Putting a new spin(-off) on favourite films

Head to the cinema this weekend and you’ll be able to catch the movie adaptation of 1980s TV show The A-Team, the latest series to make it from the small screen to the silver, albeit taking longer than most to get there.

But what about all those TV series which started out life as films?

Quite what makes a TV spin-off a success depends on your criteria. Should it have the original actors in the same roles as in the film? Does the plot need to stay pretty much identical so as to make the viewer feel at home? Or do the best TV versions do their own thing, only using the film as a jumping off point?

Here in the UK there’s not a huge amount of this sort of thing, but one oddity is 1950’s The Blue Lamp, starring Jack Warner as PC George Dixon and Dirk Bogarde as a young criminal. At the end of the film Dixon was shot dead, only for the character to reappear on BBC TV in 1955’s Dixon of Dock Green: Warner would play the character for a further 21 years.

One of the most successful TV shows to originate as a film is M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 (Robert Altman’s film was released two years earlier) until 1983, its final episode pulling in a staggering 106 million viewers, making it the most watched TV episode in US history.

Joss Whedon’s film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Kristy Swanson as the blonde heroine, could hardly be called a blockbuster, its release in 1992 vanishing without trace. It returned five years later as a retooled TV series and became a global sensation.

The list goes on, with Alien Nation, Terminator, Friday Night Lights, Weird Science, Planet of the Apes,  The Crow, Clueless, Highlander, Stargate and even Tremors receiving the TV remake treatment.

In Edinburgh, fans of Shane Meadows’ 2006 film This is England should look out for a TV version, This is England ’86, later this year on Channel Four. Star Thomas Turgoose returns, along with many of the original cast, and the Filmhouse will be screening episode one on Friday 27 August, meaning you can watch the TV spin-off of a film back on the cinema screen where it all began.

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