Late last Friday, Deadline reported that that the playfully post-modern 1960s sitcom Green Acres is being developed as a feature film (and maybe also as a Broadway show). If Green Acres does get made as a movie, it’ll join a long list of 1960s TV shows that have been adapted to the big screen, including the currently in development Gilligan’s Island and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. One of Green Acres’ original creative forces—director Richard L. Bare—owns the property and is reportedly helping to steer the project, which could mean that any potential Green Acres film will hold on to the absurdism and self-reference that made the original series special, which could translate well as cinema. But Green Acres isn’t the only show from that era with qualities that savvy filmmakers could exploit. Here are five more:
A lot of producers have shown interest over the years in making a movie out of the British cult series The Prisoner, about a former secret agent (played by The Prisoner’s co-creator, Patrick McGoohan) who finds himself trapped in a lovely but mysterious village, where he’s questioned regularly by authority figures who want to extract information from him. The cable channel AMC remade the show as a dry, ponderous four-and-a-half-hour miniseries in 2009, but that shouldn’t be the final attempt at reviving a premise with such great possibilities. Rumor has it that Christopher Nolan may want to direct a Prisoner movie at some point, and he could certainly make a powerful one that grapples with the big questions about individual will and the slipperiness of sanity. Or what about Yorgos Lanthimos? The Dogtooth writer-director already has experience with making a movie about a closed-off compound where the lack of access to the outside world drives the inhabitants batty.
It’s common for big-screen updates of classic 1960s television shows to be met with complaints from longtime die-hards that their beloved casts could never be replaced. A film version of The Monkees would surely face similar outcry from fans of Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and the late Davy Jones, but recasting their roles makes a certain amount of thematic sense given the material, since the band The Monkees never existed before the television show The Monkees, which chronicled the group’s Beatles-esque exploits. A new Monkees could comment on the continuing presence of prepackaged boy bands and girl groups in pop culture, and recycle the band’s surprisingly strong song catalog, including “Last Train To Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
East Side/West Side
It only lasted for one 26-episode season on CBS in 1963 and 1964, but East Side/West Side was a prime example of early 1960s TV’s engagement with social issues, also seen in dramas like Naked City and The Defenders. The show had George C. Scott as a New York social worker who had his eyes opened week after week by the situations faced by his clients in the poorer parts of Manhattan. The demographics of city life have changed dramatically in the past 50 years, but a lot of the same problems remain, and there’s never a bad time for a good melodrama that engages with issues of race, class, and how different people co-exist in the same urban spaces.
This short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon series from the late 1960s had an appealingly simple premise: 11 driving teams (including the famously evil Dick Dastardly and Muttley), each in their own gimmicky, over-designed automobile (like the Mean Machine), compete to win the title of “World’s Wackiest Racer.” Episodes involved lots of action, and the nefarious (but forever backfiring) machinations of Dastardly, and the constant motion and excitement, along with the very simple storylines, seem perfectly suited to a modern update as a computer-animated film for young children. Frankly, given the opportunities for merchandizing and licensing Wacky Racer cars and toys, it’s kind of shocking this hasn’t happened already. The only explanation is yet another sinister plot by Dick Dastardly to keep his fellow competitors down.
I Dream Of Jeannie
It’s the regressive nature of I Dream Of Jeannie that makes it ripe for revival. Is it even possible in the 21st century to make a movie about a man who discovers a magical woman who only wants to make his every wish come true? Would it be better to flip the genders? Or to make Jeannie less submissive? (Or did someone already make this movie and call it Her?)