From movies to television

TV series Minority Report(above), inspired by the Tom Cruise film in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama and Meagan Good.
TV series Minority Report(above), inspired by the Tom Cruise film in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama and Meagan Good.PHOTOS: YOUTUBE, REUTERS, DREAMWORKS STUDIO
TV series Minority Report, inspired by the Tom Cruise film(above) in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama and Meagan Good.
TV series Minority Report, inspired by the Tom Cruise film(above) in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama and Meagan Good.PHOTOS: YOUTUBE, REUTERS, DREAMWORKS STUDIO
TV series Minority Report, inspired by the Tom Cruise film in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama(above,left) and Meagan Good.
TV series Minority Report, inspired by the Tom Cruise film in 2002, stars actors Wilmer Valderrama(above,left) and Meagan Good.PHOTOS: YOUTUBE, REUTERS, DREAMWORKS STUDIO

Films such as Minority Report, Rush Hour and Limitless are the inspiration for new series that will hit the goggle box soon

NEW YORK • Television in recent years has been likened to the new novel.

This coming season, it seems that TV is the old movie.

Beginning next Monday, when Minority Report makes its debut on Fox, TV audiences will be introduced to more than half a dozen shows based on movies, including Limitless, Uncle Buck, Ash Vs. Evil Dead and Rush Hour.

And at least a dozen more shows are in various stages of development at broadcast, cable and streaming networks. Incubating are versions of movies both well-known - Training Day (2001), School Of Rock (2003) and The Notebook (2004) - and others decidedly not - like Animal Kingdom (2010) and Sunshine Cleaning (2008).

The overwhelming number of viewing choices now available is driving this trend, as the entry of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to the already crowded scripted TV business makes it even more difficult to break through.

Last year, there were 371 scripted shows on the various networks and that number is expected to breach 400 this year, according to research from FX Networks.

But the networks will need to navigate a tricky road to critical and commercial success, including convincing fans of the original wondering why it is worth messing with perfection.

"The challenge for creators becomes how do you continue to make the idea original, different and special," said Mr Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer on Limitless who has written and produced for both TV and movies. "If you don't give audiences their own filling meal when they watch the show, then they'll feel they are being sold a prepackaged, cynical endeavour and will reject it."

TV history is studded with shows that have received the feature film treatment (Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, 21 Jump Street). Much less common - and successful - are reverse translations.

In 1983, NBC cast David Soul (of Starsky And Hutch fame) in the Humphrey Bogart role in Casablanca, setting the action about a year before the events of the 1942 movie. The show lasted five episodes.

A tricky calculus awaits those who choose the adaptation path. The show needs to display the DNA of the original, but if it is too slavish an imitation, it will pale by comparison.

The new batch of shows tries to avoid that pitfall mostly by jumping ahead in time and creating new lead characters.

Mr Justin Falvey and Mr Darryl Frank, the co-presidents of Amblin Television, Steven Spielberg's small- screen unit, said they got pitches on rebooting Minority Report (2002) as a series at least once a year.

And each year, they would pass - until Max Borenstein's story- framing conceit persuaded them otherwise. There would be no attempt to recast the Tom Cruise role. Instead, the story would be told through the eyes of a secondary character in the movie - a precog, who can see crimes before they happen - and his relationship with a police detective whom he secretly helps to stop the murders he can predict.

Competing with the memories of the original performances has doomed previous attempts at movie-to-TV translations. ABC's Mr. And Mrs. Smith, in which Martin Henderson and Jordana Brewster were given the impossible task of replacing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, never got past the pilot stage in 2007.

But if the star of the movie in question is willing to play a supporting role (or even star) in the TV offshoot, networks will gladly accept the offers.

Bradley Cooper's Eddie Morra character from the 2011 film Limitless will appear occasionally on CBS' version.

And Bruce Campbell, the protagonist of the original Evil Dead movies, will return in all his idiotic derring-do glory as the lead in Ash Vs. Evil Dead, which begins on Starz on Oct 31.

TV storytelling also makes different demands from movies. TV shows need story arcs and narrative engines that can sustain 100 or more episodes (if the Nielsen gods are smiling).

To solve that conundrum, Limitless (like Minority Report) marries a crime-solving procedural to its characters.

The broadcast networks, in particular, find themselves lightening the tone of the movies they are adapting.

In Limitless the movie, the first thing Cooper's character did upon discovering the effects of the drug was to sleep with his landlord's wife. The show's lead character, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), is more likely to use his newfound powers to save his father.

"You're looking at the concept and saying is it flexible enough to give you a lot of stories over the years?" said Mr Craig Sweeny, the showrunner for Limitless.

"Is it going to be a constant aid rather than something you're fighting with after the 17th episode and feel shackled by?"

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline 'From movies to television'. Print Edition | Subscribe