Barba-Hell-No: Seven Movies That Should Be TV Shows Before Barbarella
A few weeks ago when it was announced that the director of Drive was working on a Barbarella TV series, my brain experienced a cognitive dissonance that gave me a concussion. Why would a fellow as talented Nicolas Winding Refn want anything to do with a movie that I’d only ever heard bad things about? Things like “That movie made me bleed from the eyeballs,” or “That movie stole all my traveler’s checks and then punched me in the solar plexus.” Never having seen the film, I realized my preconceptions could be wrong. Perhaps Barbarella contained some unseen brilliance just waiting for me to discover it. So I watched it.
Let me just say this: there are a lot of people out there that have a serious mad-on for Barbarella actress Jane Fonda. Some would claim this is because of her politics, or because of her actions during the Vietnam War that earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.” I’m here to tell you that those are red herrings. Anyone who hates Jane Fonda has unquestionably been forced to sit through Barbarella at some point. This is a movie that made me question mankind’s capacity for goodness. This is a movie that made me bored of the mostly naked female form. I’m pretty sure this movie gave me diabetes.
I still don’t know whether Nicolas Winding Refn has been kidnapped and is being forced to make a Barbarella TV series at gunpoint, but all of this did get me thinking. Thinking of all the science fiction movies that are more deserving of the TV treatment than Barbarella. That list is practically endless, but here are seven of them.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
The closing credits of the cult classic Buckaroo Banzai promised that Buckaroo and the Honk Kong Kavaliers would return in Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, and fans have been waiting ever since for the follow-up that never came. Fox even tried to develop a show based on the movie, called Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets and New Mysteries, back in the late ’90s, but alas it never came together. But with the television landscape having opened up and pretty much every cable network trying to develop original content, surely there’s a home out there for the further adventures of a daring adventurer/physicist/neurosurgeon/test pilot/rock musician.
Many of the original cast have gone on to acting success and all have, well, aged 30 years, so a series starring the likes of Peter Weller, Clancy Brown, and Jeff Goldblum is probably right out. But why not jump on the Hollywood bandwagon and make the series a prequel? While that’s often a dirty word, this would allow us to see the earlier adventures of Buckaroo and the HKK’s — of which I’m sure there were many — and Weller and the rest could still remain the definitive older versions of the characters. With the right writers and cast, Buckaroo’s continuing adventures through the odd, forgotten corners of the world could fit right in with shows like Eureka or Warehouse 13.
A Boy and His Dog
Dipping even deeper into obscurity than Buckaroo, we come to the 1974 film A Boy and His Dog, starring a young Don Johnson and directed by L.Q. Jones. If the title sounds like a harmless family film, take note that it’s based on a series of stories by Harlan Ellison. Harlan even wrote a script for a proposed TV series in the late ’70s, but it never made it to air. A Boy and His Dog is set in an alternate history where two more World Wars have left the Earth a scorched wasteland. A young man named Vic scrapes out a meager existence among the ruins with the help of a telepathic mutt named Blood. Vic helps protect Blood, and Blood uses his enhanced senses to help Vic forage.
Shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and NBC’s upcoming Revolution have already proved that the apocalypse is rich fodder for drama, but A Boy and His Dog offers a unique twist on the old clichés thanks to the relationship between Vic and Blood, with Vic often serving as a mentor and the two constantly bickering as old friends do. The source material doesn’t shy away from the bleak nature of the post-apocalyptic world, and a network like HBO would allow the show to present the more horrific elements through the eyes and dark humor of a pair of unlikely survivors.
The Rocketeer is a beautiful little artifact from a time before superhero movies were big business. The character himself is still considerably lesser-known than even second-tier heroes such as Thor and the Green Lantern, so if those guys are getting movies why not give The Rocketeer a TV series? CGI has advanced to the level where the flying scenes and action are actually feasible on a decent TV budget, and the period setting immediately gives you a stock of go-to villains in the form of Nazi spies and murderous gangsters.
Honestly, it would be hard to find a better clean-cut, all-American lead than 1991-era Billy Campbell, or a better true love than 1991-era Jennifer Connelly, but it would be a great chance to let some young actors make a name for themselves. With the right writers on board, a Rocketeer series could play like a cross between Indiana Jones and Superman, with a well-intentioned but inexperienced Cliff Secord trying his best to fight the good fight and master the rocket strapped to his back, perhaps with recurring appearances by Howard Hughes as a mentor. The Rocketeer could be thrilling, nostalgic escapism for the whole family, a trip back to an idealized time when evil could be defeated with good old-fashioned American grit and a solid right cross.
In a perfect world, Galaxy Quest would have made a billion dollars and spawned a multi-year ongoing franchise. Alas, all we got was one — hilarious — movie. Why not change that by turning it into a TV series? The bad news is that it would likely be impossible to reunite a cast that included Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, and Sam Rockwell (actually, Tim Allen’s schedule is probably free). But while the chemistry between those actors was a big part of why the movie worked, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t find a new crop of actors that work together just as well.
It seems to me there’s still plenty of meat in the concept of hapless actors being thrown into real version of the ridiculous events they once played on screen, and I’d love to see Jason Nesmith, Gwen DeMarco, and Alexander Dane enlisted for an extended tour fighting evil amongst the stars. With science fiction and “geek” culture more prevalent than ever, there are still plenty of targets in need of a good skewering. Hell, since the show Galaxy Quest primarily parodied has since been rebooted by a certain Mr. Abrams, you could even get really meta and have the new cast of the show-within-a-show Galaxy Quest reboot kidnapped by mistake, possibly by aliens whose starships are powered by lens flares.
Speaking of comedy, it’s a freaking crime that Idiocracy was given the bum’s rush through theaters back in 2006. I managed to see it the week of release, but only by bribing a one-eyed man named “Lucky” into letting me into the basement of a condemned liquor store where the movie was playing on a strung-up bed sheet covered with unidentified stains. And I still laughed my ass off. Idiocracy has some of the sharpest satire of modern culture that I’ve ever seen, from the core notion that only stupid people are breeding, to the near-future TV line-up of moronic shows such as “Ow, My Balls!”
The Simpsons hasn’t been funny or relevant in a decade, and South Park is chugging through its 16th season. We need a new leader in the art of carving our culture’s stupidity and hypocrisy a new one, and an ongoing Idiocracy series would do the job nicely. Creator Mike Judge has extensive TV experience, and let’s face it, his big-screen career isn’t exactly on fire right now. Come back to the boob tube, Mr. Judge, and give us the further adventures of the smartest man in the future (who isn’t actually that smart). Plants may crave the electrolytes of Brawndo, but I’m craving Idiocracy: The Series.
Daybreakers was not that good a movie. What it did have going for it, however, was a brilliantly well-thought-out world. Screenwriter/director siblings Michael and Peter Spierig did a marvelous job extrapolating a world where a global plague has made vampires the majority, with the few remaining humans on the run or farmed for their blood. It was the little details that sold the world, from middle-of-the-night school zones, to “day-proofed” cars, to sprawling wildfires set by vampirized animals who don’t know to take shelter during the sunlight hours.
With a world this richly imagined, there would be no problem finding other stories to tell, whether your protagonists were vampires, humans on the run, or a mixture of both. Vampire hierarchy and society has been explored by everyone from Anne Rice to True Blood to (shudder) Twilight, but I can’t think of a take on the vampire concept that has intrigued me and brimmed with potential as much as Daybreakers does. Vampires are still a hot commodity these days, and the world the Spierig brothers created is too compelling to let stand with one under-seen movie.
Have you seen this movie? What an amazing cast! What an amazing setting! This thing would make a truly kick-ass TV series, am I right? Why has nobody thought of this before? Why are you all looking at me like that?