Did you know that there are a lot of hacks working in television who are consumed by bottom line results and utterly incapable of creating original ideas? Of course you did. You own a TV.
Oh sorry, not you, sir. (Wait. How are you reading this?)
Anyway, that's why television likes to take hit movies and turn them into TV shows. Sometimes it works! M*A*S*H, Alice, and The Odd Couple were all successful TV shows adapted from hit movies. Sometimes it doesn't. Clueless, Delta House, and Ferris Bueller all failed on the small screen. But sometimes television does this thing where they adapt something but don't ever bother getting the rights to the source material. They're not adapting the actual movie -- they're adapting what they think is popular about the movie. What the kids are into. Sometimes these producers are tapping into a trend, and sometimes they're just ripping stuff off. Here are five of the less imaginative attempts to create a hit show by altering the movie source material just enough to give it a new title.
#5. Battlestar Galactica Poached a Whole Bunch From Star Wars
In 1977, the world went space-batshit for Star Wars. For little boys like me, Han Solo completely defined our concept of what it meant to be a man, and I'm so glad Harrison Ford is back for Episode VII.
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Even if that means they also had to hire Andy Serkis to portray the CGI personification of Harrison Ford's grumbling disdain for the project.
Anyway, by 1978, television was eager to tap into the phenomenal Star Wars success, and Battlestar Galactica was born. Now, it's true the plot's not exactly the same -- back in 1978, BSG was about a ragtag band of rebels looking for Earth while they fled Cylon robots -- but there are some similarities that are hard to ignore.
The Darth Vader and Cylon designs are strikingly similar. Furthermore, while James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader, Morgan Freeman was recruited for all the Cylon dialogue. Lastly, that's totally untrue.
Those bad guys sure look similar, and so did many of the space shots. That's probably because John Dykstra, who headed the special effects team for Star Wars, also headed up the BSG team. Then you have two main characters and friends: one is a cavalier space cowboy, and the other is a more pious, boy-next-door recruit. That could apply equally to Han Solo and Luke and to Starbuck and Apollo, respectively. Indeed, as sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov said: "Star Wars was fun and I enjoyed it. But Battlestar Galactica was Star Wars all over again and I couldn't enjoy it without amnesia."
And in 1978, 20th Century Fox agreed and brought an intellectual property suit against Universal Studios claiming it had stolen 34 distinct ideas. Of course, all that was forgotten with the 2004 reboot where people could talk about all the important things in the BSG universe, like how influenced it was by Firefly.
#4. Ferris Bueller Was Reborn in Parker Lewis Can't Lose
In 1986, the world fell in love with a movie called Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and who could blame them? Well, me, actually. I don't really like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I always thought it was kinda meh. But we didn't say "meh" back then, so I said it was kinda "eh." It was the '80s. You wouldn't understand. In any event, after the movie's huge success, television wanted a piece of it. Actually, it was four years after (which is kinda weird). In 1990, NBC got the rights to Ferris Bueller and unleashed a sitcom. Faced with the impossible task of recasting the impeccable Mathew Broderick, NBC did the only thing they could:
They hired a troll and shaved him down until he could pass for a teen.
Anyway, that show sucked and went off the air after 13 episodes, but the Fox ripoff fared better: Parker Lewis Can't Lose lasted three seasons. What was it about? It was basically Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the story of a superstar high school kid, his friend, his sister, and a finicky principal.
Here. Watch an episode. Or don't. It kinda sucks, but you will certainly see how there is really no difference at all between Ferris and Parker, including their cocksure narration.
#3. An American Werewolf in London Gave Birth to Manimal
If you've never seen the John Landis flick An American Werewolf in London, please fix that. It's great, and it was funny and scary years before Evil Dead II existed. It tells the story of two nice college boys traveling the English countryside. One is mauled to death by a werewolf, and the other one is bitten, gaining all the shape-changing abilities you'd expect. But even though the movie is funny and scary, it's probably best known for its special effects that won Rick Baker an Oscar. Check out the transformation scene:
Now, Manimal wasn't a show about a werewolf, but instead told the story of a handsome, young, rich Englishman who ... um, knew how to change into animals. And having gained that power, he used it to ... um, solve crimes. Crimes like who's been vandalizing the zoo or who's been poisoning NYC Central Park carriage horses? I don't really know. The show was awful and didn't run a full season despite its snazzy intro. It was really just an excuse for transformations like in An American Werewolf in London. And even though they got the great Stan Winston, the effects were pretty derivative and cheesy.