When do you know a movie is successful? When it transcends a
single two hour event and gets a weekly invitation into our living rooms.
Dozens of movies step from the big screen to the TV Guide,
for many different reasons, and with just as many results.
For some movies, the audience simply demands more, and the
producers eagerly capitalize on that thirst. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Dirty Dancing, and Clueless
come to mind.
Some films, like The Highlander and Stargate,
present an intriguing character or plot idea that allows television producers
to develop in ways that a single film could not.
A few movies inspire TV series with their popular theme. The
Pink Panther cartoon was less about the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, and
more about a cool pink cat. Stalag 17 inspired Hogan’s Heroes as The
Great Race did the same for the Wacky Racers cartoon series. Though
neither series included the movies’ cast of characters, the basic plots
continued, but adjusted for a family audience.
Lots of movies share the distinction of jumping from theatre
to TV, such as The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to La Femme Nikita.
However, two other series stand out on my list.
In Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, writer Joss Whedon
takes advantage of the small screen to perfect his characters as he—and his
audience—preferred. Though the feature film was popular, most critics regarded
it as camp. Most of the Buffy fans that I know, disregard the movie
altogether, but I think that’s a shame. I absolutely adored Paul Reubens’ death
throes. That scene makes the movie for me. The television series dropped the goofiness (mostly) and kept the wit
and humor. The success of the series eclipsed the original film.
The real success story though, is a series that broke all sorts
of rules. In the 1970 film, M*A*S*H*, creator Robert Altman told the
story of a US Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. The film
made a pointed statement on the heels of the Vietnam War.
In 1972 the producers of the TV series took that idea and
transformed a talented ensemble cast into a family. And the funny thing is, for
eleven years they became part of our family, too.
Though reportedly Robert Altman hated the series, the weekly
show defied typical television rules. In the first season, M*A*S*H*
finished forty-sixth in the ratings. Every year the show improved its
standings, and by the eleventh and final season, finished number three. The
series finale broke all TV records for ratings.
The core cast underwent a few adjustments over the years,
and dozens of guest actors eventually became stars. The story lines, many of
which were inspired by real-life soldiers’ accounts, developed the characters
into people for whom we sincerely cared.
We called them by their nicknames. We knew their spouses’ names. We knew their hometowns.
Though the show was set in South Korea, the stories focused
on relationships. We laughed at Klinger’s dresses. We cried when Henry Blake’s
flight home was shot down. We worried about Hawkeye’s drinking, womanizing and
cynicism. We made bets about BJ’s real name. We loved to hate Frank Burns and
sometimes hated to love Hot Lips. Radar’s ESP amazed us while his teddy bear
At times it seemed the cast took turns making us cry. After all, it was war.
If I had to pick a TV series (from a movie) to recommend for you to see, it would be M*A*S*H*,
but then again, M*A*S*H* may be my all-time favorite television series.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Tell me your favorite M*A*S*H* memories, or tell me about a movie/ series that you love!
Thanks for reading!