8 Sci-Fi Movies That Sucked As TV Shows

Illustration for article titled 8 Sci-Fi Movies That Sucked As TV Shows

We all hope Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will rock our TV screens, but chances are it won't. Over a dozen hit SF movies have morphed into live-action TV shows, and they all blew. Either the replacement cast was crappy, or the movie's single story idea didn't lend itself to endless episodes. Here are the eight lamest movie-to-TV implosions:

1. RoboCop: The Series (1994).

Original cast? No.

Out on DVD? In England, but not in the U.S.

How many episodes? 22

What went wrong: In an effort to make a kid-friendly RoboCop show, the producers toned down the violence and had RoboCop explore "non-violent" alternatives to killing criminals. Recurring bad guys included Boppo the Clown, Dr. Cray Z. Mallardo and "Pud Face." No, really. Here's the opening credits.

2. Alien Nation (1989-91).

Original cast? No.

Out on DVD? Yes.

How many episodes? 22, plus a few TV movies

What went wrong: The TV version lost the noir tone of the movie about aliens living among us. In its place came good-natured humor with lots of banter. The cynical human cop teams up with an alien policeman and they tackle social issues. Watch them save an alien hooker from her pimp:

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3. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1997-2000)

Original cast? No.

How many episodes? 66.

Out on DVD? No.

What went wrong: Every week, another experiment gone bendy. Plus obligatory subplots about the kids having crushes on other kids, and learning lessons, yadda yadda. Every episode title starts with "Honey." Including: "Honey, We've Been Swallowed by Grandpa." "Honey, I'm Streakin'." "Honey, The Garbage Is Taking Us Out." And my favorite: "Honey, I'm Wrestling With A Problem... And The Chief." Huh? Here's the first five minutes of the pilot. Note the goofy dog covering its face when disaster strikes:

4. Beyond Westworld (CBS: 1980)

Original cast? No.

# of episodes? five, but only three aired.

Out on DVD? Nope.

What went wrong: Westworld hit big with a robot theme-park turned homicidal. A sequel, Futureworld, bombed, so writer/director Michael Crichton decided to try again on television. Every week, Simon Quaid tries to take over the world using android nuclear-sub crewmen and android rock stars. The good guy: John Moore, who spends most of his time watching cheerleaders with his binoculars. Just like in this clip, where Quaid sends a robot duplicate of Connie Sellecca to kill Moore:

5. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1992)

Original cast? No, and in fact Alex Winter denounced the show on Arsenio Hall.

# of episodes? Eight, including unaired pilot.

Out on DVD? Hell no.

What went wrong: The producers "took liberties" with the movie's time-travel format, having Bill and Ted travel inside cable TV and into alternate dimensions. In one episode, Rufus (the George Carlin character) has a bad dream about Ted being sent to military school, and travels back to prevent it coming true. But instead, he causes that disaster, by engraving "Chicken Kiev" instead of Ted's father's name on an award. (Huh?) This enrages Ted's dad, who hates chicken kiev. Ted, off to military school, blames Bill for the mix-up and they become enemies. In another episode, Bill and Ted's boss becomes King Arthur:

6. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81)

Original cast: Yes

# of episodes: 31

On DVD: Yes

What went wrong: The movie was a glorified TV pilot, but it did run in theaters. And like other movies-turned-shows, the series lost most of the themes of the pilot, such as the post-apocalyptic devastation outside of the dome of New Chicago. Instead, it was all about Buck strutting around settings like "Vegas in Space," wearing a skin-tight white jumpsuit with a rainbow armband. And then in the second season, with Hawkman and Dr. Goodfellow, it got really campy:

7. Starman (ABC: 1986-87)

Original cast: No.

# of episodes: 22

On DVD: No.

What went wrong: Instead of husband-wife bonding like in the movie, this time our visiting alien (Robert Hays) bonds with the son who never knew him. They travel around together righting wrongs and learning important lessons. It's a Hulk/Fugitive riff except with a kid in tow. Here's the opening credits, plus Hays dealing with some pushy cops:

8. Logan's Run

Original cast: No.

# of episodes: 14

On DVD: No, but you can download episodes on Amazon Unboxed.

What went wrong: Yet another road-trip show. Logan escapes the city where they kill you when you reach 30. And then he travels around the post-apocalyptic world with his friend Jessica and an android named Rem. They encounter various other societies, including some robots and aliens. William Nolan, author of the original Logan's Run novel, actually worked on this show, and so did Star Trek alums Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana. Here are the opening credits. Check out the furry alien costumes:



I'm going to have to fight you on Alien Nation and Buck Rogers.

Both were campy in their own way but Buck Rogers was just about all we had at the time and the effects production values especially the motion control and compositing effects were top dollar (for their day). It was about as good as American TV SciFi was going to get in the early 80's.

Also, Buck Rogers wasn't based on a film. The film as released was always intended as the pilot for the show. I'm sure had box office been really dreadful, the show might well have been scrapped. But the series was always intended to follow the movie.

Alien Nation was popular enough to spawn four TV movies after its cancellation. While it wasn't as serious as the film, I think it did at least as good a job telling the story of refugees making a home in a strange world.

While not wonderful I feel neither show 'sucked'. We need to remember