Film to TV: spin-off or spin-on?

Spin-off is a recent word that can include a huge quantity of meanings. But when it’s referred to the cultural industry, we’re able to know that it’s a cultural product (mainly TV series and movies) derived from another cultural product’s features (especially some characters or subplots).

The television’s world has been the most successful machine when it comes to these kind of creations. Better Call Saul from the Breaking Bad series or huge franchises such Star Trek are a few examples. But cinema’s influence on these TV spin-offs is undeniable too, and often have less well-known connections.

Let’s talk about some examples like Fargo. Who doesn’t know this Cohen brothers’ black comedy released in 1996? Well, the homonym series (2014) by Noah Hawley has given two seasons with such celebrities as Martin Freeman and Kirsten Dunst as main characters. It has many similarities with the original movie, despite offering new creepy, gory stories (an eventual, third season is thought to be released next year).

Fargo has many similarities with the original movie, despite offering new creepy, gory stories”

Have I written gory? That’s because horror films also have their own spin-offs. After the famous tetralogy directed by horror master Wes Craven and starring Neve Campbell, MTV brought the famous slasher Ghostface to life again with Scream (2015-2016). There are new characters and relevant changes, but the story continues with the crimes committed by a masked murderer and the young people who fight against them. Craven and Kevin Williamson (the original series’ writer) joined again to do it, and two seasons were released.

TV spin-offs can also expand the original movies or reinvent them successfully. The best Hollywood’s villain according to the American Academy, portrayed by a stunning Anthony Hopkins in three films, finally came to small screen in a NBC production with three seasons. In Hannibal (2013-2015), the FBI inspector Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), and the psychiatrist and secret serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) have to work together to catch a mass murderer. Fortunately, the series gives great results, and it delves into some aspects of the most famous cannibal’s story with memorable technical skills and a strong plot.

Hannibal gives great results, and delves into aspects of the famous cannibal’s story with memorable technical skills and a strong plot”

But not all the spin-offs come from Hollywood. When City of God (2002) by Fernando Meirelles struck the world with the cruel stories from one the poorest, most dangerous districts in Brazil, TV producers didn’t waste any time. City of Men (2002-2005), also made by Meirelles, was set in the same favelas’ world, but it differed by casting two children, Acerola and Laranjinha, as main characters. The series obtained good results with audiences with its four seasons in Brazil, but it couldn’t achieve any international fame.

Finally, why should we forget cartoons? Clearly, big companies like Disney or Dreamworks have developed many spin-offs inspired by their popular characters. We could talk about many of them (The Legend of Tarzan, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness...), but the Disney Channel’s cartoon The Emperor’s New School (2006-2008) is miles better than any other. After recovering his human shape in hilarious The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), the Incan emperor Kuzco had grown, so he needed to go to school if he wanted to be one day a good governor. Luckily, the series maintained the original film’s characters and its main features; lots of gags and absurd humour, and frequent fourth wall breaks.

Pablo Pla Lado

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