By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist March 12, 2014 at 2:00PM
Even for the non-marshmallows among us, the “Veronica Mars” movie, which hits theaters this week (our SXSW review here), being brought back from the dead by a combination of fan activism, creator and cast agitation and Kickstarter-related chutzpah, is at the very least an interesting phenomenon. The long-defunct TV show that gets its day on the big screen with original cast intact is a rare and precious event achieved by only a few, but the possibility is often endlessly bandied around for many for years after the show has ended. One recent example was Joss Whedon's “Serenity” whose underwhelming box office despite slavering fan appetites and strong critical notices is perhaps now used as a cautionary tale against this sort of thing. And while, last we heard, the “Arrested Development” movie was still on the table, Netflix would be behind it, like season four, so not super likely it would get a theatrical release.
Of course historically there have been many instances of reboots that have been recast and repackaged into something that may resemble the source series very little. The disastrous Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman “The Avengers” and the horrid live-action “The Flinstones” spring to mind as egregious examples of that problem, while the “Star Trek” reboot and “21 Jump Street,” and even stuff like “The Addams Family” and "The Brady Bunch Movie" show that a start-from-scratch instinct can work well. It got us to thinking about a few TV shows we’d like to see on the big screen—from the point of view of being fans of the original shows, yes, but that alone would simply read like a list of our favorite cancelled shows. So in arriving at this selection of six, we've tried to think of shows that we can really see working in a one-off, feature film format, in such a way that you don’t feel cheated that you’ve paid your fifteen bucks to watch something that a few years ago you were getting every week for the price of sitting through the ad breaks.
“Quantum Leap” (1989-1993, 5 seasons, 96 episodes)
Synopsis: Quantum physicist Sam Beckett becomes lost in time following an experiment, and finds himself “leaping” into people, unable to move on until he has righted a wrong. Only ever able to leap within his own lifespan, Sam’s sole companion is the holographic image of his friend and colleague Al, who is trying to guide him home.
Why does it warrant a movie? Brilliantly brought to life by Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell (both Golden Globe winners for the show), Donald P. Bellasario’s brainchild was an endlessly inventive, entertaining and often surprisingly soulful show that, as great an episodic device as it sets up (each show, more or less, was a leap), certainly would have the scope for a bigger take. Time travel is a fertile ground for sci-fi movies after all, (when treated as integral to the narrative and not as a get-out-of-jail-free card, Mr. Abrams), and the witty, occasionally daffy tone of the show could lend itself well to a big-screen popcorn flick, as well as the man-on-a-mission premise. The main potential problem? The last episode, which while ballsy (and divisive to the point that some fans might be jonesing for a compensatory big-screen take) states definitively that “Sam never returned home,” which might discount one obvious plot option for a movie—if we want to stay strictly canon, that is. That said, what does “never” really mean to a time traveler? And the more metaphysical thrust of the ending (it’s heavily hinted that Sam actually meets “God or Time or Fate or whatever” and is his agent) could itself be a pretty big theme to explore. Not to mention the fact that a relaunch would no doubt need to be comprehensively recast, so perhaps, and it kind of pains us to type this, it’s not Sam Beckett at all. And indeed that looked to be the route most likely when Bakula teased that a script was in development (at Comic-Con 2010, though he's since said he regretted letting that slip and word has gone very quiet). Much as we love its original incarnation, the show’s concept is bigger than its characters, though we would still cheer for the inevitable Bakula/Stockwell cameos.
"Party Down" (2009-2010, 2 seasons, 20 episodes)
Synopsis: A group of unemployed actors, writers and general misfits work for the Party Down catering company in Los Angeles, working glamorous (and not-so-glamorous) events while they wait for their big break.
Why Does It Warrant A Movie? This much-beloved, woefully underwatched (the final episode couldn't crack 100,000 viewers back in 2010) comedy, created by a dream team including Paul Rudd and “Veronica Mars” mastermind Rob Thomas, has only grown in stature in the four years since it came to an end. Featuring a crack group of comic names who’ve mostly gone on to bigger things since, including Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr and Ken Marino, it had an immediately hooky concept (each episode took place at a different party), and a low-key, foul-mouthed comedic charm leavened with the real pain of broken dreams and disappointment. If it had aired on FX, it would probably still be running today, a la “The League,” but as an early experiment with original programming by Starz (who’ve since found their metier with boobs-and-blood costume dramas like “Spartacus” and “Black Sails”), it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But with the increased star wattage of the cast, a low-budget feature could certainly make sense: the show ended on a decent note, but there were certainly more stories to tell, and there would certainly be ways to frame it to justify the scope of a movie (working at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, enabling A-list cameos, would be an obvious way to go). It’s never going to be a massive hit, but we’d probably rather see them working on something like this than underwhelming comedy “A.C.O.D,” which featured several alumni of the show. There has been talk of a reunion movie for a while, but more recently cast members have been more skeptical—Scott said in an interview last year that he’d rather the series return on Netflix. But if “Veronica Mars” is a hit, maybe Thomas will head to Kickstarter again.
“Deadwood” (2004-2006, 3 seasons, 36 episodes)
Synopsis: During the annexation of the Dakota Territory in the 1870s, Deadwood grows from hitching post to camp to town, where the tensions of the time, like individualism vs. community, lawlessness vs respectability and the evolution of capitalism are exemplified in the adversarial relationship between saloon owner Al Swearengen and Sheriff Seth Bullock.
Why does it warrant a movie? Simple: that cocksucker Al Swearengen. While the textured storytelling and controlled timeframe (each season takes place over a two-week period, with each episode representing a single day), not to mention the epic sweep of its themes and excellent cinematography, could all see it translate quite logically to a bigger format, the real impetus behind a "Deadwood" movie would have to be the brilliant, anachronistically profane antihero, as unforgettably portrayed by Ian McShane. Amid a plethora of terrific performances, his was a character so huge it kind of burst out of the confines of the small screen anyway. Creator David Milch based him on the real-life Swearengen (as he did with characters such as Bullock, Sol Star, Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp etc.) but then let the inspired decision to use modern-day slang in combination with an arcane but recognizably old-timey argot (seriously Shakespearean at times) raise the show’s deliciously theatrical dialogue to a whole other level. Set during such a tumultuous period, there would be no shortage of dramatic real-life incidents to choose from to form the basis for a self-contained plot, and indeed this one came closer than most, with Milch originally being promised two 2-hour TV movies to replace the cancelled fourth season (a deal he’d struck instead of doing a half season). Those scripts were apparently written, but slid off the table between then and now. Whether it was some version of those or something entirely new that made it into our multiplex, we wouldn’t mind, as long as it happens soon: more so than elsewhere on this list, time’s a-ticking as we simply could not imagine any future incarnation working without this exact cast in these exact roles.