Popular films lead to new TV shows

Posted May 1, 2014


Film to TV adaptations are nothing new to the television industry. One of the most successful examples of this transition from film to television is “M*A*S*H” which enjoyed a long run from 1972-83 and a huge fan following. “Friday Night Lights” was another smash hit, which ran from 2006-11. Others haven’t been as successful, including adaptations of “Ferris Bueller” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” which died off quickly after failing to pick up momentum.

pic of scene from pilot of "About a Boy"

A scene from pilot of “About a Boy.”

This spring, several film to TV adaptations have hit the smaller screens, including “About A Boy,” “Fargo,” and “Bad Teacher.”

One of the biggest struggles in moving from film to TV is getting the audience to forget the original actors who played the characters they fell in love with in the film. Most of the time the actors from the film are replaced and the very characters are altered as well.

Another challenge is making a long time project out of a film that was intended to occupy your attention for two hours, which is perhaps why projects like “Clueless” failed to really take off although it lasted for three seasons. When major characters are replaced and plot lines are severely altered, it fails to be a true adaptation and ultimately disappoints fans who were drawn to the show because they enjoyed the film so much.

Making a hit out of an adaptation seems to be about as likely as getting the stars to align. Similarly, the transition from TV to film, can be a slippery slope. Films such as “Sex and the City” and “Charlie’s Angels” only enjoyed mild success, not nearly reaching that of their original TV series. “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek” however, were successful enough to have multiple versions.

“About a Boy,” hits the mark as an enjoyable and funny adaptation of the hit film. While the actors from the film are nowhere to be seen in the series, the main idea of the film is alive and well and the actors are likable enough for you to forget the film’s cast altogether.

Hugh Grant has been replaced by David Walton (“New Girl”) in the role of Will Freeman, the successful playboy bachelor who’s living off the royalties earned off a hit song written long ago. Single, unemployed and popular with the ladies, the friendship that develops between himself and 11-year-old Marcus Bowa (Benjamin Stockham) is endearing and humorous.
Marcus is a young wallflower, raised by his mom Fiona Bowa (Minnie Driver) a single-mother, vegan and difficult neighbor who abhors Will and his scandalous love life. Andy (Al Madrigal) plays the best friend of Will, a happily married man with three kids of his own who’s sentimental lines like “Raising a child is the greatest honor that a person can have” end up as Will’s pick-up lines.

David Walton, Minnie Driver and Benjamin Stockham have great chemistry and, although Driver’s character Fiona clearly tries to hate Will, by the end of the pilot episode we can see that she starts to warm up to him solely based on the friendship he has with her son. Marcus is in need of a father figure/friend and Will fits the bill, knowing just how to step in and save the day, avoiding him from beatings from bullies and embarrassing himself in front of the entire school at the talent show (a scene taken from the film).

Scene from the pilot episode of "Bad Teacher/"

Scene from the pilot episode of “Bad Teacher/”

“Bad Teacher,” like “About a Boy,” asks viewers to forget all about the original cast. Although the film only debuted a few years ago back in 2011, as opposed to “About a Boy,” which was released in 2002, none of the original actors are included in this show.

Cameron Diaz, who is a producer of the show, has been replaced by another blonde actress, Ari Graynor filling the lead role of Meredith Davis, the ex-trophy wife who has recently been divorced and seeks employment at a well-to-do middle school where she seeks to find another rich man to marry.

Better known cast mates, Kristen Davis (“Sex and the City”) and Sarah Gilbert (“Roseanne,” “The Big Bang Theory”) play fellow teachers. Davis is the strict, overachieving teacher while Gilbert takes on the role of the socially awkward teacher who is desperate to make friends. Ryan Hansen (“Veronica Mars”) plays the gym teacher who is on to Meredith’s flaws and can see right through her act of portraying the perfect teacher a job for which she’s incredibly under-qualified. David Alan Grier is the principal of the middle school who’s easily manipulated by Meredith and is grieving from his own recent divorce.

Like the others, “Fargo” has a cast of entirely new actors, none of which starred in the 1996 film. Being the film is as old as it is, it’s understandable that the actors aren’t the same, although Francis McDormand would have been a great addition to the cast.

“Fargo” is chilling and incredibly well acted. Stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Kate Walsh make an appearance in the pilot. Thornton’s character, Lorne Malvo, is a drifter who comes crashing into town, causing havoc wherever he goes. People start dropping like flies as murder ensues in this chilling and frighteningly well portrayed pilot.

A scene from pilot episode of "Fargo."

A scene from pilot episode of “Fargo.”

Early on in the pilot Lorne befriends Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). The cast’s performances make it easy to forget who these well-known actors and actresses are and get immersed in the story.

With a talented cast and great writing that’ll amuse and keep viewers laughing, “About a Boy” is sure to be a big hit with critics and fans alike and will hopefully run for a long time to come as each week we tune in to find out what kind of trouble Will is getting himself into and how young Marcus is overcoming the sheltered upbringing he’s had so far from his overprotective mother who encourages dressing like a 5-year-old in brightly colored sweaters and participating in acoustic guitar sing-alongs with her to annoying pop songs made popular by boy bands.

While the pilot does poke some fun at Driver’s character for being a vegan, including a scene where Will is invited for dinner and dines on vegan ribs which he describes as “edible” when searching hard for a compliment, and depicts her as crazy for forbidding him from cooking meat outside on his grill when she’s out in the yard, we can forgive the good natured pokes, given the laughs they provide.

“Fargo” is sure to be another hit, chilling and scarily believable, this drama is attention grabbing and hauntingly well told. Great writing and wonderful acting combine to make this adaptation a success which celebrates the original work of the film while standing on its own. With the ability to draw viewers into the stories and having something new to see each week, the show could very well turn out to be more popular than the film.

In the pilot episode, we meet Lorne, the mysterious drifter with a dark view of the world and a thirst for violence and chaos. He finds a way to touch the lives of the strangers he meets by encouraging them to act in violent ways they may have never considered without his influence. When he runs into Lester at the local hospital, he and Lester start a conversation as two acquaintances which soon takes a darker and dangerous turn as Lorne tells Lester that he’d kill anyone who treated him as badly as the bully who he went to high school with, is still treating him today. This puts into effect a chain of events that leads Lester down a spiral as things quickly spin out of control, not only effecting him but others around him.

“Bad Teacher” provides big laughs and is arguably better than the film it was inspired by. With great comedic acting, a well put together cast and hilarious writing, it’s sure to be a fan-favorite in no time. Ari’s Meredith is more likeable than Cameron Diaz’s Elizabeth, who was constantly smoking pot and saving up to get a boob job from money earned by student fundraisers. Meredith while also seeking a rich husband and having less than pure motives for her teaching job is perhaps more likable because she’s slightly more relatable as a desperate women who’s suddenly found herself single and unemployed and manages to be entertaining even when she’s being manipulative and for lack of better word very blonde.

After finding out that she’s left with nothing due to her ex-husband’s well written pre-nup, Meredith (Ari Graynor) finds herself with no money, no assets and no future. When dropping off young Lilly, (Sara Rodier) the step-daughter of a close friend she gets the idea to pose as a teacher in order to find herself a new sugar-daddy. Lilly’s school drop off happens to be a hot spot of good-looking, wealthy, divorced dads. After making herself a fake resume, she charms the school principal Carl Gaines (David Alan Grier) and snags herself a job.

Fun and hilarity ensue as Meredith interacts with her new fellow faculty members Joel (Ryan Hansen) the cute gym teacher, Irene (Sarah Gilbert) the awkward and nerdy teacher who hopes to be Meredith’s new best friend and Ginny (Kristen Davis) the uptight perfectionist faculty president who sees Meredith as her rival.

All three shows benefit from great directing with directors such as Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Elf”) who’s better known for his acting but has become a respected director and screenwriting as well directing the pilot of “About a Boy.” Directing “Fargo” is Adam Bernstein (“Breaking Bad,” “House of Lies,” “Weeds”) who’s directed episodes of some very successful dramas. Bad Teacher’s pilot episode is directed by Don Scardino who’s known best for his work on the hit comedy “30 Rock.”

The combinations of great acting, attention grabbing writing and excellent directing make these three new spring shows must sees for TV fans out there. While adaptations from film to TV aren’t always a great idea, these three hit the mark in proving why it can work.

“About a Boy”

  • Network: NBC
  • Actors: David Walton, Minnie Driver, Benjamin Stockham, Al Madrigal
  • Director: Jon Favreau (pilot)
  • Executive Producers: Jason Katims, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Liza Chasin, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, Jon Favreau (pilot)
  • Time: Tuesdays 9/8c

“Bad Teacher”

  • Network: CBS
  • Actors: Ari Graynor, David Alan Grier, Kristen Davis, Sarah Gilbert, Ryan Hansen
  • Directors: Adam Davidson, Bryan Gordon, Peter Lauer, Victor Nelli Jr., Fred Savage, Matt Sohn
  • Executive Producers: Brian George, Robia Rashid, Michael Pendell, Hilary Winston, Lee Eisenberg, Sam Hansen, Jimmy Miller, Gene Stupnitsky
  • Time: Thursdays 9:30/8:30c


  • Network: FX
  • Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Kate Walsh
  • Director: Adam Bernstein
  • Executive Producers: Noah Hawley, Warren Littlefield, Ethan and Joel Coen, Geyer Kosinski, Adam Bernstein
  • Time: Tuesdays 10/9c