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17 Forgotten Shows Based On Popular Movies

April 3, 2020 2.9k votes 326 voters 28.3k views17 items

List RulesVote up the movie adaptations and spinoffs that you're surprised actually made it to TV screens.

Hollywood is prone to taking its hits and squeezing them to fit on the small screen. Saturday morning classics like The Real Ghostbusters and hit sitcoms like Alice are examples of this, but even prestigious movies like Traffic have found another life on cable. Even today, there are numerous movie-to-TV projects in the works. Just take a look at all the Star Wars and Marvel shows Disney is making for Disney Plus. Meanwhile, HBO is producing a limited series based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.  

In today’s world, “TV series based on a movie” is no longer a dirty phrase, but that wasn’t always the case. With rare exceptions, TV adaptations of movies, when not straight-up cartoons, ranged from “terrible cash grabs” to “poorly thought-out productions.” If you need convincing, just take a look at these forgotten shows based on popular movies.

  • Working Girl
    Photo: NBC

    What Was The Premise? The 1990 sitcom Working Girl was a workplace comedy that loosely followed the 1988 movie. An independent secretary named Tess McGill is thrust into the role of junior executive after charming the owner of the company. She learns how to deal with her new responsibilities while surviving the wrath of the "company witch," Mrs. Bryn Newhouse, who is now her boss. 

    How Did It Connect To The Movie? While the feisty dynamic between the two female leads was the same in the show, the predicament they were in was different from the movie. In the 1988 movie, Tess is substituting for her wicked boss (who has broken her leg on a ski trip) and uses her connections to rise to the top of the corporate ladder. The TV show, for serialized purposes, positions the two women as rivals working in the same company. Tess is also the only main character from the movie to survive the TV transition. Sandra Bullock took over the role of Tess from actress Melanie Griffith. 

    How Long Did It Last? 12 episodes

    • Actors: Sandra Bullock, Nana Visitor, B. J. Ward, George Newbern, David Schramm
    • Premiered: 1990
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  • 2

    Casablanca (1983)

    Casablanca (1983)
    Photo: NBC

    What Was The Premise? Like the 1955 Casablanca series, this show focuses on the adventures of nightclub owner Rick Blaine in a North African city teeming with intrigue and skullduggery. However, the action is now set back in WWII, rather than the Cold War setting of the '50s show.

    How Did It Connect To The Movie? Most of the characters from the film are back, with the notable exceptions of Ilsa Lund and Victor Laszlo, who presumably made it to Lisbon and never looked back. David Soul (Hutch from Starsky and Hutch) took on the impossible-to-fill shoes of Humphrey Bogart in the lead role of Rick, while an impressive roster of actors rounds out the supporting roles - including Hector Elizondo as corrupt-yet-lovable Captain Louis Renault, Scatman Crothers as pianist/singer Sam, and a young Ray Liotta as Sacha the bartender. Not to worry, Ray - Goodfellas is only 7 years away.

    How Long Did It Last? 5 episodes

    • Actors: Ray Liotta, David Soul, Scatman Crothers, Héctor Elizondo, Arthur Malet
    • Premiered: 1983
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  • 9 to 5
    Photo: ABC

    What Was The Premise? The premise for the 1982 TV show was basically the same as the movie: a workplace comedy about three leading ladies waging office warfare against their horrible boss. 

    How Did It Connect To The Movie? While Dolly Parton didn’t come back to play Doralee Rhodes for the show, her younger sister Rachel Dennison took over the role. Jane Fonda, who developed and starred in the original movie, was an executive producer for the show’s first two seasons. She later separated herself from the show after a creative dispute over its direction. The show 9 to 5 mostly followed the movie, except for a few changes that made characters more palatable to TV viewers (boss Franklin Hart being more dumb than prejudiced, for example). The writing also made changes to accommodate the new actors, such as the character of Violet Newstead becoming a fiery Latina woman (albeit with an unchanged name) to reflect the casting of Rita Moreno. 

    How Long Did It Last? Five seasons (85 episodes)

    • Actors: Rita Moreno, Jeffrey Tambor, Sally Struthers, Peter Bonerz, Edward Winter
    • Premiered: 1982
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  • 4

    Dirty Dancing

    Dirty Dancing
    Photo: CBS

    What Was The Premise? The 1988 Dirty Dancing show was essentially a TV retelling of the 1987 movie. It shared the basic plotline of the film: a young woman falling in love with a handsome yet rebellious dance instructor.  

    How Did It Connect To The Movie? While the show stayed mostly true to the movie’s story, no one from the original cast and crew was involved in its production. Minimal changes to the show included changing the name of Frances "Baby" Houseman (originally played by Jennifer Grey) to Frances "Baby" Kellerman (played by Melora Hardin). Johnny Castle, played in the movie by Patrick Swayze, was played by Patrick Cassidy in the show. While the romance between the two stars was still spicy, it came about more slowly, as befits a weekly series. 

    How Long Did It Last? 11 episodes

    • Actors: Constance Marie, Melora Hardin, Paul Feig, McLean Stevenson, Mandy Ingber
    • Premiered: 1988
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