Whether it ends the way you wanted it to or not, the moment when your favourite television series comes to a close is always a sad one. From the number of websites, fan fiction pages and books dedicated to the long-running dramas and comedies which have lit up our TV screens for years at a time it is obvious that fans find it difficult to accept that the last episode of any given series really is the last time they’ll see their favourite characters. From Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls to The Sopranos and Lost, serial dramas have constantly sparked debate online as to whether or not a movie version will ever appear on the big screen.
Some say TV to movie adaptations rarely work, while others see these films as a welcome opportunity to revisit the lives of beloved characters. Whether or not they can really live up to the shows themselves sometimes these rumours become reality, and these films are eventually made. Two such upcoming adaptations come in the form of the massively successful American TV drama 24 and the cancelled-before-its-time comedy Arrested Development. With movie versions of these two hit shows in the process of being written as we speak, we take a look at how these two shows may fare on the big screen…
As one of America’s most successful and innovative television dramas of all time (the show was named number 6 in Empire Online’s Top 50 Television Shows of All Time), a 24 movie has a lot to live up to. The show spanned eight series, exploding onto television screens across the globe in 2001 and drawing to a close in its final instalment in 2010. This was a show where main characters’ deaths were to be expected in every other episode – working in CTU (the Counter Terrorist Unit) and fighting to protect America from terrorist attacks meant that everyone (with the exception of front man Jack Bauer) was expendable. This may then prove to be a tricky problem to solve when it comes to the movie. In the past, it has been suggested that certain popular characters who lost their lives along the way over the eight series would be brought back, essentially having the movie as an entirely separate entity to the TV show, and giving audiences the chance to see their favourite characters once again. While some fans will relish this chance, others may not feel so enthused, instead seeing this departure from the original plot as spoiling what was a perfectly formed narrative, developed in great detail over nine years. Actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe O’Brien, recently admitted that she would love it if they brought certain characters back from the dead for the movie – only time will tell whether or not they do.
Another issue with putting 24 on the big screen is, of course, the twenty-four hour format of the programme. Part of the thrill of the TV series was the knowledge that everything you were seeing on screen was happening in ‘real time’ – this was the innovative structure that intrigued viewers from the very first episode. With each series encompassing one whole day in the life of Jack Bauer, the pressure of the clock ticking made the drama of the storylines all the more intense. So what will happen to this pressure and excitement when the storyline is made to fit into a 90 or 120 minute film? Different ways of getting around this issue were thrown around for a while online. Some sources claimed that the film would be a three hour block, with the first and third hour in real time and the middle hour fitting in everything in between, while others said that the real-time format would be abandoned and the film would simply tell the story without the ticking clock. Will abandoning the show’s defining feature take away half of the thrill of the story? Again, only time will tell (pardon the pun), but, as a massive 24 fan, I for one can’t wait to find out how they do it.
The critics loved it, and it acquired a cult-esque fan base whose collective hearts were broken when the show was cancelled after three series. Arrested Development is a unique comedy about the dysfunctional Bluth family starring Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett and Portia de Rossi, amongst others. It has now been confirmed that, after much debate, there will be an Arrested Development movie released in 2012, starring the entire original cast and continuing the comical antics of the Bluth clan one last time.
How, then, will Arrested Development translate onto the big screen? Much like 24, the show is defined by a very particular visual style and narrative tone, a sort of mock-documentary with a voice-over (courtesy of executive producer Ron Howard) and ‘next time on Arrested Development’ segment tagged on to the end of every episode (the majority of which do not actually appear in the upcoming episode(s)). How well will the show fare as a movie? Granted, it is easier to turn a mock-documentary into a film than it is to juggle 24’s real time format, but the very nature of the programme rewards re-watching. The more times you watch Arrested Development, the more little clues and hidden references you pick up on about events which happen later in the series. It is cleverly drawn together in a way which allows viewers to take pleasure in revisiting past episodes. In fact, viewers get more out of the show every time they watch it. Unlike some other shows that feature a massive twist in the penultimate episode which means that re-watching can be enjoyable but is never quite as good as it was the first time you saw it, the subtleties of Arrested Development are what make it so worth watching over and over again. Will this subtle build-up be possible in a one off feature-length film?
As the debate continues as to whether or not TV shows should be made into films at all, these two shows are on the cusp of coming to a movie theatre near you. Regardless of whether or not it is a wise move, or will ever live up to the expectations of fans, they are going to be made, and all that remains to be seen is how smooth the transition from the small to the big screen is for each of them. Will the drama or the comedy come out on top? And will the fans of a show cancelled after only three series be more appreciative of a final opportunity to see their beloved characters in all their glory than the fans of a show which, after eight incredible seasons, had pretty much gone as far as it could go? Who knows. We will have to wait till summer 2012 (estimated release date for both films) to find out!