Obviously, film and TV are two very different breeds. The nature of how stories are presented and told differs greatly if you’re talking about a two-hour chunk or one-to-two dozen 40-minute chunks. This is why TV shows based on good movies are, more often than not, garbage (see “Nine to Five,” “Clueless” (I wouldn’t classify Clueless as a good movie, mind you, but I know many others do) and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” among others). But it is possible to capture lightening in a bottle and transform a movie into something that works on the small screen, as was done, for example, with “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Odd Couple.” In fact, Fox has a pretty good movie-to-TV series running right now (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) and though it’s been circling the drain for years, the amazing “Friday Night Lights” is about to (hopefully) get a fourth season.
So while it can be done well, I’m generally more than a little skeptical when a network announces a new “based on the film” TV show. Such was the case when NBC announced that it was doing a pilot based on Parenthood, the wonderful Ron Howard flick from the late 80s. In fact, NBC already tried this once, back in 1990, and despite the fact that the show included Joss Whedon as a writer and had Leo DiCaprio, David Arquette and Thora Birch as some of the kids, it was a quickly-flushed turd.
However, I’m now becoming cautiously optimistic about NBC’s second attempt at “Parenthood.” For one thing, it’s got Ron Howard (and ever-by-his-side Brian Grazer) as exec-producers — not only does this mean that he may be able to help ensure that it captures some of the flick’s tone, but he’s got a pretty good track record when it comes to TV production (standouts on his resume include “Sports Night,” “Felicity” (included in this list for Dustin’s benefit) and “Arrested Development”). More importantly, the show is also being exec-produced and run by Jason Katims, the creator of “Friday Night Lights.” He clearly knows how to translate good movie to great TV.
And now they’re starting to put the cast together, with Peter Krause and Maura Tierney having just signed on to two of the leading roles. Krause will play Adam Braverman, which appears to be based on Steve Martin’s Gil Buckman, and Tierney will play his sister, based on Dianne Wiest’s single-mother role. Both Krause and Tierney are capable of delivering both the types of funny and sentiment that the movie had, which is excellent news for the show. The producers are also negotiating with Craig T. Nelson and Mae Whitman for supporting roles, which is further great news, as well as Dax Shepard (which is not so great although, assuming its for Tom Hulce’s character, he may be bearable). Other pilots have similarly started out strong on paper (*ahem* “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) while ultimately failing to give us the series we hoped for. So “Parenthood’s” got itself a long way to go. But this is a fine, fine start.