Ten 80s Movies That Need TV Series

by Christopher Campbell
May 6, 2009 8:58 AM
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Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar recently announced he’s working on an American TV series based on his Oscar-nominated film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." While it seems odd for Fox Television to be interested in adapting a 21-year-old foreign film to the small screen, the age of the source material is hardly surprising given the fact that both NBC and ABC are similarly working on new shows based the 1989 ensemble dramedy "Parenthood" and 1987’s "The Witches of the Eastwick," respectively, for the fall.

Is this the beginning of a trend? We hope so, and we’re even going to lend TV producers a hand by suggesting ten other 1980s movies that would make interesting shows. To make it a little less random, though, especially given how many appropriately sitcomish films were released in the decade, we have limited our selections to one per year. If you have any additional ideas, please pitch them in the comments section below.


"Little Darlings" (1980)

In the wake of "Gossip Girl" and the second incarnation of "90210," a teen drama about a group of girls trying to lose their virginity while at summer camp may not be the boldest idea for the boob tube. But the competition angle does have its edge, especially if anyone is daring enough to turn this movie into a reality show rather than a CW-targeted serial. Though probably not legal, you can be guaranteed a big, creepy audience, even if the “finish line crossing” isn’t shown onscreen. Cynthia Nixon should host, of course.


"Fort Apache the Bronx" (1981)

With "Life on Mars" canceled, it would seem silly to attempt another early 70s-set NYC cop show. So, how about an early 80s-set NYC cop show, instead? Seriously, though, "Fort Apache the Bronx" would make a terrific old-school Steven Bochco-type police procedural completely set within the confines of the walled-in neighborhood of the South Bronx. With hindsight, the plots of the show shouldn’t just focus on racism, poverty and other tragic effects of Robert Moses’ biggest urban-renewal folly. The series should also celebrate the positive things to come out of that setting, such as hip hop, graffiti and breakdancing, even if some of these art forms were not viewed positively at the time.


"Blade Runner" (1982)

Usually it’s better to adapt TV series from bad sci-fi movies, like "Stargate" and "Highlander," but if Warner Bros. can turn the "Terminator" franchise into a successful show, the studio can do the same with "Blade Runner." It wouldn’t need to reprise any of the characters from the movie, as it could be about another blade runner working in Los Angeles, either prior to or after the events of the film. One thing that would be a nice touch, though: keep the dated futurism, so any product placement in the show is for brands that no longer exist. And the effects and technology should be limited to what was available for depiction 27 years ago, meaning flying cars are okay, but computers should still appear quite basic.


"Trading Places" (1983)

Now is the perfect time for a reworking of "Trading Places," but a TV sitcom based on the movie would be too obvious and redundant. Instead, let us see a reality series in which Wall Street types are rendered homeless, and bums are made rich. Actually, the former part of this plot may not require any work, since plenty of financial people have already lost their jobs. Plus, it might seem too much like that controversial new Fox layoff show "Someone’s Gotta Go." So, in order to keep this both ethical and fresh, let’s concentrate on the finale of the film. Team up multiple pairs of laid-off stockbrokers and homeless persons in a competition to see which duo can overthrow (and potentially bankrupt) an overpaid executive.


"Cloak & Dagger" (1984)

Even if this movie didn’t feature Christina Nigra, who’d grow up to costar in the series "Out of this World," it would remind us of those syndicated kid-friendly sci-fi/fantasy shows of the 80s and 90s. Of course, "Cloak & Dagger" doesn’t exactly have a fantastical plot, and it doesn’t necessarily require any cheap special effects, but the adventures of an 11-year-old video game and RPG addict and his imaginary friend — a spy who resembles the kid’s father — would have that same goofy charm as "Out of this World," "My Secret Identity," "Small Wonder," etc. These days similar entertainment can be found on Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel, so one of those two networks might be the best place for this show, but we’d prefer it to be syndicated, for retro sake.


"Subway" (1985)

In response to the Almodovar adaptation we must include at least one foreign film on this list. And there is no better inspiration for a TV series than Luc Besson’s silly French thriller about a man hiding out in the underground world of the Paris Metro. The scenario can easily be transplanted to the NYC subways, as can all the colorful characters, such as the musicians who end up recruited for the main character’s band. The ensemble sitcom would be like "Seinfeld" meets "The John Larroquette Show," but much weirder.


"The Money Pit" (1986)

Another reality series for our present economic climate, as well as for those TV viewers who love HGTV, "The Money Pit" would have a twist relevant to the movie upon which it’s based: for every home improvement made on the show, the producers get to sabotage another part of a couple’s house. If that sounds too ridiculous, make it a competitive reality show in which a bunch of couples go up against each other for the chance to own a new home. Each couple starts out with a shoddily built McMansion and must continually make repairs to problems caused secretly by the show’s producers. Each week, the couple with the worst inspection results gets kicked off until there’s only one couple left. That couple gets to keep the house, if they still want to live together in it after all is through.


"The Running Man" (1987)

We’ve been expecting the public execution-style game show from this sci-fi action film to become an actual TV program for more than 20 years now. And society is still headed in the direction of it possibly happening. Richard Dawson can come out of retirement to host it for real. And his "Family Feud" replacement, Louie Anderson, can be a contestant.


"My Stepmother is an Alien" (1988)

It wasn’t our intention to give so much attention to the directing career of Richard Benjamin, but apparently the guy knew how to pick projects that are ripe for TV remakes (if we ever do a list of 2000s films that need TV series, we’ll definitely include "Marci X"). Anyway, unlike "The Money Pit," this movie wouldn’t quite work as a reality show (unless it were immigration-themed and not science fiction). Rather, it would work as another one of those kids’ sitcoms reminiscent of Out of this World. It also reminds us of the short-lived sitcom "Free Spirit," which, like "Stepmother," coincidentally also starred a young Alyson Hannigan. So, obviously, once she’s done with "How I Met Your Mother," the actress should be the titular star of this sitcom.


"Meet the Feebles" (1989)

Peter Jackson’s crude and very scatological spoof of "The Muppet Show" might actually be better as a TV series. Not because of TV censors, though. In fact, we’d only accept this show being made for HBO or Showtime (or Starz even) and retaining most of the gross-out stuff (yes, it could be toned down a little bit). Rather, it should be spun off onto TV because it’s about the making of a TV show. Think of it as a cross between the Muppets, 30 Rock and a program that’d be too violent and pornographic for even premium Cable if it involved real people instead of puppets. Hopefully the lack of widespread success for "Wonder Showzen" hasn’t killed the chances for more puppet programs for adults.

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