Television series exist at the whim of a programming exec. Series not pulling in the right audience for advertisers get pulled, sometimes within weeks of the pilot airing. There have been times when the number of weeks is less than one. One case in Austrailia had the show pulled during airing.
The longer a series lasts, the more fans it picks up, through word of mouth or even accidentally catching an episode. If you’ve been following MuseHack or any site through Crossroads Alpha for any length of time, you’ll know that fans can get creative when supporting a series. This was as true with the original Star Trek as it was with Veronica Mars. What Star Trek fans didn’t have available to them was Kickstarter.
Veronica Mars aired first on UPN then on the CW after UPN merged with the WB network, lasting three seasons from 2004 to 2007. Sixty-four episodes, one fewer than traditionally needed for syndication, chronicled the life of the titular character in a film noir homage. Each season had its own mystery arc, with Veronica working on smaller cases each episode as well. Veronica was also an outsider in her school, the fallout of her father, as sherriff, trying to arrest a prominent Neptune, California, billionaire for the murder of one of Veronica’s friends. When her father became a private investigator, Veronica helped out, and took advantage of the skills she picked up to find her friend’s murderer.
Over the course of the three seasons, Veronica gained close friends and solved cases. The series ended with her having to make a difficult decision – leave the wretched hive of scum, villainy, and corruption known as Neptune or stay as a licensed detective herself.
Veronica’s choice was never shown. The series was cancelled after the third season, though work had been done for a potential fourth that would have seen Veronica as a rookie FBI agent. Fans wanted more. The Mars bar campaign saw ten thousand of the candy bars sent to CBS headquarters. However, the fate of the show was sealed. Being on a fifth network that had to merge to survive took its toll.
All was not lost. The creator, Rob Thomas, had written a Veronica Mars movie script. CBS, one of the co-owners of the CW along with Warner Bros, passed on the idea. However, a new player had arrived. Kickstarter gave people a chance to directly fund projects; money would only change hands if the donations reached the dollar value required set by the creators. All Kickstarter campaigns last thrity days, to give projects enough time to get the word out and drum up support. When the Veronica Mars movie went to Kickstarter, the $2 million goal was reached within 11 hours. Fans wanted the movie. The studios, seeing the interest, added to the funding and greenlit the movie.
The movie was released as a limited engagement, on a smaller number of screens than the typical release. At the same time, the movie was available for digital download. Opening night saw theatres sold out of tickets. With nine years between the end of the series and the movie opening, could the movie adapt to the time gap?
Adapting a TV series to a movie involves some growing pains. With Veronica Mars, there is an added complexity. Many adapted TV shows become just longer episodes, not really taking advantage of the new format. Fans can be vocal about what they want, but may not be aware of what they truly desire; it’s a delicate act balancing the familiar and the unexpected. Veronica‘s added complication is the lack of time for the season-long arc. Can the script handle needing to be both longer and shorter while still being Veronica Mars?
To appease the fan need for the familiar, the movie brought back many familiar faces. Along with Kristen Bell, Veronica herself, the movie reunited her with Jason Dohring, Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Krysten Ritter, Chris Lowell, Daran Norris, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, and Erinco Colantoni. Veronica gets dragged back to the wrteched hive after one of her Neptune friends is accused of murder before the weekend that the Neptune High School reunion takes place. The reunion acts as the perfect metaphor for the movie; almost ten years have past since fans last saw the characters. Who would they be now? Almost every character* had changed in surprising ways, the unexpected that the fans also want.
The core of the TV series was the drama that Veronica herself went through, the changed lives, even hers, in the wake of her investigations. Without that core, the Veronica Mars movie could just be the Betty Jupiter film. Rob Thomas, though, knew that core and used it as the base to build the rest of the movie on. Few characters get through the movie unscathed, and even Veronica herself gets caught in her own wake.
With the script getting to the heart of what made Veronica Mars a popular hit, even a cult classic, the adaptation to the big screen allowed fans to return to Neptune and enjoy a proper Veronica Mars story, gaining from the change in format without losing anything in translation.
Next week, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
* There’s always that one person who doesn’t appear that he has left high school. For Veronica Mars, that person is Dick Cassavetes, played by Ryan Hansen.
Slight change of plans. Turns out, the planned “So You Want to Adapt a Story” is far more involved than I expected. That will come next week. Enjoy the round up of adaptational news in the meantime.
What could have been: Hayao Miyazaki wanted to make a Pippi Longstocking movie in 1971.
Concept art for the work has come out. The only thing stopping the adaptation was Astrid Lindgren, Pippi’s creator, saying no. Studio Ghibli just didn’t have the world renown in 1971 that it has today.
2014, the Year of the Bomb?
Of the fourteen potential major failures coming in 2014, twelve are adaptations and remakes. Of note, Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Japanese light novel, All You Need Is Kill. If Divergent and The Maze Runner both do poorly, this could signal the beginning of the end of Young Adult novels being adapted. Guardians of the Galaxy is a wild card. Marvel is taking a huge risk, but, as Steve put it, what has Marvel got to lose?
Sin City sequel and TV series on the way.
The Weinstein Company is getting Robert Rodrigues and Frank Miller to create Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is expected out August 29 next year, with a TV series to start afterwards. Meanwhile, the company is also working on a ten part miniseries based on the theatrical adaptation of the Stephen King novel, The Mist.
Two versions of 50 Shades of Grey adaptation to be released.
The first will be rated R. The second will go for the dreaded NC-17 rating. The problem with NC-17 movies is that there are few theatres willing to screen them. 50 Shades might be an exception, but there could be issues when someone who was expecting the R version sees the more explicit NC-17. The producer also said that she doesn’t want the film to be seen as “mommy porn”, which will be a neat trick considering that the original book is exactly that. Filming has started, with Vancouver, BC, standing in for Vancouver, Washington.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone to be adapted.
The first of a trilogy by Laini Taylor, the YA novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone is being adapted by Universal. The novel originally came out in 2011; the adaptation has no release date yet.
Cats may be next Broadway musical adapted to film.
Andrew Lloyd Webber confirmed that Universal is working on the adaptation. Cats itself is an adaptation of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Main challenge is convincing the audience that people dressed as cats and signing is worth seeing, but the stage version also had that issue.
Veronica Mars due out March 14, 2014.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign that saw the movie funded in under twelve hours, Veronica Mars will hit the theatres next March. Most of the core cast has returned for the movie.
Also out March 14, 2014, Need for Speed.
Electronic Arts teamed up with Dreamworks for the adaptation. The video game series focuses on street racing, and includes police pursuit as part of the challenge. Each game in the series has a different focus, giving a bit of room for the movie to work with.
Warner Bros/DC may have a low-budget series of movies.
Three lesser known titles, Suicide Squad, Team 7, and Deathstroke may get lower budget movies, in the range of $20-40 million. The lower budget may reduce audience expectations and allow for a decent return. DC just needs to avoid looking desperate compared to Marvel’s approach.
MTV to adapt Shannara.
MTV’s network decay continues, but this time, it’s not a reality series. The former music network will be adapting Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, hoping to jump on the fantasy bandwagon led by A Game of Thrones. The advantage with Shannara is that twenty-five books have been written, so there’s no chance of the TV series catching up and overtaking. Brooks himself is involved in the project.
Heathers to run Off Broadway.
The 1989 movie, Heathers, has been adapted as a musical slated to run Off Broadway beginning March 17, 2014. The original was a dark comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, where the two took revenge on a clique of mean girls all named Heather.
NBC to air Rosemary’s Baby miniseries.
NBC continues to ride the adaptation train with the announcement of the four-hour Rosemary’s Baby miniseries. The miniseries will go back to the original book of the same name by Ira Levin.
The Sound of Music Live! a sign of things to come?
Still on NBC here. The live musical broadcast garnered ratings for the struggling network, leading to the confirmation that there will be another musical for next November. Which one has yet to be decided. The Sound of Music Live! may have brought in an audience in part from novelty and in part for the potential train-wreck it could have been.
Sony takes a page from Marvel Studios.
Sony announced that they will be producing two Spider-Man spin-offs, Venom and The Sinister Six. Both movies will focus on Spidey’s rogues gallery. No dates for either production start or release were given.
Animated Anne Frank in the works.
The Diary of Anne Frank is being turned into an animated feature, with the blessing of the Anne Frank Fonds Basel, the foundation created by Frank’s father. Ari Folman, director of Waltz with Bashir will direct and will have full access to the foundation’s archives.
The Naked Gun to be rebooted.
Paramount is looking to reboot The Naked Gun, with Ed Helms to fill Leslie Nielsen’s role of Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective-Lieutenant, Police Squad. David Zucker, one of the original creators, is on board.
Disney to create series based on animated villains.
Descendants will look at the lives of the teenaged offspring of Disney villains. The live-action work will premier in 2015.
Next week, “So You Want to Adapt a Story”.