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Many TV shows have been developed from movies. After all, the leap to the small screen can offer an opportunity to continue to cash in on big screen success. However, it can also keep a beloved project alive for its fans, even when the original cast, writers or producers aren’t all involved. TV has given new life to projects that were flops on their cinematic release. Some stories even take to its longer format so well, it becomes impossible to imagine they had ever been anything else.
Das Boot and What We Did in the Shadows are the latest films to be adapted for TV screens. But, there are so many others that have already made the move including Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Tangled, Lethal Weapon, Fargo, Dear White People and more. Here are five TV shows superior to their film sources worth seeking out.
M*A*S*H (1972 – 1983)
The misadventures of doctors and nurses at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War continues to have an enduring appeal for TV viewers. Inspired by Robert Altman’s anti-war satire of the same name, the sitcom premiered in 1972 with a cast including Alan Alda, Mike Farrell and Loretta Swit. Audiences would keep M*A*S*H on air for 11 seasons; more than twice as long as the war it was set during. Laughter might not be the best medicine, but here it was used to tell a deeply political story about the cost of war.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 – 2003)
You knew this would be on the list. The 1992 movie might have been a flop yet The Avengers’ Joss Whedon revived the vampire slayer on the small screen with help from writers including Marti Noxon (Sharp Objects) and Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica). Buffy and her friends fought evil in Sunnydale while coping with the pressures of high school. It wasn’t perfect, and parts of the series have aged poorly. Still, there’s a strong argument that Buffy’s storytelling and snappy dialogue has been a major influence and helped to move genre TV into the mainstream.
Stargate (1997 – 2007)
The premise of Stargate, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, didn’t sound like it could be the foundation for a TV franchise. What if the gods of Ancient Egypt were really aliens who came to Earth using a giant space portal? Stargate SG-1 premiered in 1997 as an adventure of the week format with enough self-awareness of its own ridiculousness to make itself enjoyable. Over 10 seasons, it then demonstrated how a long-running TV show can reboot itself without losing its core appeal. Oh, and it also gave us MacGyver’s Richard Dean Anderson’s second most iconic TV role.
12 Monkeys (2015 – 2018)
There was surprise when this reboot of Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi epic and its source, the short La Jetee, was announced in 2014. What more was there to say about a convict being sent back in time to stop a deadly pandemic from wiping out most of humanity? Quite a lot, it turned out. 12 Monkeys is a brilliantly paced show that took its premise in unexpected directions. It’s a shame that its four seasons never found a wider audience.
The Young Offenders (2018 – )
Conor and Jock are two teenagers from Cork in this coming-of-age sitcom based on the 2016 Irish film. The best friends are awkward wannabe rogues whose plans never quite work out as they’d hope. A second series is due later this year on BBC Three and it’s likely that little will ever change for the boys as they attempt to navigate the challenges of their teenage years in this endearing comedy.