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10 great TV show adaptations that predate 'Veronica Mars'

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With the hotly anticipated and well-reviewed “Veronica Mars” movie finally hitting theaters (buy Cleveland area tickets here) and streaming video yesterday, here’s a look the ten best movie follow ups to beloved TV series. A few caveats: this list is strictly composed of cinematic continuations, not reboots or reimagings a la “The Twilight Zone: The Movie” or “The A-Team” or shows that had TV movie follow ups like The Brady Bunch or The Andy Griffith Show. Also, Disney Channel adaptations like “The Lizzy McGuire Movie” or “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” are not included because it’s important to have standards.

Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at

Monty Python's The Holy Grail
Monty Python's The Holy Grail Python (Monty) Pictures

Monty Python's The Holy Grail

The Monty Python’s The Holy Grail (1975)

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Though the first Monty Python film, 1971’s “And Now for Something Completely Different” was essentially a greatest hits concert from the iconic British comedy troupe, the Pythons second film, 1975’s “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail,” showed that the group’s irreverent style of comedy could not only translate to the big screen. While cutting medieval times deconstruction “Holy Grail” is the funniest and best Python film, 1979’s cutting religious satire “Life of Brian” and 1983’s sketch omnibus “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” are quite funny, even for people who have never seen the TV series. 

21 Jump Street
21 Jump Street Paramount Pictures

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street (2012)

Directed by Chris Miller & Phil Lord

The 21 Jump Street TV series was essentially a long-form Afterschool Special about a youthful-looking undercover unit of police officers who were assigned to infiltrate local high school and colleges to root out wherever social ill was popular at the time and was notable only for being the show that gave Johnny Depp his breakthrough role. On the other hand, “21 Jump Street” the movie is a raucous comedy about two sub-par bike cops (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum) who are forced to join the revived Jump Street unit to find out who is supplying local teens a with a powerful new designer drug. From the description it might sound like the Jump Street movie is a parody of the show, it is in fact a continuation of the old series and most of the original cast make cameo appearances. 

Star Trek
Star Trek Paramount Pictures

Star Trek

The Star Trek movies (1979-2013)

Direct by Various

The original Star Trek series, which followed a crew of explorers as they went on a trek through the stars obviously, only lasted three seasons in the late 1960s but it struck a chord with science fiction fans. In fact, series became so popular after its cancellation that a glacially paced cinematic follow-up simply called “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was produced in 1979. The ‘60s cast continued to make Star Trek films– the best of which was 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” directed by Nicholas Meyer - for another 12 years until the franchise was handed over to the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast, who in turn passed the torch to JJ Abrams for his quasi-reboot of the ‘60s series which took pains preserve the original continuity while also allowing the new movies to revisit the franchise’s greatest moments.

Charlie's Angels
Charlie's Angels Columbia Pictures

Charlie's Angels

Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Directed by McG

Much like 21 Jump Street, Charlie’s Angels was a laughable dated TV series that was revived for an infinitely superior big screen adaptation. Music video director McG and producer/star Drew Berrymore kept the ‘70’s fun, cheesecake-y tone intact while also presenting the modern-day Angels as warrior women who traded in their pistols for “Matrix” influenced martial arts moves. The 2000 original film was followed up by 2003’s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” which is a staggeringly terrible movie and one of most disappointing sequels in film history.  

Jackass 3
Jackass 3 Paramount Pictures

Jackass 3

Jackass 3 (2010)

Directed by Jeff Tremaine

Before YouTube, if you wanted to see foolhardy masochists’ perfrom a series of ill-advised stunts, you had to watch MTV’s Jackass. After the show was driven off the air due to mounting censorship concerns, stars Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera and Steve-O teamed with Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine to make a series of films that allowed the Jackass crew to pull off the wildest ideas without having to worry network standards and practices. And though it sounds preposterous, the third Jackass film, which was filmed in 3D, is one of the most imaginative, joyful pieces of pure cinema to have been produced in the 2000s. 

The Muppets Movie
The Muppets Movie Walt Disney Pictures.

The Muppets Movie

The Muppets Movie (1979)

Directed by James Frawley

Spun off from Jim Henson’s thoroughly delightful ‘70s variety program The Muppet Show, The Muppets film series, especially 1979’s “The Muppet Movie,” were as funny, touching and surreal as its TV counterpart while also featuring some wonderful original songs composed by Paul Williams and Kenny Asher. After Jim Henson died and Frank Oz (voice of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, among others) left the franchise after 1999’s patience trying “The Muppets in Space,” the film series seemed to fade away only to experience resurgence after the 2011 Jason Segal led revival was released to much critical and commercial success. 

The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers Universal Studios

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Directed by John Landis

NBC’s late night intuition Saturday Night Live has spawned 15 original feature films and while many of them are unwatchably bad (“It’s Pat,” “Coneheads,” “A Night at the Roxbury,” “Superstar, “The Ladies Man,” “Blue Brothers 2000”) and others are bafflingly unnecessary (“MacGuber,” “Harold”), some of the SNL movies surprisingly are solid comedies (“Bob Roberts,” “Wayne’s World,” “Wayne’s World 2,” “Stuart Saves His Family,” “A Mighty Wind”) and one is a no qualifiers necessary classic (“The Blues Brothers”) that was so good it made the whole dubious enterprise of adapting five-minute long sketches into feature-length movies worthwhile.

Mission Impossible
Mission Impossible Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible

Mission: Impossible (1996-2011)

Directed by Various

When the first Tom Cruise led “Mission: Impossible”  film was released in 1996, it disgusted the cast of the original ‘60s series by turning the show’s hero, Impossible Mission Force agent Jim Phelps, into a venial traitor but the rest of the world loved Brian De Palma’s paranoid and action-packed revival and the film grossed over $450 million worldwide. After De Palma left, the franchise was left in the hands of John Woo (for 2000’s operatic “Mission: Impossible II”), JJ Abrams (for 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III,” the series’ best installment) and Brad Bird (for 2011’s thoroughly enjoyable “Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol”) and has established itself as one cinema’s most dependable action franchises. 

South Park
South Park Paramount Pictures

South Park

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Directed by Trey Parker

Released during South Park’s third season, “Bigger, Longer & Uncut” allowed creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to unleash their comic sensibility on a viewing public that still found the duo’s button pushing antics to be shocking. With a storyline informed by South Park’s notorious battles with Comedy Central’s censors and the pair’s love of Broadway musicals, the “South Park” movie proved that Parker and Stone were more than just juvenile provocateurs, they are juvenile provocateurs with something interesting to say.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me New Line Cinema

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

Directed by David Lynch

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s mesmerizing and sensuous crime drama Twin Peaks captured the imaginations of millions when it debuted back in 1990 with its unique blend of offbeat humor, gorgeous cinematography and surreal horror. Even twenty years later the show’s indelible influence can be seen in shows as diverse as True Detective, Mad Men, The Killing, The X-Files, Wild Palms, Life on Mars, Fringe, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Profiler, Eerie Indiana, Northern Exposure, Carnival, Lost and The Sopranos. When the show was cancelled in 1991, Lynch took the scorched earth approach and ended the series with a haunting series finale that left much of the show’s supporting cast in serious jeopardy while protagonist FBI agent Dale Cooper was lured into a trap by his archenemy while a malicious doppelgänger took his place. While many of the shows fans were disappointed that the film didn’t resolve the show’s many cliffhangers, “Fire Walk with Me” is a beautiful, terrifying masterpiece that is easily among Lynch’s best films.