TV: The Last Hope for Dying Franchises?

The release of the flop WALKING TALL TV series on DVD got me wondering about something…maybe you can help me. 

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance where a theatrical franchise (ie a series of films) that has played itself out on the big screen has successful re-invigorated itself on TV.  PLANET OF THE APES, SHAFT, WALKING TALL, GIDGET, and POLICE ACADEMY, for example, all failed as TV series, lasting a season or less (SHAFT and WALKING TALL even had the stars of the movies in the series). Even TV series based on busted franchises in name only, like  NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13th, also tanked.  Can you think of a movie franchise that successfully made the transition to TV and found a second life?

The only one that comes to mind is INDIANA JONES, but even that doesn’t count. The INDIANA JONES franchise hadn’t played itself out and wasn’t going to TV for one, last-gasp chance at resurrection. THE SAINT, TARZAN, LASSIE and THE LONE RANGER were all a series of movies before jumping to TV, yet I don’t think they were really direct continuations of the theatrical franchises…though I could be wrong.

22 thoughts on “TV: The Last Hope for Dying Franchises?”

  1. HIGHLANDER is a good example, thank you! In fact, that series re-invigorated the movie franchise.
    STARGATE wasn’t a franchise…it was just one film. I’m specifically talking about franchises that petered out theatrically before jumping to TV….not TV series versions of individual movies (like MASH, ODD COUPLE, STARGATE, ALICE, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, THE PAPER CHASE, SERPICO, ANIMAL HOUSE, etc.)

  2. Friday the 13th: The Series lasted three seasons, hardly a flop. I think it was canceled because the lead actress (Robey) contracted cancer and was incapable of working. She survived and is now radio host Darian O’Toole. (That is Chad’s Trivia for the Day)
    Some brave amd foolish souls attempted a Westworld TV series called Beyond Westworld and, even as a kid, I thought it was pathetic. I think they borrowed the idea of the robots copying people from Futureworld (the theatrical sequel to Westworld). Didn’t work.
    Of course the upcoming Star Wars series could work…maybe not.
    I fully expect a Jurassic Park TV series to be launched someday. Pitch: “It’s kind of like Fantasy Island but with DINOSAURS!”

  3. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was a planned franchise that tanked at the theatres, yet had a succesful life on TV.
    The unique case is STAR TREK, which had two series on TV, jumped to the theatres for a franchise of movies, simultaneously existed for a while as several TV series and movies, and then finally ended (for now) back on TV.

  4. STAR TREK doesn’t work. It was a TV series that became a theatrical franchise. Neither does BUFFY. It was a one-shot film that became a TV series.
    Again, I’m NOT talking about simply TV series that were based on movies.
    I’m talking about a movie franchise… a series of films…that ran out of gas theatrically and moved to TV in attempt to cash in one more time.
    HIGHLANDER was a good example. But most of the ones I can think of died on TV, too.
    FRIDAY THE 13th was related to the movie franchise in name only — a true continuation of the franchise on TV would have starred Jason. I only mentioned it, and ELM STREET, as an aside. The FRIDAY THE 13th TV series was about a couple of antique dealers hunting down cursed items. It bore no relation whatsoever to the movie franchise from which it took its name.

  5. I’m really dating myself here. Lassie, Dr. Kildare and The Adventures of Superman come to mind as successful movie series that became popluar TV series. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The Thin Man were made into TV series but didn’t last too long.
    Happy New Year, all.

  6. I ran the following query on my database: Find all TV series that aired at least three seasons and were based on at least two theatrical films. I include all dayparts as well as live-action and animated shows. (I may have missed a few since the d/b is yet complete, but it’s a good start.)
    Lee, I’ll let you sort out which fit your criteria and which don’t.
    19 seasons
    Lassie (Synd, 1954)
    6 seasons
    The Cisco Kid (Synd, 1950)
    Highlander: The Series (Synd, 1992)
    The Real Ghostbusters (ABC, 1986)
    The Saint (1962)
    5 seasons
    The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (ABC, 1954)
    Dr. Kildare (NBC, 1961)
    The Lone Ranger (ABC, 1949)
    3 seasons
    Ace Ventura (CBS, 1995)
    BeastMaster (Synd, 1999)
    Friday the 13th (Synd, 1987)
    Hopalong Cassidy (NBC, 1949)
    Tarzan (Synd, 1991)
    Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (ABC, 1992)

  7. Again, I’m NOT talking about simply TV series that were based on movies.
    I’m talking about a movie franchise… a series of films…that ran out of gas theatrically and moved to TV in attempt to cash in one more time.

    Sorry, I was thinking of the Star Trek movies spawning Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Star Trek #5 (arguably a last gasp product) was released in 1989, two years after Next Gen started.

  8. DR. KILDARE…another great example that I missed. It was as big a hit on TV as it was as a theatrical franchise. Thanks Christopher and Dr. TV!
    Besides DR. KILDARE, HIGHLANDER (and, arguably, LASSIE and THE SAINT) the track record for fading movie franchises succeeding on TV is lousy. I guess the moral here is if the franchise is played out in the theatres, people aren’t going to be that interested in seeing it on TV every week, either.

  9. William,
    Can’t you read? Lee wrote:
    “Again, I’m NOT talking about simply TV series that were based on movies.
    I’m talking about a movie franchise… a series of films…that ran out of gas theatrically and moved to TV in attempt to cash in one more time.”
    M*A*S*H was a single movie. It wasn’t series of movies. It wasn’t a franchise.

  10. Lee-
    You’re right. Mea Maxima Culpa. This is what I get for trying to think, or write at an ungodly hour on New Year’s Day!

  11. The Conan movie series (2 movies plus pastiche Red Sonja) led to a couple of TV series of varying degrees of success, one of which, an animated series called “Conan the Adventurer,” ran from ’92 to ’98 according to IMDB. While this was an adapted property, there were no movie/TV adaptions of the Conan stories before the movies starring the future governor.
    Also in the adapted-properties field, there are several movie adaptations of Spillane Mike Hammer novels in the fifties and sixties, and the several Mike Hammer TV series, one of which (the eighties one) ran three seasons. Hercule Poirot is a similar story. But as with the Tarzan TV series, the TV shows aren’t continuations from the movies.

  12. If you’re not restricting this to U.S. shows, I think the Quartermass franchise might qualify. And speaking of British shows, although it’s not quite what you’re looking for, Dr. Who bounced back-and-forth between TV and movies.
    Even though there was only one film, given its iconic status (and upcoming remake), would you consider Logan’s Run a franchise?
    In any case, I guess this doesn’t bode well for Blade and Kyra – Mark

  13. Virgil Tibbs. Three movies starring Sidney Poitier, followed by a reasonably long-lived series with Howard Rollins. The TV version wasn’t much like the movies, but it was even less like John Ball’s books.
    There were three Beastmaster movies, and then a TV series that ran three years, so it has to be counted.
    And, as previously mentioned, Hopalong Cassidy and the Cisco Kid.

  14. The Poitier “Virgil Tibbs” franchise ended about 15 years years before the TV series hit the air, so I don’t think the two were linked by anything except the original source material.


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