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Hollywood Adaptations of Vintage TV Shows: An Awe-Inspiring String of Failures

THE success rate of old television shows brought to the big screen is a sad one, to say the least. Time after time, great shows have been adapted to film with less than stellar results. Sure, there have been a few good ones, but they’re the exception, not the rule.  Here are some of the tragic attempts made in the last decade or so.   This list is by no means comprehensive.  There are many more examples of Hollywood’s inability to get it right, but this is all I can ask of you to stomach in one sitting.


Fat Albert (2004)


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I’m sure there are people who enjoyed the Fat Albert remake… but then, I’m sure there are also people who like to get peed on.


Bewitched (2005)


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To quote Roger Ebert’s review of North (1994): “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”



The Honeymooners (2005)


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Science Fact of the Day: If there exists an alternate universe composed entirely of anti-matter, then the greatest film ever made in that universe is The Honeymooners.



Get Smart (2008)


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This film adaptation somehow managed to discard all the camp humor and charm while retaining every shred of stupidity.  (slow clap)



The Flintstones (1994)


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Charlie’s Angels (2000)


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The Charlie’s Angels film adaptation bears just enough resemblance to the TV series to be insulting, but also finds new ways to be terrible in its own right.  Thanks to tons of hype, it made big piles of money on its release… but as time wears on, it sinks deeper and deeper beneath the bargain bin; forever forgotten unwanted.



The Mod Squad (1999)


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The Mod Squad adaptation could have been good.  Just a few minor tweaks like rewriting the script from scratch and firing everyone involved is all that it would have taken to make this better.



McHale’s Navy (1997)


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To paraphrase Mark Twain’s review of an Ambrose Bierce book: “For every laugh that is in this movie, there are five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit.”



The Avengers (1998)


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The Avengers adaptation is a pus-filled bedsore of a film that should be avoided like an exploding bag of hepatitis.  But, otherwise, it’s not too bad.


The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)


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Say what you will about the original series, it was pretty funny.  The film version, however, seems to be saturated in some sort of comedy-repellant.



My Favorite Martian (1999)


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To quote TIME magazine’s review of the silver screen adaptation of Myra Breckinridge:  This film is “about as funny as a child molester.”



Dukes of Hazzard (2005)


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To compare the Dukes of Hazzard TV show to the movie is to understand the difference between lovably dumb and abrasively retarded.



I Spy (2002)


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What a hot mess this was.  But let’s not lose sight that there have been some damn good adaptations as well (ex. Star Trek, The Addams Family, Mission Impossible, Starsky & Hutch).

The problem is there seems to be no end to the awful adaptions.  There’s Steve Martin’s horrific fail, Sgt. Bilko (1996),  Will Smith’s nightmare rehash of  Wild Wild West (1999), Matthew Broderick’s retarded abyss known as Inspector Gadget (1999), Tom Hanks’s foray into fecal cinema, Dragnet (1987), Disney’s steaming turd called George of the Jungle (1997), Will Farrell’s waking nightmare, Land of the Lost (2009), Johnny Depp’s public humiliation, Dark Shadows (2012) ….. you get the picture.



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What happens to these film adaptations that everything that was good about the original series is sucked out?  Hollywood seems to think that jettisoning the heart and soul of a TV series is okay; what matters is retaining the “brand”’.  Thus, only the name and appearance stay the same. Yet, what made the originals so enduring are lost in the shuffle as these misguided film adaptations shit themselves as they fall off the cliff.

Posted: 16th, June 2014 | In: Flashback, TV & Radio | Comments (5) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Horror TV Boom: The 5 Best X-Files Knock-offs From The 1990s  



CHRIS Carter’s landmark TV series The X-Files (1993 – 2002) proved not only a ratings blockbuster throughout the 1990s, but a cultural phenomenon too…the Star Trek of the Clinton Age, essentially.  The series, which starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson proved so popular that its success led to movies, comic-books, toys, and even spin-offs such as The Lone Gunmen (2001).  Chris Carter even had the opportunity to create another masterpiece for the era: Millennium (1996 – 1999).

But importantly, The X-Files also dramatically proved to network executives that horror and science fiction could play well on television if presented intelligently, and with a strong sense of continuity.

Accordingly, the years between 1995 and 1999 saw a veritable flood — a genuine boom — of horror-themed genre programming hit the airwaves.

These series had titles such as American Gothic (1995 – 1996), Strange Luck (1995 – 1996) , Dark Skies (1996), Kindred: The Embraced (1996), Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996 – 1999), Psi-Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (1996 – 1999), The Burning Zone (1996 – 1997), Sleepwalkers (1997), Prey (1998), Brimstone (1998 – 1999) and Strange World (1999).

Most of the series above lasted only a season, but nearly all of them involved, like The X-Files, aspects of the police procedural format, and elements of the horror genre, namely the supernatural or paranormal.  Many of the series also involved government conspiracies, or an “Establishment” attempt to hide some important “truth” from the American populace.

Below are my choices for the five best of this post-X-Files pack.





Nowhere Man (1995)

Created by Lawrence Hertzog, Nowhere Man ran for twenty-five hour-long episodes in 1995 and quickly proved a paranoiac’s dream.  The series involved Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood), a photographer whose very life was “erased” in the premiere episode (“Absolute Zero”) by a shadowy conspiracy.

This act of erasure was undertaken because Veil publicly revealed a top-secret photograph called “Hidden Agenda.”  Soon even Veil’s wife, Alyson, (played by Millennium’s Megan Gallagher) claimed not to have any memory of him.  She had been “gotten to.”

As the series continued, Thomas began to uncover secrets about the photograph, and about his enemies too, a sinister cabal or conspiracy called “The Organization” (think The Syndicate on The X-Files).

Nowhere Man picks up primarily on The X-Files’ conspiracy vibe, but also features a strong if oblique connection to another TV paranoia trip:  The Prisoner (1967).  There, the prisoner, Number Six (Patrick McGoohan), was trapped in a bizarre European “village” for spies and ex-spies; but here Veil finds himself in an Information Age trap where the prison is the global village itself.

Nowhere Man is cleverly constructed, right down to the hero’s name — Veil — and so the series’ final episode saw the “veil” over his eyes lifted at last.  Today, this series would be ripe for either a movie or TV reboot.






American Gothic (1995)

American Gothic is the tale of Caleb Temple (Lucas Black), a youngster of questionable lineage who lives in the town of Trinity, South Carolina.  In the premiere episode, little Caleb sees his father go stark, raving mad, and his sister Merlyn (Sarah Paulson) murdered by the nefarious sheriff, Lucas Buck Gary Cole).  Then he learns that not only is Lucas Buck Caleb’s biological father…he may also be the devil.

But before Sheriff Buck can seduce Caleb to the dark side, the sinister force must contend with two most unwelcome “do-gooders” in Trinity:  reporter Gail Emory (Paige Turco) and a Yankee upstart with a dark past, Dr. Matt Crower (Jack Weber).

Both carpet-baggers realize Buck is up to no good, and take steps to protect Caleb, but must simultaneously deal with their own personal demons. Gail’s parents died in Trinity twenty years earlier and Lucas Buck just happened to be the person who discovered their bodies. And Matt is still recovering from a drunk-driving incident in which his wife and daughter were killed.

Created by Shaun Cassidy, and produced by Sam Raimi, this soap opera horror owes as much to Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991), perhaps, as it does The X-Files.  But all the x-trademarks are present, from a focus on corrupt (or actually evil authority figures…), to storylines which involve police solving crimes in a small-town.

American Gothic succeeds in part because of Gary Cole’s central presence and enormous charisma as the evil sheriff, a figure who can seduce anyone with a smile, and who is even taken, on occasion, to whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show.






Dark Skies (1996)

Like all the TV series featured on this list, there can be little doubt that NBC’s Dark Skies was granted a prime-time berth because of the success of The X-Files.

There’s also little doubt, however, that Dark Skies is an original, visually-distinctive, and involving program.   The one-season series showcases a memorable, growling regular performance from the late J.T. Walsh as the leader of a top-secret alien-hunting organization called Majestic, and features rewarding and intricate plotting across the span of the catalog’s nineteen hour-long shows.

The series is a period piece, interestingly, that concerns alien abduction — one of the key concepts explored in The X-Files.

Dark Skies opens immediately after President Kennedy is inaugurated and the age of Camelot commences.  Two young Americans who are filled with enthusiasm — John Loengard (Eric Close) and Kim Sayers (Megan Ward) — go to Washington to serve the country and the new president but quickly become disillusioned when they learn that all is not as it seems.  Aliens have infiltrated the highest levels of the American government.

While it’s true that Eric Close looks like he was incubated at a David Duchovny Clone Farm, and that matters of conspiracy in Washington were also heavily featured on The X-Files, Dark Skies nonetheless forges its own unique identity.  It does so by replaying key events from human history — the first TV appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, for instance, or the Kennedy Assassination — through the lens of alien infiltration in human affairs.

That was the “literal” level upon which Dark Skies operated, but the series also, overall, served as a metaphor for politics in the U.S. Naivety and idealism quickly give way to cynicism and dark agendas, and it’s a struggle to know who to trust, and who to believe in.





Prey (1998)

The tag-line for the short-lived series Prey on ABC-TV was “We’ve just been bumped down the food chain,” and the series concerned a beautiful geneticist, Sloane Parker (Debra Messing), who learned that a look-alike species — homo dominants — was gaining a foothold on power in North America.

A brilliant scientist not unlike Scully (Gillian Anderson), Sloane came to work with one of the dominants, Tom Daniels (Adam Storke), to help reveal the breadth of the dark conspiracy.

The X-Files often concerned genetic mutants like Victor Eugene Tooms, or other freaks of nature who, in some way could represent one possible future for humanity.  Prey likewise involved a similar scenario, but taken to apocalyptic levels.  Mankind was losing ground to superior beings, yet those beings were not aliens or monsters…but ones created under the auspices of evolution, by Mother Nature herself.  The human race had become outmoded.

So the question became: can man outwit, defeat, and outlive its replacement species?

Over the course of Prey’srun much information was learned about the new species, including the fact that it lacked human emotions but possessed ESP.  Prey was also weirdly prophetic.  One episode involved school shootings — less than a year before Columbine — and the entire premise seemed to forecast the War on Terror.

In particular, the homo dominants looked and sounded like us, and therefore could imitate humans flawlessly.  So your neighbor could actually be a sleeper agent, just waiting for the right moment to strike.  In 2004, this was the premise of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.



Brimstone (1998 – 1999)

Created by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, Brimstone aired on Fox as the lead-in to Chris Carter’s Millennium on Friday nights, and ran for just thirteen hour-long episodes before an untimely cancellation.

The series starred Peter Horton as hangdog Detective Ezekiel Stone, a former Manhattan-based police officer who died in 1983…and promptly went to Hell.  Stone did so because he took the law into his own hands and murdered his wife’s rapist, Gilbert Jax.  Two months after that act of vigilantism, Stone was killed in the line of duty, and he has been trapped in the Underworld ever since.

As the series commences, however, 113 of the “most vile” criminals in Hell manage a jailbreak and return to Earth to wreak havoc.  The Devil (John Glover) — trying to cover his ass with the Man Upstairs — recruits Detective Stone to pursue the fugitives and send them back to Hell and permanent incarceration.

Ezekiel can do so only by destroying their eyes, the so-called “windows to their souls.”  In exchange for his service, Stone gets a much-valued second shot at human life, happiness, and redemption. Each time Stone kills an escaped convict, a strange runic tattoo (representing the convict’s “number” or identity) burns off his body.  Stone must also deal with the fact that some of escaped convicts are extremely powerful, with terrifying supernatural abilities

As the Devil informs the detective: “The longer you’ve been in Hell, the more it becomes a part of you.”

The villains featured on the series reflect The X-Files concept of the “monster of the week.”  They are literally twisted creatures from Hell, and the roster includes an unrepentant rapist (“Encore”), a shape-shifter with multiple personalities (“Faces”), a lovelorn poet who kills virgins (“Poem,”) and even a Bonnie and Clyde-styled pair of thugs (“The Lovers.”)

Presented in a kind of de-saturated or silvery-steel color-scheme, Brimstone was another police procedural of the 1990s, like the X-Files, but it proved an original initiative because it worked overtime to diagram a universe of nuanced morality.  Despite the presence of God and the Devil in the stories, Brimstone always explored shades of gray, not the least in terms of Stone’s behavior.  Did he deserve a second chance?  Did he deserve to go to Hell in the first place?

In exploring these issues, Brimstone proved more than your average X-Files knock-off and emerged as a memorable supernatural noir.  The series’ sense of humor, revolving around a man from 1983 living at the turn of the century, also proved stellar.

Posted: 12th, June 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (4) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The 16 Greatest School Dance Scenes In Film

AH, yes. The school dance. Awkward and often soul shattering, it was a necessary rite of passage. It’s no surprise that such a dramatic collective memory would make for some great moments on film. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of the 16 greatest school dance scenes in movies. Feel free to add your own – I’d love to hear them.


It’s a Wonderful Life


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The gym floor opening up into a pool is a beloved movie moment. It highlights perfectly George Bailey’s wild and promising youth before his big fall.







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Perhaps the most memorable of all high school dance scenes. DePalma’s split screen technique in combination with Spacek’s ghastly visage is one that’s hard to shake.  Last year’s remake game an honorable effort, but you just can’t recreate this sort of horror magic.







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Scott Bao’s powers are taken to their limit, and we get to see Heather Thomas zapped and disrobed (well, actually her body double, but a high point in teen sex romps nonetheless).





Pretty in Pink


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Andi (Molly Ringwald) ended up with Duckie in the original version of the film, but test audiences were appalled. John Hughes subsequently changed to the script to have Andi end up with Blaine (Andrew McCarthy). I strongly agree with that decision; in fact, I would have preferred Duckie die a horrible death instead.







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Who cares that every kid at Rydell looks like they’re over 30. This dance scene with Travolta in his prime doing the Hand Jive is solid gold.





Can’t Buy Me Love


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Somehow Patrick Dempsey’s African Anteater Ritual dance catches on, and soon the entire student body is joining in. What a bunch of sheep.





Sixteen Candles


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The dance scene has so much to love: “True” by Spandau Ballet, a painfully awkward dance by Farmer Ted, a brief appearance by John Cusack, Dong and his buxom soul mate, the scoliosis girl, and a $1 cover charge to see Sam’s underwear.





Napoleon Dynamite


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“My old girlfriend from Oklahoma was gonna fly out for the dance but she couldn’t cause she’s doing some modeling right now.”

Perfectly captures the awkwardness of being on the outer fringes of the popularity caste system – all to the sounds of Alphaville and Cindy Lauper.







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Ren and Ariel release some seriously pent up sexual energy on the dance floor. Lithgow was not amused.





Better Off Dead


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Ricky (the fat dude from Head of the Class) dances like an effing maniac to impress Monique. I laughed till I ran out of air and blacked out, woke up and laughed some more.





Prom Night


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A prolonged dance sequence set to disco music (featuring Jamie Lee Curtis) is unusual for a slasher film, but a beautiful thing nonetheless. It’s like Xanadu meets Friday the 13th. Even better, we get to see Leslie Neilsen putting on his boogie shoes!





Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion


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The prom flashback is a brief but wonderfully effective reminder that high school dances feel monumentally important at the time, but really has no consequence for the life that awaits. The reunion dance to “Time After Time” is a nice touch as well.





American Graffiti




There’s a very touching scene with Cindy Williams interspersed with plenty of mid-century tomfoolery. My personal favorite moment: Ron Howard telling the principal to go kiss a duck.





Just One of the Guys


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Joyce Hyser shows her friend that she’s really a girl in disguise by exposing her breasts. An odd but historic moment in the annals of gratuitous nudity. (And, no, it’s not in the video below)





Valley Girl 




The curtain opens revealing a brawl between Randy (Nicholas Cage) and Tommy the Prom King. Hilarity ensues when the titular Valley Girl shoves guacamole in Tommy’s face and the crowd erupts into a food fight.





Back to the Future


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McFly on the guitar playing “Johnny Be Good” to an eager crowd at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance is an amazing moment…. but then his digression into heavy metal guitar noodling leaves the audience saying “huh?”. Classic.





Honorable Mention: The pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks


It’s a TV show, but it still deserves a mention. Sam Weir finally gets to slow dance with his crush, but the opening to Styx’s “Come Sail Away” quickly turns loud and fast. He decides to go with the flow, stop being so damn self-conscious and just have fun. The feeling is contagious and his sister Lindsey, operating the punch bowls, who had a little something to do with the mentally challenged boy’s broken arm ventures over to see if he has forgiven her by asking him to dance. Perhaps the greatest school dance scene of them all.



Posted: 12th, May 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

5 Sci-Fi TV Series Scuttled by Second Season Changes


WE might accept as axiomatic the belief that patience is a virtue. However, over the decades, several notable and even celebrated science fiction TV series have failed to live up to this ideal.

Instead of demonstrating patience and prudence, their makers have instead demonstrated radical impatience, and — after promising first season sorties — instituted sweeping changes that, in some cases, threw away the baby with the bath water.

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Posted: 3rd, April 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (7) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

1978-1995: When Theodore John Kaczynski Was The Heroic Unabomber

ON May 3 1996, Theodore John Kaczynski, 53, had his mug shot taken by7 the Lewis and Clark County Jail in Helena, Montana. Kaczynski had been taken into custody at his mountain cabin north of Helena as a suspect in the Unabomber bombing spree.


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The man called the “Unabomber” had killed three people and maimed 23 others with parcel bombs. His first known device exploded in 1978 and the last, killing California Forestry Association president Gilbert Murray. His campaign had continued to his most recent bomb in 1995. His final bombs was his 16th.

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Posted: 3rd, April 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

10 Revolting Packaged Foods That Taste Of Regret

STROLLING down Memory Lane on the way to Anorak Towers, we came across an old advertisement for Spangles – the sweet signifier of choice for lazy peddlers of nostalgia.

But instead of invoking it alongside Chopper bicycles and Spacehoppers, it invoked an earlier, less innocent time, when germs were everywhere, and the role of confectionary packaging wasn’t simply to announce the Old English delights within, but to keep dirt out. ALL dirt. Yes, that includes you, Foreign Dirt, coming over year and contaminating our indigenous flavours.



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Posted: 2nd, April 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Call 419: The $700bn US Treasury Scam





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Posted: 30th, September 2008 | In: Money | Comments (32) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0