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Now streaming: 5 great TV series that were movies first
Derek Phillips in Friday Night Lights (2006) - photo by Angela Treasure
TVLAND The graveyard of network and cable television alike is littered with the carcasses of failed ideas. Superhero concepts, secret agent shows and sitcoms about that manboy millennial moving back in with mom and dad seem to show up and fall off as quickly as they come.

Just as Marvel subplots and teen-angst driven fare have been popular on TV in the past, so have rewrites of popular films. While Foxs Minority Report, an adaptation of Spielbergs sci-fi thriller, is getting critically panned, the formula of the big screen to the small has worked before to great effect.

Here are five such series that have proved that the cart can come before the horse.

'Friday Night Lights'

This series, which bafflingly never seemed to find a strong viewership during its five-season run on NBC, has to be up there in the conversation of great Americana television. Debuting in 2006, it launched two years after the film of the same name starring Billy Bob Thornton and featuring Tim McGraw as an angry drunk football dad. The movie was critically acclaimed and opened a window for a TV show shortly thereafter.

Friday Night Lights the series is at its best when tackling love, heartbreak and ambition all rooted in the high school football-obsessed fictional town of Dillon, Texas. For that reason, we forgive the misguided efforts of the shows second season that meandered through story lines involving meth-dealing ferret owners and resident scumbag booster Buddy Garrity taking in a juvenile delinquent and turning him into a football star (who then mysteriously disappeared from the show altogether). FNL was great at tugging the heartstrings and famously portrayed the most realistic on-screen marriage: Coach and Tami Taylor. Do yourself a favor and watch or rewatch a few episodes (or seasons) this fall.

Clear eyes, full hearts, yall.

Where to watch: All five seasons are streaming on Netflix.

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

Before Sarah Michelle Gellar took up the mantle of The Chosen One in 1997, Joss Whedon tested the feature waters with a super campy iteration of the iconic role. Whedon made the original Buffy in 92 with the likes of Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry, although he said the movie was reshaped by the studio so much that it did not honor his original vision, which was much darker.

Enter Gellar and company in what is considered the premier female protagonist-driven fantasy saga of the 20th century. OK, that is a lot of qualifiers, but Buffy did cement Whedon as a storytelling genius and eventually led to him being handed the keys of the Avengers franchise.

Buffy enjoyed a seven-season long run due to great writing, a special dynamic between a beloved cast and relationship archetypes that still make the hearts of 90s girls everywhere go pitter-patter (Angel, forever). Though Whedon has since racked up an impressive resume, its safe to say a big piece of his legacy will be as the man who created the realm of Sunnydale, and were thankful for that.

Where to watch: All seven seasons are streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime video and Hulu.


Some fans of the 2010 family drama Parenthood may not realize the series about the Braverman clan is actually based on a the 1989 movie Parenthood profiling the Buckmans, the patriarch portrayed by Steve Martin. Executive producer Jason Katims, also responsible for adapting Friday Night Lights for TV, spearheaded the revamping of the box-office hit once he got permission from director Ron Howard.

The Bravermans plight is more drama than comedy than its predecessor, following Zeek and Camille Braverman, their four children and their families. The show allows flawed characters to work through impossible situations, whether its complicated parent-child dynamics, problematical romances or anything else in between.

Surviving for six seasons, Parenthood enjoyed critical acclaim as well as claiming audiences favor. It was regularly praised for its treatment of Aspergers syndrome, a condition examined in both in young Max Braverman and middle-aged adult Hank Rizzoli (played by Ray Romano).

Fans of the show will decry the programs lack of awards, going six seasons with the academy only coughing up one Emmy nomination, which may not seem so bad until you remember Two and a Half Men has 47.

Fun fact: Almost every episode of Parenthood features someone making waffles or pancakes. Strange, yet true.

Where to watch: All six seasons are streaming on Netflix.


Nearly 30 years after Coen brothers made this small North Dakota town infamous, FX reimagined its frozen landscape with a similar tone to great success. Taking over for William H. Macy as the mild-mannered yet poorly intentioned protagonist Jerry Lundegaard is Martin Freeman whose Lester Nygaard experiences many of the same gruesome pitfalls.

Everything that is great about the dark comedic film is resurrected for the series, from the very, very pregnant police officer on the case (skillfully played by Frances McDormand and Allison Tolman in respective renditions) to the chilling cinematography and effective injection of local color. Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as hitman Malvo just as Steve Buscemi was memorable in his iconic role as inept lackey Carl Showalter. The TV series is brutal and funny, and all of the things youd hope for as a fan of the original film, all while carving out its own space in the upper-echelon of television strata.

Adhering to a recently popular format, Season 2 of Fargo will occupy the same theoretical universe but will be populated with a whole new cast and plot line. The sophomore season is already getting rave reviews, premiered Monday night on FX.

Where to watch: The 10-episode first season can be viewed on Hulu.


Can you hear that? Just covering the sound of buffeting chopper blades, your brain should have played the uber-famous theme music to M*A*S*H as soon as you read the series title. But did you know that M*A*S*H was a movie before it began its 11-year run on CBS?

Before Alan Alda became an American television icon, Hawkeye Pierce was originated by Donald Sutherland in 1970, two years before Alda. Perhaps more than any of the other movie to TV adaptation, the original plot and overall intention remained the most intact.

The genius of M*A*S*H is that it takes place in such a somber and heartbreaking world a field hospital during the Korean War. What both iterations of M*A*S*H were so successful at doing was bringing humor to an entirely unfunny situation, and doing it well as evidenced by the movies success and the TV shows lengthy run. There can be no conversation about great American television without the mention of M*A*S*H. In fact, the nation was so broken up about the series ending that the series finale racked up an unprecedented 125 million views in 1983. We certainly salute the fact that the movie was brought to the small screen and into the homes of American homes everywhere.

Where to watch: All 11 seasons are streaming on Netflix.