Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What TV show would you like to see transferred to the big screen?

Actors Emily Blunt, right, and Ryan Gosling arrive for the European premiere of the movie "Fall Guy" in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 19, 2024.
Ebrahim Noroozi
Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling's new movie "The Fall Guy" is loosely based on the Lee Majors television series from the 1980s.

With the release of The Fall Guy, reviews and think pieces tended to explore the notion of stuntman-turned-director David Leitch crafting an ode to both stunt performers and an overall love of filmmaking; especially in light of The Fall Guy’s leads — Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling — reverential segment at this year’s Oscars telecast dedicated to stunt professionals. Every frame of the film intends to woo us with an outrageous degree of aggressively heightened sensuality. Imagine Prince cooing and whispering sweet nothings in between the bombastic declarations of how great a frenzy he’s whipping up for us.

Film operates on that "go big or go home" level. Over the top is never enough when epic scale is tantalizingly within reach. At the end of the day, The Fall Guy, which is loosely based on the Lee Majors television series from the 1980s, reminds audiences of something far more immediate about the scale of storytelling. Despite the power of television and streaming to create nuance in character and crack open underexplored territory when it comes to novelistic framing, film remains the highest narrative stage. And it can inspire filmmakers to take wild swings that sometimes miss, but there’s reward without taking a risk every now and then.

RELATED: How I went from a smug observer of reality TV to a devotee

A truly stupendous premise for a television or streaming series is confined to certain obvious limits, but what happens when a storyteller dares to dream big and move things to the big screen?

The Equalizer (television series 1985-1989 and 2021-present; films in 2014, 2018 and 2023)

This multi-format franchise began in the 1980s as a television series starring Edward Woodward as a retired intelligence operative who transitions to the private sector as a private eye interested in helping clients threatened by forces beyond their control. His aim is to even — or better — the odds. Woodward was quiet and debonair and more than equal to the task of handling his weekly assignments with the support of familiar faces as both villains and allies.

The show lasted four seasons and then decades later, Denzel Washington reteamed with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua to update and reinvigorate the idea for the big screen. Washington is in full movie star mode and the action gets jacked up to levels the original series could never have conceived back in the day. Intriguingly, The Equalizer has been reborn on the small screen as well with Queen Latifah as the mysterious protagonist using her unique skill set to equalize the playing field for a new generation of victims each week. This franchise seems to have the potential to ping-pong between television and film and back again in an endless cycle.

Sex and the City (television series 1998-2004 and 2021-present; films in 2008 and 2010)

Another entry in the cable series-to-film-to-streaming sweepstakes is the ongoing story of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her close cadre of friends (Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and the wayward Kim Cattrall) seeking love and fulfillment in New York and beyond. While I was never a huge fan of the original series — I tend to share the unwelcome opinion that Carrie is the worst friend ever — I marvel at its staying power as a cultural touchstone. Never content to pigeonhole its female leads into fairytale happy endings, the show crafted the first part of a romantic arc rooted in a degree of self-actualization before a pair of feature films attempted to box the women into traditional roles. Now with And Just Like That… (the HBO series continuation), we discover how complicated happily ever after can be for both their love lives and the idea of female friendship. There was something quite silly and cartoonish about the films that tended to stray from the more grounded approach found in the original series, which makes the series return/update far more satisfying. In this case, messy might work better than big.

RELATED: What makes a successful film trilogy?

Twin Peaks (television series 1990-1991 and 2017; film in 1992)

What happens when a cinematic visionary gets handed the keys to a surreal television kingdom and surrenders to their wildest fantasies? In 1990, David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet) teamed up with Mark Frost to create the anti-investigative thriller series Twin Peaks. Kyle MacLachlan played a downright quirky FBI agent seeking to uncover what happened to a young woman in a small town full of secrets and waking nightmares. Network television audiences had no idea what to make of the series, which lasted two seasons before spawning a big screen prequel of sorts with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me in 1992, before making a comeback in a one-season Showtime revival in 2017 that takes place 25 years after the original series. Daring doesn’t even accurately define how impactful this dreamscape franchise is for narrative storytelling. We may never see anything like this ever again.

21 Jump Street (television series 1987-1991; films in 2012 and 2014))

Through five tumultuous seasons in the late 1980s, creators Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh forged a soapy crime drama around an undercover police unit comprised of baby-faced officers who specialized in youth crime in urban communities. Probably best known for jumpstarting the career of Johnny Depp and later (to a lesser degree) that of Richard Grieco, 21 Jump Street felt like a parody of itself, so when it was time to reimagine it as a feature film, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) laughed even harder at the idea of a pair of less than stellar cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) being sent back to high school to bust a drug ring. Swapping soapy melodrama for broad humor was the best and brightest move they could have made, besides casting Ice Cube as the hardened superior of the special unit.

What if’s that could take over the multiplexes in the future

Stranger Things (streaming series 2016-2025)

With Season 5 on the horizon, the time is right for a conversation about how the Duffer brothers created one of the best nostalgic film franchises ever on the small screen, thanks to a brilliant partnership with Netflix. Set in the 1980s (and intimately linked to small-town life and one of the most nerdy, of-the-moment games ever in Dungeons & Dragons), each season has leaned into period-specific film references and picture-perfect awkward pre-teen drama. Stranger Things feels like it could easily make the jump from streaming to blockbuster status at the multiplex. Several episodes in the last season pushed into feature filmmaking territory in terms of length, and of course, no one sitting at home ended up batting an eye. We’re hopefully less than a year away from the conclusion of the series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if film becomes the new canvas for stranger stories down the road.

RELATED: The movies to see in 2024

Black Mirror (television and streaming series 2011-present)

Working within a narrative framework rooted in anthology-styled episodes that seemingly longs to be a contemporary reimagining of The Twilight Zone, this series from Charlie Brooker landed at Netflix in 2016 after a stint on Channel 4 from 2011-2014. It holds the potential to make yet another leap from our small screens to a larger format. At its very best, each season has offered an episode or two that take audiences back to the water cooler-type shows that dominate cultural conversations. (OK, I could have just said they attracted social media buzzworthy status, but I have appreciated how the dialogues have leap from apps into the real world.) The film anthology hasn’t always done that well, but in the right hands — say Jordan Peele or maybe even M. Night Shyamalan — we might be graced with a story or two capable of evolving onto the big screen and dominating our imaginations there as well.

The Six Million Dollar Man (television series 1974-1978)

I would be remiss if I didn’t circle back to another classic television gem from Lee Majors. The Six Million Dollar Man goes all the way back to the mid-1970s with five seasons featuring the story of a test pilot, severely injured, who is rebuilt with nuclear-powered bionic limbs and serves as a secret agent. At the time, $6 million seemed like an astronomical amount to pay for bionic capabilities. Considering inflation alone, a remake/update of this premise for the big screen would likely come with a billion-dollar price tag. With the money producers would likely pay for stunts and effects, there’s a chance the budget would lean toward the $100 million level. There have been rumors in the trade magazines about a Mark Wahlberg-led adaptation, but after the less than spectacular performance of The Fall Guy, we might have to wait a bit longer before someone steps up to the plate for this project.

tt stern enzi has spent 20 years as a freelance writer and film critic in the Greater Cincinnati region covering the film industry and film festivals while also earning distinction as an accredited critic on Rotten Tomatoes and membership in the Critics Choice Association.