Though there’s no established rules, movies typically get translated into television shows, and vice versa, in one of two ways. A movie becomes a hit, like M*A*S*H, and the studio arranges to bring those characters to the small screen quickly thereafter. Or, a classic television show, like The Fugitive, is relaunched as a movie decades later for a new generation of fans. Rarely do you see what NBC is currently attempting: resurrecting a movie, The Firm, as a television series — 18 years after the Tom Cruise hit. Yes, In the Heat of the Night successfully pulled off a similar trick — 21 years after the original film — but typically, networks aren’t looking that far in the past for their next hit show.
That said, there’s some hope for NBC’s mid-season replacement. One, they have the John Grisham fanbase that bought 7 million copies of The Firm, a fanbase that, no disrespect to Cruise and director Sydney Pollack, rather preferred the book to the film. Two, they have a handsome, likable movie star willing to step in Cruise’s shoes: Josh Lucas. The 39-year-old Arkansan is as suited for attorney Mitchell McDeere’s skin as the more-intense Cruise ever was, and the idea of him picking up the story 10 years after the events of the film has merit. People may always identify Cruise with the character, but it’s not like Lucas is resurrecting Top Gun‘s Maverick or Jerry Maguire. After a few well-written episodes, Lucas can put his own stamp on the character, just as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alan Alda did on Buffy and M*A*S*H, respectively.
Why do you think networks don’t look to older movies more often when they’re ordering pilots? Does Tom Cruise’s Firm cast such an imposing shadow to threaten NBC’s series, or do you think that Lucas can very quickly make the role his own? What TV versions of characters, in addition to Gellar and Alda, equaled or surpassed the original cinematic portrayals? (Can I get some love for Robert Hays’ alien in TV’s Starman?)