My NPR adventure: From Ferris Bueller to Napoleon Dynamite; how TV gets movie translations wrong
Here's another reason to love Wikipedia: Its list of all the classic movies broadcast networks tried translating into TV series.
Without it, I would have totally overlooked Jennifer Aniston's cringe-inducing turn as smart alecky sister to Charlie Schlatter's Ferris Bueller on a completely ill-considered TV remake of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Or I would have brushed past the animated version of Rambo. And who could forget how Roddy McDowell kept hanging onto the Planet of Apes wagon train by playing Cornelius during a series so powerful, it lasted three months at the end of 1974?
With all this pop culture candy rattling around in my head, it was inevitable I'd spin it into an essay for NPR, looking at the latest attempts to translate old films into new series, NBC's The Firm and Fox's Napoleon Dynamite.
Much as everybody likes to remember M*A*S*H, this is a trend that doesn't lead to much success. The last three big translations have met with mixed success, from NBC's Friday Night Lights cutting a deal with DirecTV to stay in production to Parenthood's underrated performance on the Peacock Network's Tuesday nights and Nikita's vanishing from sight on the CW's Friday schedule.
Still, here's a little essay with my thought on making it work; basically, ditch the movie's framework as soon as possible and carve new identities for characters with unpredictable new stories to tell.
Check it out below, along with a sample of old favorites from the genre: