…and 5 that shouldn’t.
In Part 1 of this article, we went through a list of British TV series who may benefit from a film adaptation or revival. In Part 2, we conclude by looking at shows that could potentially be adapted for the big screen but would lose more than they would gain by doing so.
- Only Fools And Horses.
The show: Britain’s best-loved sitcom needs no introduction. Who hasn’t heard of the legendary Derek “Del Boy” Trotter and the get-rich-quick schemes he cooks up with his reluctant brother Rodney in their indefatigable quest to become millionaires?
How: With most of the principal cast still alive and the show now as much of a cultural institution as any major 20th century work of British fiction, simply picking up where the series finale left off for one last bittersweet reunion would seem the logical choice.
Why not: While a catch-up with the Trotters could make for an interesting look back at the sociodemographic evolution London has gone through since the show began in 1981, there just doesn’t seem to be any new direction in which to take the characters. We’ve seen them get married, have children, become millionaires, lose their fortune and mourn the deaths of beloved family members. We’ve even had a prequel series in the form of Rock & Chips, which lasted a grand total of three episodes. At this point, it’s probably best to leave well enough alone and let the boys live their lives without us.
- Fawlty Towers.
The show: John Cleese and Connie Booth’s two-season comedy classic set in a Torquay hotel run by a snooty manager and his frivolous wife. Mishaps, lies and abuse of Spanish waiters ensue.
How: In typical Fawlty Towers fashion the plot would involve hiding a potentially disastrous situation at the hotel while preparing for the arrival of an important guest. Taking inspiration from a genuine incident involving Basil Fawlty’s real-life inspiration and Eric Idle’s bag, said emergency could take the shape of a possible terrorist plot. Ralph Fiennes could once again demonstrate his comic chops as a fussy hotel owner by playing Basil, while Jennifer Saunders and Gael García Bernal providing support as Sybil and Manuel respectively.
Why not: There is perhaps no other show in the history of British television that caught lightning in a bottle as perfectly as Fawlty Towers did. In just two seasons, it sealed its place in British culture forever with almost zero missteps and quit while it was ahead. To bring it back – especially with a different cast – would be to risk sullying this near-perfect record. But more importantly, it was one of these shows that could only truly work on a small scale for a small screen. To extend Basil’s antics over half an hour would stretch the plot and laughs too thin.
- Blake’s 7.
The show: A ragtag band of rebels and convicts fight a guerrilla war against the evil Terran Federation on board the alien starship Liberator, culminating in a notorious cliffhanger ending in which most of the cast apparently die in a shootout with Federation troops.
How: It seems like a simple enough task: Focus on interpersonal character relationships, keep the galactic politics present but don’t let them overwhelm the story. Put an experienced sci-fi geek like Joe Cornish in charge, cast the right people and it should all work by itself.
Why not: Any attempt at adapting the series to the big screen would be compromised by the fundamentally episodic nature of the story. A Blake’s 7 film couldn’t stand alone – it would have to be part of a franchise and franchise-starter films consciously conceived as such rarely hold up. Even good ones like A Series Of Unfortunate Events always leave a lasting feeling of incompletion. This is another case where a TV-to-cinema transition would actually narrow a story’s horizons instead of broadening them.
- The Box Of Delights.
The show: Based on a novel by John Masefield, this Christmas classic tells the story of a young boy’s friendship with an old magician whose magical box is sought after by an evil wizard and his minions.
How: The original miniseries conjured phoenixes out of the box with pretty hand-drawn animation. Imagine the realistic fantasies a modern film adaptation could create with CGI, even with the budget of an average Doctor Who episode. Speaking of which, as a fellow Doctor, it would be most fitting for Tom Baker to follow in Patrick Troughton’s footsteps as the old man while Richard E. Grant brings on the sneers as the main villain.
Why not: As obviously “fake” as the animation may look today when juxtaposed with the live-action footage, its gentle delicacy is what gives it its timeless charm. The low production values and old-fashioned filming contribute to a natural atmosphere of mystery and adventure that contemporary filmmaking couldn’t replicate. Put simply, the 1984 adaptation of The Box Of Delights came at the right time and place in TV history and no update or remake could improve on it.
- I, Claudius.
The show: It’s sex, murder and conspiracies galore in Ancient Rome, where Claudius struggles for survival as he chronicles the rise and fall of three successive emperors before reluctantly becoming one himself.
How: Think of old three-plus hour Hollywood epics in the vein of Cleopatra and Spartacus, with massive sets, lavish costumes and an all-star cast of first-rate thespians – including Toby Jones as Claudius, Kate Mulgrew as Livia and Daniel Radcliffe as Caligula. Put it in the hands of a director with a solid peplum pedigree, like Ridley Scott or Mel Gibson, and the results should be spectacular.
Why not: Even in a three-hour epic, the evolution of both the characters and the political and religious backdrop (which includes the birth of Christianity) risk being diluted to the point of losing impact. Sacrifices are inevitable in translation, but watching minor players like Caligula, Sejanus and Messalina grow in prominence and complexity before giving way to others was one of the show’s chief pleasures. If Robert Graves’ novel is to be adapted again in a way that does full justice to the richness of its characters, it should remain on television where they may blossom without rush.
Are there any TV shows, British or otherwise, that you would like to see adapted to film? Do you think any of the above-mentioned series could in fact work on the big screen? Please let us know in the comments below.