Entertainment, like nature, is cyclical. We're used to the pattern of most of our favorite TV shows kicking off their seasons in the fall, while the biggest movies hit theaters during the winter holidays or in the summer. While nature is kind of stuck following this pattern (not much we could do to change the way Earth revolves around the sun), entertainment doesn't have an excuse to slack off during certain parts of the year. TV has already stepped up to the plate and made some changes in the last few years, with cable networks saving marquee series like Mad Men and True Blood for those hot summer nights, giving us something to watch year-round. But the movie industry still seems to feel it's OK to give up on us during the spring and fall. How do we fix this problem? Maybe movies should look to TV for help.
Say you're a fan of Glee, which just wrapped up its first season on FOX. You weren't one of the lucky few who scored tickets to the cast's sold-out tour and you're craving more covers of '80s power ballads to sing along with on your summer road trip. You've stayed away from the multiplex because there's no singing in The A-Team and you're mad they didn't include Cory Monteith doing an update of Peter Cetera's "The Glory of Love" on the soundtrack for The Karate Kid. What would it take to get you in a movie theater? How about a What I Did on My Summer Vacation musical starring the kids of New Directions? This could play quite nicely in theaters in August, when the majority of moviegoers have grown weary of seeing things get blown up.
Perhaps Mad Men is more your speed. They work a short season at Sterling Cooper (typically from midsummer to fall), and you miss Don Draper terribly the rest of the year. The occasional 30 Rock guest appearances and SNL hosting gigs simply aren't enough Jon Hamm for you! Wouldn't it be great to spend some time with Mad Men on the big screen, particularly during that awful February through April period when it seems like the only things in theaters are teen horror movies?
Hollywood has been known to make movies out of old TV shows for nostalgia's sake (hello, The A-Team) or to give us a chance to spend more time with characters we can't let go of (that would be you, Sex and the City 2) or as a desperate attempt to give something new to the fans late in a show's run (The X-Files and The Simpsons are guilty here). But why not bring characters to the big screen at the peak of their popularity, when they have the best chance to delight audiences and make a killing at the box office? I know I'd buy a ticket for my proposed Glee and Mad Men movies, and I invite you to share the names of any other current shows you'd like to see on the big screen in the comments section. But before we get too carried away, perhaps we should ask: Could this even work?
The answer is sadly, probably not, for three very good logistical, financial, and creative reasons.
For many actors, the appeal of appearing on a high-profile TV show is the promise of earning a steady paycheck and staying in the public eye while still getting a summer hiatus to relax or pursue other projects. Knowing that Broadway is Lea Michele's true love, do you think she would have still wanted to be on Glee if it were a year-round commitment that might prevent her from the occasional limited-run theater engagement? Including a film commitment in a contract for a TV show might mean fewer big-name stars wanting to be on TV -- and that could lead to fewer shows good enough to generate interest in a movie adaptation.
People generally don't like suddenly having to pay for something they're used to getting for free. If you knew that, on top of the monthly cable bill you have to pay in order to watch Mad Men, you would also need to shell out an additional $15 (because of course it would be in 3-D!) for a movie ticket to keep up with the story between seasons, might you be a little less willing to get into the show in the first place?
Let's face it, a clever writer usually knows what medium their story would work best in before they write it. When a story is told as a TV series instead of as a movie, it's usually because that's how it was meant to be told, or how it works best. You need look no further than the chilly critical reception Sex and the City 2 received for proof that the smaller screen was a better fit for Carrie and the girls. Asking writers used to working within a strict 30- or 60-minute format to suddenly completely change their pacing to fill up a feature film could be liberating -- or it could be impossible.
There are many great TV shows currently on the air with stories and characters worthy of the big-screen treatment, but it could actually be a disservice to move them from their rightful homes. Instead of constantly looking to TV as a creative junkyard from which to recycle old relics, more filmmakers should look to the spirit of creativity displayed in innovative shows like Glee and Mad Men to get the inspiration flowing. Otherwise we could end up with more summers at the box office that play out with as much excitement as an old TV rerun.