Nick Rogers: TV-to-film adaptations can’t last

Nick Rogers

Call it an Illinois point of pride that the only two great TV-to-film adaptations of the last 20 years were set, and shot, in Chicago: “The Fugitive” and “The Untouchables.”

Aside from a small handful of entertaining outings, that list is littered with embarrassments and abominations: “Wild Wild West,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Bewitched,” “My Favorite Martian,” “I Spy,” “The Avengers,” “Sgt. Bilko,” “The Honeymooners,” “McHale’s Navy,” “The Mod Squad.”

You’ll have to wait until Friday to learn into which group the new “Get Smart” film falls, but one thing’s certain: Big-screen adaptations of TV shows will be dead by 2028.

I’m not talking about “Sex and the City” or “The Simpsons Movie” — in which series stars are the movies’ stars (or voices). That’s splintering a brand. I’m talking about vintage shows recast and reimagined for modern times, such as the upcoming “Dallas,” “The A-Team” or “Land of the Lost.”

Note that two of those coming attractions come from the 1980s. Not surprising, as it’s the last decade left from which to mine such modernization. Whether because of narrative structure, casting or the changing market, no popular show since 1990 ever will be reinvented.

First, look at all the sitcoms above. Then consider the iconic, popular sitcoms of the last 18 years.

“Seinfeld” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Not when the stars are 76 and 73.

“Friends”? Like “Sex and the City,” it’s identifiable only with its original ensemble, not a sextet of future stars currently preparing for third grade. And just hazarding a guess that fans of today’s most popular sitcom, “Two and a Half Men,” won’t be clamoring for a remake when they’re 64.

And there are no currently popular dramas or action shows not being all they can be on TV: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “CSI,” “Law and Order,” “Lost,” “Brothers and Sisters.” Of those, “Lost” is the only one imaginable as a future pitch, but anyone who watches it knows it wouldn’t work.

That’s because “Lost,” like so many emerging TV hits, is approached, written and even acted in a way different than dramas of another era. Competing with computers and movies for entertainment time allocation, it’s got hyperlink and social-networking undertones to its windy, twisty narrative.

Mining nostalgia just can’t dip as far as “My Mother the Car.” So if this trend annoys you, take comfort in knowing its end is near. That is, until studios remake remakes. Don’t put it past them.

Nick Rogers can be reached at 747-9587 Read his blog