TV Shows Turned Into Movies Don’t Work. Here’s Why….

TV Shows Turned Into Movies Don't Work
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TV Shows Turned Into Movies Don’t Work. Here’s Why….

TV shows turned into movies. Do they generally work?

All things 1990s are making a comeback. Hence, a film adaptation of the hugely popular UK television sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.The antics of child hood best friends, PR manager Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and fashion magazine editor Patsy Stone (Johanna Lumley), were elevated to cult status.

Edina and Patsy were middle aged in the 90s, now they are in their sixties and nothing has really changed. They continue their trend of “women behaving badly”. They refuse to let go of youthful aspirations. Their usual antics : drug taking, alcohol, cool parties and nightclubs and trading various forms of  insincerity (sweetie, darling). I did enjoy the original TV show. I watched most of the series though I was not a major fan.  It was a  well written British comedy. I’ve always like Saunders and Lumley. The movie has made a big splash and has received very mixed reviews from the critics and the public. I have always believed that generally TV shows turned into movies don’t work, but I was willing to give it a chance.  My opinion still stands firm: generally TV shows turned into movies don’t work.

In 2016 Edina is facing the potential loss of her London home and her frivolous lifestyle due to financial difficulties involving her PR company. Modern social media technology has many celebrities using Twitter and Instagram, hence doing their own public relations. She has very few clients left (Lulu and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton). Patsy is still living with Edina, as is Edina’s long suffering sensible daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha). Saffy has a teenager daughter by an ex partner whom Patsy and Edina try to exploit for business purposes. Whilst attending a party , Edina accidentally knocks Kate Moss off a balcony into the River Thames which results in Moss’s presumed death. This forces Edina and Patsy to flee the country and go into hiding. They  catch a budget flight to the South of France. The antics of Monsoon and Stone continue along the French riviera.

The TV show’s standard of writing was good.  I appreciated the mockery that it made of celebrity culture, obsession and worship. The desperate superficial need that Edina has to be accepted by high society. This is ever so relevant today considering the rise of superfluous hollow mere Kim Kardashian type of celebrity.

There are two positives to the Ab Fab movie: it genuinely captures how pathetic Edina actually is. She has not escaped the trappings of superficial objectives and expectations. Johanna Lumley has a good screen presence and comic timing. She occasionally manages to slightly elevate an otherwise very unimpressive film. This is disappointing considering that Saunders was in charge of the screenplay. I didn’t laugh once, though I did let out a few short chuckles. The attempts at humour are exactly what you might expect. The same old cliche slapstick, the over done social media jokes, and the whole obsession with ageing, weight, and Botox. This had some merit in the original TV show, but they have overdone that element too. It’s become very tiring.

There are plethora of useless cameos that don’t really add anything to film but fill up time and spce : Jean Paul Gaultier, Jerry Hall, Jon Hamm (Mad Men) , Dame Edna Everage, Joan Collins, Gwendonline Christie (Game of Thrones)  and Rebel Wilson ( I had no idea who Wilson was up until today). Emma Bunton, Stella Mccarthy and Kate Moss fail to make any sort of impression with their limited screen time. The scene where Saffy goes in search of her mother and daughter, into a drag queen filled gay club,  eventually bursting into song at the encouragement of a patron seemed extremely forced  and contrived. It was as if it was solely injected into the movie to somehow acknowledge the large gay audience that the film expects to receive. All in all, very disappointing and unimpressive, but this did not come as a surprise.

Generally , TV shows turned into movies don’t work.  It’s a formula that seems almost doomed to fail.  So far I can only think of two that I actually liked: The Addams Family (1991)  and its sequel,  and the live action film version of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989). I can think of a whole handful that did not work: 21 Jump Street,  Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dukes of Hazard, Entourage, Get Smart, Miami Vice, Mr Bean, and Sex and the  City. They don’t seem to be able to make the transition to the big screen. There is something in the formula that causes this. Two reasons come to mind.

TV Shows Turned Into Movies Don’t Work Due To: 

Time Length

Shows like Mr Bean and Absolutely Fabulous ran for under 30 minutes an episode. This worked well. You got Mr Bean and Pasty and Edina in small does once a week (though one can binge on these shows if they choose to). To extend them into a 90-120 minute feature film doesn’t work. They run out of steam rather quickly due to the lack of variety in the comedy. Both of these shows are virtually “one joke” type structures which works under 30 minutes but not in a cinema format. The comedy needs to be expanded and it never really is.

Quality of Writing

The Absolutely Fabulous movie seems to have suffered from what the film versions of Entourage and Sex and the City suffered from: poor writing. This is a frustrating shame because all three shows had competent to good scripts. There was innovation, some clever comedy, and some substance. For some reason, as soon they make the leap to the big screen the writers feel the need to alter the good quality that they have spent a good deal of time developing and maintaining for the small screen.

It seems insane to not continue with that sort of consistency. All three films suffered from lazy, unimaginative, overly simplistic and ,quite frankly,  dumb scripts that aren’t funny. Perhaps producers and writers feel the pressure to dumb down the material to satisfy the pallets of the mass market. This is is insulting to fans of series that have been given a higher grade of quality for the run of the series.

absolutely fabulous movie

Thoughts on Absolutely Fabulous as a TV show vs a feature film?

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