Successes on Big Screen Head to Small Screen
BOSTON — The movies have been borrowing heavily from TV lately - witness "A Very Brady Sequel" and "Mission: Impossible," to name just two. But this fall, the tables have turned, and networks are trying to fit big-screen ideas into small-screen time slots.
While none of the handful of new shows based on films is likely to be the next "M*A*S*H," the one that makes the transition the best is Clueless (ABC, Friday, 9 p.m., premires Sept. 20). Although the film's star, Alicia Silverstone, has turned in her cellular phone, much of the original cast remains in this spoof about a Beverly Hills high schooler. Silverstone's designer shoes are ably filled by Rachel Blanchard, who has the fashion sense and put-upon look down pat.
Writer Amy Heckerling originally envisioned "Clueless" as a TV program, but executives passed on it. She had no trouble finding suitors after its box-office success. The clever screenplay was loosely based on Jane Austen's novel "Emma," but will there be enough fodder for weekly escapades? That question aside, if you liked the movie, you'll like the light-hearted TV show.
It was FOX that first turned down Heckerling's idea, and now that network has taken another film and made it into "Clueless in New York." Party Girl (Monday, 9 p.m., premired Sept. 9), based on an independent film of the same name, is about a young woman who swings at night and works at a library by day.
Christine Taylor ("The Brady Bunch" movies) dresses and acts a lot like Silverstone's character. But the TV show is a far cry from the more edgy and morally challenged movie. What does survive from the film are some writing and several props. Viewers are left with a lukewarm comedy that also stars Swoosie Kurtz ("Sisters").
Skip that FOX offering and turn instead to ABC, where Annie Potts takes Michelle Pfeiffer's role as a tough teacher in Dangerous Minds (Monday, 8 p.m., premires Sept. 30).
Potts has always been a likable actress, and she is here too, whether helping or facing down inner-city kids. Many aspects of the drama are good: the acting (Potts seems better cast than Pfeiffer), the teaching, and the soundtrack - which, like the movie, is compliments of Coolio. But the program needs to iron out some kinks, such as heavy-handed messages and plot overload. Even so, it is one of this fall's more thoughtful dramas.