15 TV Shows That Should Never Be Made into Movies

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 5:09 am
By Shane Rivers

Movies like 21 Jump Street are just the latest in a long line of television shows adapted for the big screen. Some of these conversions work thanks to clever scripts and above-average performances, while others wind up making viewers long for the original series. Which brings us to our list of 15 TV shows that should never be made into movies. The following programs make the likes of Land of the Lost and Bewitched look like the greatest ideas ever conceived by the human mind.

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The Secret Diary of Desmond PfeifferThe Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer – Chi McBride starred in this UPN stinker which took a look at the lighter side of slavery. Needless to say, that didn’t sit real well with the NAACP and numerous other groups. Pfeiffer (no, the “P” wasn’t silent) was a British noble who was abducted and put on a slave ship. Arriving in America, he ended up as the valet to President Abraham Lincoln. That’s fortunate, as the Lincoln administration depicted on the show was filled with an assortment of numbskulls. Sort of like Benson, if Robert Guillaume had just been dragged off a slave ship. The show debuted on October 5th and was removed from the network’s lineup on October 24th. That’s a shame, as I would’ve liked to witness the inevitable showdown between Chi McBride and John Wilkes Booth.

Small Wonder – The cheesy theme song was enough to make any sane person’s ears bleed, and the actual show wasn’t much better. Vicki (short for Voice Input Child Identicant) was an artificial being created by a robotics engineer and passed off as a member of his family. When she wasn’t busy being absolutely adorable, Vicki would sometimes elongate her body, grow to 10 feet tall, or shrink down to the size of a doll. The rest of the time, Vicki was kept in a bedroom cabinet, which makes me wonder if there wasn’t a much darker side to the series. Amazingly, this one ran in syndication for four seasons.

When Things Were Rotten – In 1975, Mel Brooks created this ABC sitcom about Robin Hood and his Merry Men (who also happened to be morons) Featuring the dream team of Dick Van Patten and Bernie Kopell, the show only lasted for half a season. Van Patten and Kopell went on to change the face of television with Eight is Enough and The Love Boat (yeah, right). Brooks would later make a film called Robin Hood: Men in Tights, an absolute turd guaranteed to cause strokes in the elderly and the death of all that‘s good and decent. While Robin Hood: Men in Tights wasn’t a true remake, it was close enough to remain a cautionary tale for generations to come.

My Mother the Car – While shopping for a station wagon, attorney David Crabtree (Jerry Van Dyke) hears his mother’s voice. Oddly enough, his mother has been dead for years. Upon closer investigation, David learns that his mother has been reincarnated as a car from 1928, and she can communicate with him over the radio. Instead of immediately going stark raving mad, Crabtree buys the car and gets it restored. This brings in a seedy car collector–that’s right, the show’s villain was a car collector–who wants to purchase the antique vehicle. My Mother the Car was cancelled after one season, depriving the audience of the satisfaction of eventually seeing an episode entitled “Wrecking Yard.” Hard to believe this show was created by the guys behind The Munsters, Get Smart, and Rocky & Bullwinkle.

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage – Black Jack Savage (Steven Williams) was a 17th-century pirate who was eventually caught and executed. Berry Tarberry (Berry Tarberry?! – what a name) is a Wall Street crook (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) who flees to the Caribbean to escape prosecution. In order to avoid eternal damnation, the unlikely duo of man and ghost must–you guessed it–team up to save 100 souls. Luckily, they get some assistance from a plucky activist (Roma Downey) and a badass powerboat known as The Blackbird.

First of all, when was being a Wall Street crook on the same level as piracy? Didn’t pirates rape and murder people? I guess things are a lot worse on Wall Street than I’d ever imagined. And you’ve gotta love the continuing obsession with high-tech vehicles (a la KITT and Airwolf), even though they’re usually anything but cool. It’s a black powerboat, for Christ’s sake.

Automan Should Never be Made Into a MovieAutoman – A guy with feathered 80’s hair and a Tron suit teams up to fight crime with the son of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. That sounds like a helluva pitch, doesn’t it? Sadly, that show actually got made. It’s name was Automan, and it made it 12 bewildering episodes before ABC mercifully pulled the plug. Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz Jr.) was a cop and computer expert who created a program capable of generating a solid hologram named Automan to help fight crime. Automan also had a sidekick named Cursor, a glowing ball of light which could create handy items such as cars and helicopters (again with the high-tech vehicles). The epitome of 80’s crappiness.

Quark – The thrilling adventures of a spaceship captain who….collects garbage. That’s right – the show follows Adam Quark (Richard Benjamin), a galactic garbage collector who dreams of a life of adventure, romance and intrigue. His wacky crew consists of a pair of gorgeous blondes (one a clone of the other), an engineer who shifts from male to female at the drop of a hat, a sentient plant who looks entirely human, and a cowardly robot. While he does get to have an occasional adventure, it’s always back to collecting garbage at the end of the show. Quark actually does have a cult following, and the first (and only) season has been released on DVD. Still, I doubt even J.J. Abrams would know what to do with the big screen version of this show.

The Master Should Not be a MovieThe Master – Lasting only 13 episodes on NBC, The Master was about a white ninja (poor Lee Van Cleef) and his youthful apprentice. The duo drove a customized van (The A-Team, anyone?) across America, helping those in need. I’ve long thought than a van would be the vehicle of choice for ninjas, as they’re the most inconspicuous mode of transportation available. A young Demi Moore appeared on one episode, although it’s unknown if she learned any valuable ninja skills.

Woops! – Leave it to Fox to take the subject of a nuclear holocaust and turn it into a comedy. Woops! follows a group of survivors as they attempt to rebuild civilization in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mutated spiders and other such dangers. One character survived the blast due to the superior construction of his Volvo, while another was a homeless man sleeping under an overpass (apparently, nuclear blasts will travel around solid objects). In one episode, we learn that Santa Claus is still alive, but he’s depressed over the horrific deaths of Mrs. Claus and all the elves. Now that’s what I call comedy!

Mr. Smith – An orangutan gets separated from his owner, drinks a chemical which makes him a genius with the ability to speak, and becomes a political advisor. Each episode, Mr. Smith (formerly named Cha Cha) would face various political problems while trying to keep his identity hidden from the masses. As if anyone would care after President Bush.

Cop Rock – Each time I watch The Shield, I always think how much better the show could be if Vic Mackey would occasionally break into song for no apparent reason. If you think that sounds cool, then Cop Rock is the show for you. Just imagine New Jack City: The Musical, and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about (I’d love to hear Wesley Snipes sing about free turkeys). Cop Rock bombed, getting cancelled after only 11 episodes. To this day, it remains one of the biggest failures in TV history.

Homeboys in Outer SpaceHomeboys in Outer Space – Two black guys tooled around space in a winged car–dubbed The Space Hoopty–which looked like a combination lowrider and semi. It even had a talking female computer named Loquatia, which the UPN press release dubbed as “sassy” (how’s that for racial equality?). Incredibly, Homeboys lasted 21 episodes before getting canned.

Viva Laughlin – And while we’re on the subject of ill-advised musicals – Viva Laughlin was a doomed CBS series about a businessman looking to run a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Just like Cop Rock, characters would occasionally stop to belt out songs, but this one only lasted two episodes. Even an appearance by hunky Hugh Jackman couldn’t save this show, and you would’ve thought the failure of Cop Rock several years prior might have taught them to avoid the singing and dancing. I guess some people just have to learn the hard way.

Holmes & Yo-Yo – Detective Alexander Holmes (no relation to John) keeps injuring his partners by accident, so the department eventually teams him up with an android named Gregory Yoyonivich (Yo-Yo for short). The wacky robot can take crime scene photos by pressing his nose, and he suffers from malfunctions such as picking up radio signals from Sweden and dancing when getting shot at. Episode Seven really creeped out viewers, as Yo-Yo went on in great detail for 14 minutes about his desire to get male genitalia. Yeah, I bet that went over real well in 1976.

TV Show That Should Not be Movies - ManimalManimal – Check out the opening narration by William Conrad (of Jake and the Fatman fame): “Dr. Jonathan Chase… wealthy, young, handsome. A man with the brightest of futures. A man with the darkest of pasts. From Africa’s deepest recesses, to the rarefied peaks of Tibet, heir to his father’s legacy and the world’s darkest mysteries. Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man… Manimal!”

Hard to believe that Manimal wasn’t the breakout hit of 1983, especially since our hero could change into any animal he imagined. But in most cases–in order to stay within the show’s budget–Dr. Chase would only become a hawk or a black panther. It bombed in the U.S., but Manimal did enjoy some success in Peru and South Asia, confirming a longstanding theory that those poor saps will watch anything.