Broadcasters Are Going Movie-Crazy During Pilot Season

These flicks are getting production money, even if they're not very good

Pilot season this year boasts five nonclassic movies being refurbished as contenders for primetime placement on broadcast this season (not counting script deals for Big, Marley & Me, The Money Pit and The Illusionist), so we asked the same question you're probably asking: why the rush to pay homage to a collection of cinematic treasures with a mean score on Metacritic of 51 out of 100?

We got some interesting answers. "When a company already owns the rights to existing IP, they would almost always rather recreate/rehash that than gamble on original content," explained Jeremy Fox, writer and former head of development at Annapurna Pictures. A TV producer concurs: "The new landscape of Netflix and summer series and direct-to-series orders makes the usual pilot gambles less appetizing. When people would complain about the budgets, I used to say, 'You're supposed to be losing millions of dollars so that you get a hit!' I think there's less profligate spending now." Below, check out some of this season's film-to-TV transitions. 
 

1. Uncle Buck NBC/comedy
Here's the thing: Uncle Buck has already been tried on TV (CBS, originally), and not successfully. Kevin Meaney starred as the John Candy character (it's Mike Epps this time around) and got canceled after 19 episodes.

2. Minority Report Fox/drama (sci-fi)
Easily the best movie here, Minority Report (a joint venture of Fox and director Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment) has spawned a TV sequel focusing on minor characters from the movie.

3. Problem Child NBC/comedy
Like Uncle Buck, Problem Child has already been tried on TV—as a cartoon airing on NBC sister net USA in the mid-'90s (yes, NBCU's studio Universal distributed the film). It ran for 26 episodes and now shows up on Hulu.

4. Rush Hour CBS/comedy-drama
CBS seems to be the only network making straightforward acquisitions here. The Rush Hour flicks may not have wowed many critics, but they made incredible bank—appropriately, it's one of the safer bets.

Limitless CBS/drama
Another one from CBS. This isn't a particularly well-loved movie but it's one of the few that can be most easily translated to a TV series, given that the central idea—a guy takes a crazy drug that gives him extra brainpower—makes the hero into a freaky-smart reluctant detective of the kind we've seen once or twice before.