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What happens when TV and movies cross paths

Erin McGinn | Thursday, October 12, 2006

Remakes and crossovers between television shows and movies, much like nights at The Linebacker, do not typically end well. Atrocities on the silver screen, like “Lost in Space” (1998) and “Scooby-Doo” (2002), or on the small screen, like “Ferris Bueller” (1990), leave a bad taste and a desire to never view another crossover again.

Where did this desire to mix media begin? Arguably, the trend gained ground with the Star Trek franchise. With six different television series and ten feature films, the franchise has been jumping media since it first began in the 1960s – and with mixed results. “The Next Generation” (1987-94) was incredibly popular during its seven-year run, whereas “Enterprise” ratings declined rapidly during its four-year tenure. Likewise, the movies have had some success, like “The Wrath of Khan” (1982), while others were deemed failures – “The Final Frontier” (1989).

As much of the Star Trek world demonstrates, the crossovers between movies and television do not always end badly – and sometimes they even improve upon the original source material. Several television shows have had movie extensions that have met with box-office success, including “Beavis and Butthead Do America” and “The X-Files.” However, because of the stigma attached to crossovers, many movie-to-television gems fall through the cracks.

The short-lived “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” was a critical win and is soon to be released on DVD. And even though it only lasted for two episodes on the air, “Clerks – The Animated Series” has had great DVD sales and is highly popular amongst Kevin Smith fans.

Fortunately, some of the excellent television shows developed from movies are granted the success and recognition that they deserve. The well-received 1994 movie “Stargate” led to the creation of “Stargate SG-1,” which saw a very successful 10-season run. Although differing from the film on minor counts, the series picks up where the film ended with the team exploring other worlds through the stargate. A second television series, “Stargate: Atlantis,” is currently entering its third season on the Sci-Fi channel.

It’s even possible for a terrific television show to develop from unsuccessful source material. In 1992, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” hit the big screen and was moderately successful as a horror movie parody.

Creator Joss Whedon, who wasn’t granted the control he desired over the feature film, came back in 1997 with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the television series that aired on the WB and UPN for seven highly successful and critically acclaimed seasons. Much improved from the movie version, “Buffy” combined multiple genres in a serialized format that drew positive criticism from audiences, reviewers and even academics.

The show follows the adventures in adolescence of Buffy and her friends, with the supernatural elements adding emphasis to the teen angst and anguish, which is at the core of the series. The series followed Buffy through high school, college and the early years of adulthood. The success of “Buffy” led to the spin-off show “Angel,” which aired on the WB for five seasons.

Whedon, having worked in both film and television, decided to cross back into movies after his show “Firefly” was dropped by FOX and came back with the movie “Serenity” as a continuation of the series. Although it met with great reviews, “Firefly” was cancelled – only to be resurrected in movie form due to its astonishing DVD sales.

A trend not soon to be abandoned, this past summer saw the film “Miami Vice” meeting with mixed success. Currently showing on NBC is the television series “Friday Night Lights,” which is based on the 2004 movie and receiving promising reviews.

The mixed success of these crossovers is what’s leaving fans of “The Simpsons” and “24” feeling skeptical, as “The Simpsons” movie opens in theatres next summer and the “24” movie enters production.

Hopefully these films will be the next “South Park” – not the next “Wild Wild West.”