The relationship between Hollywood and Television hasn’t always been easy. While a handful of movies have made the successful leap from screen to cathode, just as many never complete the swim upstream to spawn additional seasons. Whether due to the network pulling the plug prematurely or the stench of death emanating from their ratings, these shows managed one season (and some not even that long), before being rolled to the morgue.
Alien Nation (FOX) 22 episodes, September 18, 1989 – May 7, 1990
Alien Nation didn’t so much suffer from low viewership than a lack of network foresight. Canceled due to budget concerns, this excellent science fiction police procedural was purged after just 22 episodes. It still however, managed to cram societal issues of xenophobia, religion sex, and cultural intolerance in its short tenure. Five made-for-TV movies followed, but it was never quite the same.
RoboCop (FOX) 21 episodes + Pilot, March 18 – November 26, 1994
RoboCop failed to connect with viewers and critics because unlike it’s big screen predecessor, syndicated Robocop chose more non-violent methods of apprehension. For instance, his badass pistol was relegated to firing tracking device tags. Show-runners failed to understand that the over-the-top violence significantly boosted Paul Verhoeven’s movie to box office success. The show also featured new characters, like Gadget, who served as the young audience counterpart. Audiences didn’t appreciate it enough and the show was swiftly jailed.
StarMan (ABC) 22 episodes, September 19, 1986 – May 2, 1987
The StarMan series picks up 15 years after the movie, with Robert Hayes replacing Jeff Bridges. The alien returns to Earth to help his half-alien son hunt for the son’s mother. Imparting wholesome family values as a solid father/son team, the duo work together to elude the law. Depending on who you talk to, it was either too much science fiction or not enough buddy drama, and so it was launched into a black hole.
Ferris Bueller (NBC) 13 episodes, August 23, 1990 – August 11, 1991
In this TV series’ universe, the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off actually exists, but was a paltry portrayal of the “real-life” Ferris (played here by Charlie Schlatter) and his antics at Ocean Park High School. Where movie Ferris (Matthew Broderick) was the popular kid everyone knew by name and reputation, TV Ferris was just a few rungs north of sociopath by manipulating his girlfriend’s grades to keep her at his school and doing whatever he wanted without reprisal. This Ferris wasn’t the loveable scamp, but more like the guy who made you want to check for your wallet after shaking hands. He was merrily flunked and forgotten.
Tremors: The Series (Sci-Fi Channel) 13 episodes, March 28 – August 8, 2003
Airing the series out of order didn’t help gain traction for the built-in audience of a highly successful movie franchise. Leave it up to network execs to find a way to screw up something as simple as continuity. Set up to fail, Tremors: The Series never hit projected viewership and was buried after only the first 6 episodes aired. Incidentally, Kevin Bacon announced via Twitter that he is revisiting the role of Valentine in a Blumhouse-produced 10-episode Tremors TV miniseries.
Working Girl (NBC) 12 episodes, April 16 – July 30, 1990
In the fantasy world of white-collar office environments, all it takes is one good idea to become a junior executive. Likely the reason for the financial collapse of the 1990s…am I right?! Tess (a pre-superstar Sandra Bullock) must balance a high-stress job working alongside a motley crew of highly-paid lunatics with the working class neighborhood on Staten Island. It played like every other sitcom where a single girl deals with crazy people at home and work, and after only 8 of the 12 episodes aired, she was fired.
Minority Report (FOX) 10 episodes September 21 – November 30, 2015
Set 10 years after the movie events, this Spielberg-produced series eliminated the “minority report” and settled on a single PreCog seeing part of a crime, and everyone around him scrambling to prevent it. Beyond that it was just your basic police procedural and those shows are a dime a dozen nowadays. I can think of lots of reasons why this failed but foremost in my mind was FOX trying to duplicate the “fish out of water hero paired with the sassy urban cop” of recent success. It’s basically a futuristic Sleepy Hollow combined with Person of Interest, whereas Dash (the runaway PreCog) is a halfassed mashup of The Machine and Icabod Crane. Audiences were pining for a series actually based on the Philip K. Dick story and so they eventually tuned out. The network cut their episode order from 13 to 10 after only 4 episodes aired. Funny…the show runners never saw it coming!
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (FOX) 7 episodes + Pilot, June 28 – August 8, 1992
Sort of a Doctor Who for morons, the series explored the exploits of two half-wits. Their main goal in life to avoid all things bogus, create temporal paradoxes by zipping through time (and imaginary universes), kidnapping notable figures (or inked ones) and somehow managing to not kill every living thing on earth. They completely skipped the part about “being excellent to each other”, which essentially made them Bro-Dudes. The problem with this approach was movie Bill (Alex Winter) and movie Ted (Keanu Reeves) were essentially good people, they weren’t complete idiots and could use practical knowledge to solve problems. But TV Bill (Evan Richards) and TV Ted (Christopher Kennedy) were a step below functionally independent. The series was an exercise in trying too hard – throwing everything implausible at the audience and leaving them too confused to tune in each week.
Rush Hour (CBS) 7 episodes, March 31, 2016 – May 16, 2016
Stereotypes, ahoy! Cross-cultural cooperation was all the rage in 1998 when Jackie Chan needed a comedic Chris Rock vehicle to showcase his amazing stunt man talents on the American silver screen. I really thought we had moved beyond the thinly-veiled racism and one-liners that were only barely funny the first time around, but that didn’t stop CBS. How Hong Kong Detective Lee (Jon Foo) didn’t kung-pow the hell out of LA Detective Carter (Justin Hires) is one of the more elusive mysteries of television. Expecting characters to flow with the story, instead of making them loud brassy caricatures are hallmarks of bad television, unimaginative writing, and a complete disdain for the audience. It was canceled after a meager 7 episodes aired.