman, who’s harboring a dark passenger under his mild-mannered exterior. Vera Farmiga is equally outstanding as Norma Bates, a mom who loves her son a little too much. Their scenes together are often uncomfortable and unsettling, but the show is just too addictive to resist.

#3: “M*A*S*H” (1972-83)

The “M*A*S*H” franchise faced a challenge when it transitioned from the big to small screen, as it was building on an Oscar-winning picture. It didn’t help that almost none of the film’s original cast was returning. Needless to say, most TV adaptations like this are DOA. “M*A*S*H,” on the other hand, prospered for 11 hugely successful seasons, arguably surpassing the quality of its source material. Like the movie and the novel on which they were both based, “M*A*S*H” recognized that even in the darkest of times, humor, love, and joy can still be found.

#2: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)

If you weren’t a fan of where Roland Emmerich’s original “Stargate” movie took you, good news! The follow-up series opened up the universe with a variety of new worlds that were jam-packed full of fun characters. Although it came out around the same time as other pioneering sci-fi dramas, this first of several shows in the “Stargate” franchise still stood out thanks to its memorable settings, inventive scenarios, a strong sense of mystery, and even stronger sense of awe. Just try to overlook that whole “aliens built the pyramids” thing.

Before we change the channel to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Fargo” (2014-)
- “Parenthood” (2010-)
- “Teen Wolf” (2011-)
- “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (2013-)
- “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (1992-93)

#1: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)

1992’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was not a critical or financial hit. However writer Joss Whedon saw the errors in his film and reinvented the premise for television with a multi-layered leading heroine, too many unforgettable supporting characters to count, and an assortment of imaginative storylines. You wouldn’t expect a TV adaptation of a movie about a vampire slayer to be anything special. But at its best, “Buffy” was the most creative, emotional, and epic show ever put on television, making us forget the lesser movie ever even existed.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite movie-turned-TV show? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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