Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How movie magic turns to the TV


Instep gives the verdict on the journey of three Hollywood films from the big screen to the small

Instep gives the verdict on the journey of three Hollywood films from the big screen to the small - See more at:
As soon as a film does well at the box office, the Hollywood machine goes into fifth gear to churn out a sequel and capitalize on its popularity. But there is a more interesting concept that has sometimes been employed to tap into a film’s success: bringing movies from the big to the small screen by turning them into weekly television series. If it’s done right, it adds a companion piece to the franchise and not only attracts the viewers who enjoyed the original flick but also helps expand its appeal. Yet, there is always the chance that the series will be weighted down by comparisons to its silver screen counterpart and wilt in the shadow of the film that preceded it. So it’s no surprise that some of the latest projects that have made the jump from cinema to television have varying potential. Here’s a look:

Fargo (FX)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, and Martin Freeman
Based on: The Coen brothers’ film, don’tcha know? The unforgettable 1996 dark comedy follows the story of a car salesman (William H. Macy) who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife so that he can collect the ransom money from her father, and the police officer (Frances McDormand) who investigates the homicides that result. The film received acclaim from critics upon its release and won a number of awards. Nearly two decades later, the premise is being brought to the small screen for a ten episode mini-series (which is likely to become an anthology, à la True Detective) spearheaded by Noah Hawley (who previously worked on Bones). The episodes begin with the familiar “this is a true story” title card, while everything that follows remains just as fictional.
Promising? You betcha! Despite the fact that the white male anti-hero has lost its novelty and is becoming an overused motif at this point.
The Breaking Bad comparisons are inevitable, even more so because of Bob Odenkirk’s recurring guest spot, but Fargo is odder and more sinister with deadpan comedic touches, and the two series are very different in tone. And so far it hasn’t really given us any reasons to root for most of its characters who are by and large nasty and have no redeeming qualities.
The TV series follows the misadventures of an insurance salesman (Martin Freeman) who becomes embroiled in crimes after a drifter (Billy Bob Thornton) arrives in town, while persistent police deputy (Allison Tolman) tries to pin down the culprits. The cast is excellent and the acting is solid across the board, plus there are guest appearances by the likes of Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, and Oliver Platt. The Coens are serving as executive producers of the endeavor, and the series borrows the film’s atmosphere, ambience, affectations, and of course the accents!

About a Boy (NBC)
Starring: David Walton, Benjamin Stockham, Al Madrigal, and Minnie Driver
Based on: The Weitz brothers’ film, which was in turn based on the Nick Hornby novel. The story of an immature man with an empty life (Hugh Grant) whose interaction with a lonely young boy (Nicholas Hoult) helps him grow, the comedy drama was very well received and offered an affecting take on darker subjects. The movie has now spawned a midseason sitcom, which has been developed for television by Jason Katims (who also brought Parenthood to the tube).
Promising? Somewhat. Although mostly it’s just a bit unnecessary.
Stylistically and tonally different from both the book and film, About a Boy targets a different audience than its predecessors and goes for a less bleak and more goofily sitcom-ish style. And because of the Jason Katims connection, the show shares the Parenthood universe, which is (occasionally) fun.
The first episode is basically a less charming, half an hour recap of the movie, and it pretty much misses the point by making Will (and not his father) the writer of the hit Christmas song, and undercutting the extent of Fiona’s depression. And a few episodes into the series, the show hasn’t offered anything that wasn’t corny and cloying. The characters share the very bare of characteristics with their film and book counterparts and seem very different overall. (Although that is probably a wise move as sticking to the same feel would have generated too many comparisons to the original, and Hugh Grant would have been a very tough act to follow.) But the series seems well-intentioned, and the cast has chemistry. If you loved the movie, then there are no guarantees that you will love the sitcom it has inspired, but give it a chance anyway and you might end up enjoying it on its own merits.

Bad Teacher (CBS)
Starring: Ari Graynor, Sara Gilbert, Ryan Hansen, Sara Rodier, Kristin Davis, and David Alan Grier
Based on: The Cameron Diaz starring Jake Kasdan film that came out in 2011 about a gold-digger who poses as a teacher at a school in order to meet rich single fathers. It wasn’t a hit with the critics but triumphed at the box office nonetheless. Now Hilary Winston has brought it to our television screens. (And curiously, a cine sequel is also in development.)
Promising? As promising as a TV series based on a mediocre film can be. Why someone though it would be a good idea to make a television series out of a middling movie … add that to the list of life’s big mysteries.
Ari Graynor has been cast in the lead role, portraying the divorcee who is left with nothing because of a prenuptial agreement and starts teaching at a school to meet men. And even two installments in, the template that is being following here is painfully obvious: spend the entire episode making her look awful and shallow, then have her act like a better person in the final minutes. The premise is tired, the plotlines are dull, and its promising supporting cast has been under utilized so far. Based on first impressions, the series will struggle to find an audience that wants to sit through these antics every week, but we’re only two episodes in and the show might figure out what works and what doesn’t and hit its strike in the coming weeks. (Bad Teacher was cancelled shortly after this piece was written and ran for only five episodes.)

- Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 11th June, 2014 *

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