If you haven't yet heard, Dear White People is the brand new "Netflix Show You Absolutely Have To Watch", and if you didn't know that, you also probably didn't know that it also started life as a movie, released in 2014. In fact, Dear White People may be one of the lesser-known movies to ever be spun-off onto television. And the satirical take on race relations and racial identity at an Ivy League college took an unusual path to the small screen.
Filmmaker Justin Simien developed his film for five years before launching a successful crowdfunding campaign to get it off the ground, and the Tessa Thompson-starring indie flick went on to wow audiences and critics alike when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. If you’re curious about the movie – and you should be, it’s excellent – then you’ll be happy to discover that it is also available on Netflix as well as the new spin-off series.
While it’s rare that lesser-known movies end up being spun off into television series, it happens to big box-office behemoths all the time. So much, in fact, that there are many TV shows based on extremely well-known movies that have been largely forgotten.
Whether it’s because they came and went so very quickly, or were so bad that everybody involved with the shows wants you to forget that they ever existed, many of them seem to have been mostly lost to the sands of time. But we’ve been digging through the archives and found some of the best examples of movies that had TV spin-offs you never knew existed.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The opening sequence of the Ferris Bueller TV spin-off has to be seen to be believed. Ferris, now played by Charlie Schlatter, engages in his trademark schtick of breaking the fourth wall and claims to be the real Ferris Bueller, unlike that Matthew Broderick guy who unconvincingly played him in the movie you know and love. C
ue Schlatter’s Ferris taking a chainsaw to a cardboard cut-out of Broderick in a moment the series probably needed to work much harder to earn. But hey, the show did also feature a young Jennifer Aniston as Ferris’ sister Jeannie, so at least it got something right.
Casablanca has actually spawned two TV spin-offs, with both of them (unsurprisingly given the end of the movie) serving as prequels. The first aired in 1955 and was largely unremarkable, but while the 1985 version only managed to make it through 5 episodes, it deserves attention due to its cast alone.
David Soule (Hutch, from Starsky & Hutch) stepped into Bogie’s shoes, Scatman Crothers tinkled the ivories as Sam and, in one of his earliest roles, Ray Liotta played Sacha the bartender.
Delta House was probably doomed as soon as it became clear that the frat-house spin-off wouldn’t be starring John Belushi. Despite a handful of Animal House’s cast members returning for the series, Belushi’s Bluto was written out and in came his brother, Blotto. To the show’s credit, at least they didn’t hire Jim Belushi for the part.
In retrospect though, the most notable aspect of the show is probably that it features the acting debut of Michelle Pfeiffer as “The Bombshell”, who you can spot making out in a sports car during the opening credits sequence above.
Remember Flipper, the family movie starring Paul Hogan, Elijah Wood and a dolphin? Well oddly enough, the TV show we’re looking back on here actually debuted a year earlier in 1995. So how does it qualify for this list? That’s because Flipper actually started out as a 1963 movie, before getting its first successful TV spin-off a year later.
While the 1996 movie was a more conventional remake, the 1995 series served as a direct continuation of the original 1960s franchise and starred a young Jessica Marie Alba in the first two of its four seasons.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Bill and Ted has already made the transition onto TV with a solid animated series in 1991, but the live-action spin-off that followed was bogus. Heinous! Most non-triumphant! Crucially, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter had returned to the voice their respective characters on the first season of the cartoon, but with the move to live-action, history was about to be rewritten by two entirely different guys. The show only lasted seven episodes, and we invite you to cringe through the replacements air guitaring in the clip from the show at your own peril.
Nobody puts Baby in a corner… and nobody should put her on TV either. Melora Hardin, now best-known for her role as Jan in The Office, starred as Baby for the 11 episodes that the show stayed on the air, and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig was also part of the regular cast in a supporting role.
There’s no two ways about it, Robocop was a terrifically violent movie, so deciding to hand the TV licensing rights to a company in Canada - scientifically proven to be the friendliest nation on Earth - was a decidedly strange decision.
Debuting shortly after the cinematic flop Robocop 3, the show was reimagined with a young teen audience in mind, and thus without the franchise’s hallmark graphic violence.
Gone With The Wind
It only took 65 years, but the biggest box office hit of all time (adjusting for inflation) finally got the television spin-off that everyone was crying out for. Scarlett was six-part miniseries based on a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s original novel, written belatedly in 1991 by another author.
With Joanna Whalley and Timothy Dalton stepping into the roles made famous by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, and the lavish period drama also boasting an impressive supporting cast, it ultimately proved somewhat of a success and even bagged a pair of technical Emmys.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
On paper, Fast Times doesn’t look like a terrible TV spin-off. The movie’s director Amy Heckerling returned to direct three of the first four episodes, Claudia Wells (hot off the success of playing Jennifer in Back To The Future) starred in the Phoebe Cates role, future Grey’s Anatomy heartthrob Patrick Dempsey played Mike Damone, and the original Mr Hand and Mr Vargas both reprised their roles.
But this was another spin-off that suffered from having to sanitise its themes for TV, and perhaps even more importantly there was never any chance of adequately replacing Sean Penn as Spicoli, and Fast Times slowed to a halt after just seven episodes.
If you want to be pedantic, Cruel Intentions never “technically” got a TV spin-off. One almost got off the ground as recently as last year with Sarah Michelle Gellar set to reprise her role, before being turned down by the network. But back in 1999, hot on the heels of the movie’s success, three episodes of a prequel series called Manchester Prep were actually filmed with Amy Adams in the SMG role.
The show was cancelled before airing an episode, however, and the three filmed episodes were cleverly retooled to form the straight-to-DVD sequel Cruel Intentions 2.
She would go on to become America’s Sweetheart, but Sandra Bullock’s career got off to a rocky start in what should have been her first big break. Sandy took on the Melanie Griffith role in the TV version of Working Girl, which attempted to translate the iconic rom-com into a half-hour sitcom.
But the “rom” was what the series lacked, with no obvious parallel for Harrison Ford’s Jack Trainer in the show, and it was cancelled after airing just 8 of the 12 episodes produced.
Don't forget, Dear White People is now available to watch on Netflix!