Nicholas Barber's the Watch List: TV Spin-offs


Tomorrow’s DVD release of Alpha Papa is a reminder that films based on television shows needn’t be On-the-Buses bad. Other honourable examples of the genre are The Inbetweeners Movie (2011), In the Loop (2009) and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999).

But, as hilarious as they are, they’re all beaten by the deadpan silliness of The Naked Gun, which, lest we forget, is actually entitled The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). Police Squad! was a spoof cop show that was cancelled after just six episodes in 1982, but the subsequent film is revered as a quickfire comedy classic. Alas, one of its stars is O J Simpson, which makes it a bit less funny now than it used to be.

Joss Whedon’s sci-fi Western series, Firefly, lasted slightly longer than Police Squad: 14 episodes were shot, and 11 screened, before the axe fell. Fans campaigned for its resurrection, and their wish was granted when Whedon made Serenity (2005), a swashbuckling space opera which rounds off the series, but which also delivers as a stand-alone adventure to rival anything with Star Wars or Star Trek in its title. Box office-wise, though, it didn’t do much better than its TV forebear. Plans for a sequel were shelved, and Whedon turned his attention to Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, which is surely the definition of having the  last laugh.

The most legendary of small-screen spin-offs is The Monkees’ film, Head (1968). Co-written by Jack Nicholson, it’s an experimental romp which demolishes the group’s fun-loving image and comments on their manufactured origins. Naturally, it was slated on release, but it’s unlikely that a faithful recreation of the Monkees’ television series would still be such a cult favourite today.