Can’t Stop the Signal: New Life for Old Shows

Yesterday it was announced that Friday Night Lights, the TV show, would be continued as a movie (spoilers in that article if you haven’t finished the series).

Friday Night Lights exec producer Peter Berg is confirming what TVLine told you last month: He wants to bring the franchise back to the big screen, with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton reprising their roles as Coach and Tami Taylor.

“We’re writing a script,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour following a panel for his NBC reboot of Prime Suspect. “We’ve been meeting with [fellow FNL EP] Jason Katims for the last couple of weeks. We have a real good script idea. We want to do it. We’re very serious about doing it. We intend to do it.”

Should the movie come to be, the net result would be a movie based on a TV series about a fictional football team; in a fictional Texas town. The TV series was, of course, based on a movie about a real football team in a real Texas town. Then that movie was based on a book written about a real football team in a real Texas town. That book was based on interviews and experiences of an author observing a real football team in a real Texas town. Quite a few degrees of separation between the original team and a movie version.

The announcement made me think about the nature of franchising in the current entertainment world. TV shows based on movies and movies based on TV shows are nothing new, but these days popularity isn’t even a requirement. As I write this, I’m watching the Serenity movie based on the Fox series Firefly that didn’t last eleven episodes. The gap between the TV series and movie has been picked up in licensed Comic Books, some written by the creator himself.

Arrested Development, another cancelled Fox series, has long been rumored to be heading to the big screen. Recently it was confirmed that things are indeed going forward.

In the case of both Friday Night Lights and Arrested Development, any movie would take place after a series finale had been written and aired. Just consider what the scriptwriters have to consider:

In the series Friday Night Lights, at least three different football teams have been represented. The series began with the Dillon Panthers, who were a take on the movie’s Permian Panthers. It seems logical to make the movie a prequel, before coach Taylor took over the Panthers. However, that’s just one of a million ways the movie can go, I’ll save “extending the series” for another column since not everyone has seen the series finale, but there’s also coach Taylor’s stint at the college level, and his work with the East Dillon Lions. TV shows have to continually reinvent themselves, and one of the consequences of a post-mortem movie is which storyline to reopen.

With Arrested Devlopment, enough time has passed that the cast has all gotten older, which takes out the prequel option. However, knowing they were cancelled, AD wrote a series finale that would lend itself directly to making a movie.

I also have to mention the proposed Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake. In that case, it’d be like Friday Night Lights: a movie based on a TV series based on a movie. However, the remake is being proposed by Frank Kuzi, the director of the original film. Buffy has been played by two different actresses, and currently the story is being continued in a series of comic books. After the show ceased production, a few licensed novels went about continuing the story. If the Kuzis are successful in getting a movie made, which version comes out as the true continuation?

It took many years for Marvel to recognize the earning power of their characters, forming their own movie studio. Now they don’t have the option of putting Spiderman or Wolverine in the Avengers movie, because those characters are owned by other studios. With the original Buffy producers threatening to make a movie sequel without Joss Whedon: who really owns a character?

These are just cases of remakes and relaunches. The question can be made even more theoretical when considering fan fiction. However, I turn it over to the commenters. Everything has an authorial source, but does that author still control those characters once they’re created? Outside of the legal system, how do you, as the fan of a franchise, deal with the multiple versions of every character’s story? How do you deal with the conundrum known as cannon?

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