Television has been with us since the dawn of time. Scratch that. That's stupid. Television's a 20th century invention. I'm sorry. I get carried away talking about television sometimes, because it can do so much. It can entertain; it can educate; and, most of all, it can steal. Oh, how it can steal! There is nothing you can create that television can't co-opt and make its own -- often without paying any royalties. Yeah, TV's pretty great like that.
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God, I admire you.
A few weeks ago, we had a great time talking about all the shows television created by stealing ideas directly from popular movies. Well, not all the shows. Five shows. But guess what? Five wasn't enough; because television's really good at stealing, here's five more times TV saw a hit movie and decided it was worth craptizing for the small screen. One caveat. These are notadaptations. I mean, sometimes TV does successfully adapt things, and keeps the title and pays royalties and everything, but today we're talking about times when TV producers thought they could just steal the catchy part of a hit and make money on the small screen.
In 1977, George Lucas made Star Wars, one of the most important movies of the last 50 years. In 1980, he teamed up with Steven Spielberg and, incredibly, did it again, helping to create Raiders of the Lost Ark -- a true cinematic classic. Perhaps recognizing that only chaos theory could explain how a man like he could be part of two of the most important films ever made, Lucas would spend the rest of his life destroying every good thing he had done up until that point in time. But back to Raiders of the Lost Ark -- the film that revisited the thrills and excitement Lucas and Spielberg had experienced in old time adventure serials as kids. To be sure, Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn't a new idea, but it was a massive success that would emblazon it's iconic images on viewers for decades to come. Images like ...
Well, television loves success, and even though producer Donald Bellisario had been pitching an adventure series set in the '30s since the 1970s, it wasn't until the success of Raiders that he was able to bring us Tales of the Gold Monkey. Yep, it's the story of ex Flying Tiger's pilot, Jake Cutter, who alkwha;skldafgnsmf,d/.gasaasdc ... Oh, I'm sorry, I just fell asleep typing that. Simply, it's about an Indiana Jones guy, who flies planes and punches people and kisses girls in exotic locales. Just watch the trailer:
And while Monkey and Raiders both take from the same source material of old-time adventure serials, and even though the producers had been pitching the show since the '70s, there's no doubt that in order to get it made they had to Raiders it up. I mean, just check the opening credits for ...
In 1977, disco was the name of the game. (Also Yahtzee. That game was huge in the '70s.) Anyway, disco was everywhere and KC and Sunshine Band and The Bee Gees were tearing up the charts. Of course, the movie at the center of this Zeitgeist was Saturday Night Fever: the story of an Italian kid from Brooklyn, who works in a hardware store, but struts his stuff on the dance floor at night.
Yeah, seriously. That's pretty much all it's about.
Yep, just about anything disco-related could hit it big in 1977. Unfortunately, someone decided to make a disco show in 1979. Yep, that's when The Bee Gees' Robert Stigwood decided "Disco is forever!" and helped create a show that captured all the fun of Saturday Night Fever. Makin' It was about a kid named Billy Manucci, who lived in Passaic, New Jersey, worked in an ice cream shop, and liked to go disco dancing with his friends. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, they threw John Travolta's sister, Ellen, into the show, too.
By 1979, the world learned to hate disco, and Makin' It left no mark on anyone except the Billboard charts where the theme song, sung by star David Naughton (soon to be of An American Werewolf in London fame) wound up a Top 10 hit. It also gave us this: douche-chilly performance.
Hey, do you remember Blue Thunder?
"You do? Oh, man, you're old. HAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Hard as it is to believe, Blue Thunder was a big hit. It knocked Flashdance out of the top spot. Blue Thunder was about a super helicopter designed to fight crime; although, the film does take a more political angle.
As you can probably tell from the trailer, the plot of Blue Thunder isn't really as important as the super rad helicopter. Enter the producer, Donald Bellisario, our old Gold Monkey friend, to introduce a show about super cool crime fighting helicopter. Was anything else about the two shows the same? No, not really. Was it still a rip off? Of course it was! If I added a furry alien who ate cats to the cast of The Love Boat, wouldn't you still think of ALF? But in the interest of full disclosure, Airwolf had Jan-Michael Vincent as a badass fighter pilot as well as his father-figure, co-pilot Ernest Borgine. But most of all and most importantly, it had that badass helicopter.
The 80s were a crazy time. The Cold War wasn't quite over, Vanilla Ice had a career, and people thought solving Rubik's Cube was a sign of intelligence. And out of this insanity came a story about a single mom and a baby and John Travolta. Whatever. This is the talking baby movie. Bruce Willis did the voice of the baby, pairing him with Travolta years before Pulp Fiction. As revealed by the trailer below, Look Who's Talking had a lot less sodomy, murder, and use of the n-word.
At first television tried to adapt this movie for real with the loosely related series Baby Talk. Tony Danza was the voice of the baby and Amy Heckerling, who wrote and directed the movie, helped adapt it. That's not what we're talking about here, though, because this is an article about unofficial adaptations and/or "steals."
Enter Baby Bob, which is pretty much the same thing as Look Who's Talking, but with the added effect of crappy CGI to make it look like the baby's lips were moving. So, yeah, a talking baby show. I wish I could show you a clip, but I can't find one. But don't worry, Baby Bob and his amazing CGI technology went on to do a Quizno's commercial, so I think you'll see you didn't miss much.
In 2012, we all thought Clint Eastwood went off the deep end a little bit with his now infamous empty chair speech to Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention. But those who'd followed his career closely had probably seen signs much earlier on. Specifically, 1978's Every Which Way But Loose. The story of a trucker/fighter and his best friend, an orangutan, named Clyde. The movie, and the fact that it was made, is a testament to why cocaine is such a dangerous drug.
Against all odds, Every Which Way But Loose was a massive hit, and people in TVLand started talking:
"The kids love orangutans!" said one thoughtless douchebag at a meeting.
"No," said another. "They love truckers."
"Gentlemen," said their boss, snorting blow off the back of a small Bolivian prostitute. "Why chance it. Get me a show about a trucker AND an orangutan!"
And that is how BJ and the Bear was born, which despite its title was not about having oral sex with hairy gay guy. Instead, BJ traveled from town-to-town with his pet comic relief, helping out beautiful ladies in distress.
The show ran from 1979 to 1981, and starred Greg Evigan before he appeared in My Two Dads and TekWar. Bear went on to throw poop.
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This should have resulted in years of therapy.
Sometimes it's just a matter of making the US Department of Defense look, like, REALLY cool.