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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 30 September 2018 at 5:06pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Some random reading and viewing lead me to a series of related questions:

HART TO HART--Was this better than a Nick & Nora Charles THIN MAN show would have been?  (It lasted a lot longer than the Peter Lawford 50's version.)  Did it succeed because the creators had more freedom to develop their characters as they saw fit?

IT TAKES A THIEF--This was not the same character as in Hitchcock's TO CATCH A THIEF, but the show was inspired by the movie.  Would it have been better just to continue the movie character?

ROCKFORD FILES--Not too long after James Garner starred in MARLOWE, he starred in a show about a new p.i.--with some of the same traits as in the movie.  Likewise, MANNIX (or PRIVATE EYE or probably a bunch of others) could have just as easily been an updated Phillip Marlowe.  

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY--I actually couldn't think of too many "present-day person gets thrust into the future" shows besides FUTURAMA and the short-lived CLEOPATRA 2525, and those are both spoofs/comedies.  But it's a great concept!

FARSCAPE--Likewise, we've never had a long-running, successful FLASH GORDON TV or movie series, but this show had all the inventiveness one might want from a Flash treatment.  Or has STAR WARS cornered the market on that side of the genre?  (Is that one reason JOHN CARTER failed?)

So, those are just some examples.  My main question is--does TV work better with take-offs than originals?  And what do we make of when an "inspired by" ultimately outshines the original?  And one more--If someone wanted to do a new show about a "temporal fish out of water," would it be more honorable to seek the BUCK ROGERS license or smarter to create a new guy?


Edited by Eric Jansen on 30 September 2018 at 8:39pm
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 01 October 2018 at 3:15am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I once read an interview with one of the creators of Sliders, who said that he'd been inspired by The Time Tunnel. Sliders, he continued, was Time Tunnel done sideways. In that case, in order to make a show about alternate realities, it made sense for the set up and characters to be different from the show that had inspired it.

Back in the early 1970s there was an action/adventure series called Search that I also thought owed a debt to The Time Tunnel. While the heroes were out having adventures, a team back at a high-tech base monitored their adventures on a screen and provided assistance. At the time I remember thinking: Hey, this is The Time Tunnel without the time travel!

As for Buck Rogers, it seems to me that Gene Roddenberry tried a vaguely similar premise with Genesis II and Planet Earth. I'm tempted to mention Duck Dodgers but I guess that counts more as a parody of the original. I remember once discussing the Buck Rogers TV series with my Dad who found the whole concept ludicrous, saying: "If Richard III turned up in your living room one day would you instantly throw him your car keys?"
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 01 October 2018 at 6:06pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I just read that MCCLOUD was intentionally based on the Clint Eastwood film COOGAN'S BLUFF---so much so that the co-screenwriter of the film, Herman Miller, is given creator credit for the show.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 01 October 2018 at 8:26pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Re: temporal fish out of water, there are antecedents before Buck Rogers, so I would see no requirement that such a concept would have to harken along those lines. Man goes to sleep and wakes up many years later. Most people would describe that as Rip Van Winkle not Buck Rogers, but there are plenty of other folk tales that got there before even Washington Irving. Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward is also strongly in this vein, with an even larger span of time in sleep, taking the protagonist into a much-changed future.

And of course, you could go back as well as forward, as Mark Twain did with his Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Which is to say, in the case of a proposed TV series about a hero who gets frozen/sleeps and awakes in a different time... Create a new guy (or gal).


Edited by Peter Martin on 01 October 2018 at 8:28pm
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 02 October 2018 at 2:52am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I just read that MCCLOUD was intentionally based on the Clint Eastwood film COOGAN'S BLUFF---so much so that the co-screenwriter of the film, Herman Miller, is given creator credit for the show.

=======================================================

Eric, that was writer / producer Glen A. Larson's "speciality" taking a popular movie and spinning the idea in to a TV series. If you look at his resume you can see the most glaring examples:

Alias Smith and Jones = Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
McCloud = Coogan's Bluff
Switch = The Sting (and The Rockfrod Files)
Battlestar Galactica = Star Wars
B.J. and the Bear = Every Which Way But Lose
The Fall Guy = Hooper
Automan = TRON

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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 02 October 2018 at 4:41am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Good points, Peter and Greg!

And, yeah, I bet when Buck Rogers started, somebody probably compared it to Rip Van Winkle!  Interesting that Captain America (originally) also slept 20 years and woke up to a new world, including some aged friends.  (And just for coincidence's sake--somebody pointed out once that if Steve Rogers had adopted Bucky, he could then be called "Buck Rogers"!)

I am reminded (with the new movie still in some theaters) how popular and beloved THE INCREDIBLES are--more so right now than the FANTASTIC FOUR who inspired them!  (It still is a little annoying though that some people that the Invisible Girl, who can make force fields, is a rip-off of Violet!)

--which begs the question: Why don't they get Brad Bird to make the next FANTASTIC FOUR movie?!


Edited by Eric Jansen on 02 October 2018 at 4:43am
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 02 October 2018 at 7:37am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

My main question is--does TV work better with take-offs than originals?  And what do we make of when an "inspired by" ultimately outshines the original?

What about when the TV show shares the same name but untimately becomes a take-off?

STARGATE is a good example.  SG-1 draws from the film source material and proceeds to run away with the ball in a different and altogether more interesting direction.  The show later puts the source material into context as a based-on-supposedly-real-events film within the SG-1 universe -- and they play it for laughs.  Now that I think of it JMS pulled the same trick on THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS twenty years before SG-1 did it.  "I don't think he looks a thing like me" never gets old, I tell you.

Or, how about 'inspired by' shows that end up resembling the material they were aping moreso than the subsequent shows/movies that carry the name of the original?   

*cough* THE ORVILLE *cough*.


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 02 October 2018 at 10:04am
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 02 October 2018 at 8:47am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I think you can see inspiration in a number of things.

Murder, She Wrote = Miss Marple 
Matlock = Perry Mason
Hunter = Dirty Harry

I'd agree that after an initial few so-so episodes SG-1 really found its footing, and became a great show.
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James Johnson
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Posted: 02 October 2018 at 12:44pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

FAMILY GUY = THE SIMPSONS
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 03 October 2018 at 5:19am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The "Murder, She Wrote = Miss Marple" and "Hunter = Dirty Harry" examples really drive the point home.

MURDER SHE WROTE lasted twelve years, had 268 episodes/movies, and was (and still is) wildly popular.  It was also set in the present, sometimes lighthearted, and could have a crossover with MAGNUM P.I.  A pure MISS MARPLE series probably wouldn't do any of those things.  In fact, there was a British series which appears to be high quality (I never saw it), was a period piece, and had twelve episodes/movies.  To be true to the Agatha Christie character, the series was in many ways limited.  The Angela Lansbury series, on the other hand, could do whatever it wanted.

On the other hand, a DIRTY HARRY TV show might have worked just as well as HUNTER, if not better.  I would say that HUNTER was more specifically inspired by THE ENFORCER, in which Dirty Harry gets a female partner.  [SPOILER] She dies in the movie, so HUNTER is sort of a "What if she didn't die?"  So, if they wanted that dynamic in a show, fans might have been upset about Kate Moore (Tyne Daly's character) somehow surviving, so new characters were necessary.  And then the TV actor would always be compared to Clint Eastwood, probably unfavorably.  As a new character, Fred Dryer didn't have to suffer that comparison.

It's a tricky and fine line.  There's more freedom and less expectations with "Inspired by" characters, but well-done and long-running TV shows based on beloved characters like Miss Marple or Dirty Harry would sort of be amazing.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 03 October 2018 at 6:59am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Matlock = Perry Mason

••

That's a stretch!!

Andy Griffith's "folksy" lawyer had more in common with James Stewart in ANATOMY OF A MURDER, or even Spencer Tracy in INHERIT THT WIND. But, ultimately, lawyer shows are lawyer shows, and all feed off each other.

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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 05 October 2018 at 12:46am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

True, they're very different characters, but the format was the same--Matlock and Perry Mason both had private investigators as a big part of the show, a female assistant, and solved mysteries!  Not exactly the same as pure lawyer/legal shows.
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 05 October 2018 at 3:20am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Dean Hargrove who brought Perry Mason back in the 80s, basically took the Mason format used for the one hour show, and tailored it around Andy Griffith's onscreen persona when he created Matlock. Which, in turn was inspired by Griffith's performance as a lawyer in "Fatal Vision".
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 06 October 2018 at 12:19am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

 Eric Jansen wrote:
 My main question is--does TV work better with take-offs than originals?

There's nothing original.  Not in television. Not in film. Not in novels. Not in radio. Not in podcasts. Not in anything.  Everything is a spin.  You can't name one story, series or film in your lifetime that wasn't somehow inspired by something that came before.  

None.  Nada.  Zip.  

To me, the question is flawed.  Better question: What series or movie does it better or makes you think that it's "original" when it's really not?
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 06 October 2018 at 4:42am | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Matt, are you saying that only the Bible is original? ;-) 
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 06 October 2018 at 12:21pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Parker Lewis Can't Lose was totally Ferris Beuller, at least at first. It lost it's edge quickly, and I stopped watching.
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 08 October 2018 at 4:09pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

That's another good point.  There's NO WAY they ever would have done a Ferris Bueller TV show!  So, then we had Parker Lewis.  If it had worked and lasted, it certainly would have scratched that itch for anyone who wanted a Ferris show.

That reminds me--HAPPY DAYS was very much ARCHIE on TV!  Archie and Pals probably wouldn't have lasted on primetime (though I could definitely see a SAVED BY THE BELL type on Saturdays or something), but with a few tweaks, we got redheaded Richie and Pals going to Arnold's.  (20 million viewers over a decade is a lot better than the 3 million the dark and subversive RIVERDALE gets these days.)
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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 08 October 2018 at 6:00pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

There was a Ferris Bueller TV series.
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 08 October 2018 at 7:50pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

I thought Happy Days was American Graffiti. The Happy Days pilot was released before AG, but it was made into a series after.

Parker Lewis debuted the same time as the Ferris Bueller series, but was successful. But like most shows centering on a high school, the formula runs out quickly.
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 08 October 2018 at 10:42pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Oh yeah!  (About Ferris Bueller.)

And HAPPY DAYS may have started off as sort of an AMERICAN GRAFFITI show (I remember early on it was more serious, Richie was trying hard to have sex with a girl, etc.), but tweaks were made (the older brother disappeared!) and suddenly it was lighter, Al took over the malt shop and was practically a double for Pop, etc.--it became ARCHIE!
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 09 October 2018 at 4:36am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Wasn’t Jennifer Aniston in the Ferris Beuller TV show?
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