3 Great TV Shows that Would Not Have Made Great Movies

Every so often I watch something new at the cinema and couldn’t help but think that the story would have gone further if it were just a plain old television series. Sometimes there’s just not enough minutes in a feature film to fit in everything that needs to be said, and that often leaves behind some confusing questions. That’s not even mentioning how hard it is for a character to progress in such a short time frame, sure it’s possible, but the amount of progression is pretty limited.

Movies used to be the bread and butter of the entertainment industry but in recent years more and more networks are producing TV shows that can not only rival the blockbuster movie hits but surpass them. Not only that, but the plot lines and linear story make for a formula that would have resulted in a mediocre movie. It wasn’t long before I found myself thankful that some ideas weren’t turned into movies, I even made a list.

Game Of Thrones

What better way is there to start my little list than with HBO’s award winning show, Game Of Thrones? This remarkable television series has gone so far with enough accolades to make anyone just a little jealous of its accomplishments, yet with all its twists and turns it could have easily been turned into a couple of movies and it’s not hard to imagine it as a number of high-grossing films either.

I mean, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine someone in Hollywood would have pitched the idea, at least once or twice. It’s almost a no-brainer when the source material (A Song Of Fire And Ice) tells such an amazing yet emotional tale. If nothing else it certainly has high entertainment value and that would have been enough for some bigshot to green light it. Surely if done right, it could have competed with the likes of Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.

Yet, just think for a moment. If they did that how much content would we, the viewers lose? How do you compress hundreds and hundreds of pages into a movie that is only an hour and a half or two hours long? They’ve already cut a lot in the current series, wouldn’t a movie do so much more damage to the story we know?

Honestly, I think it would severely impact the story and the cast of characters. There just wouldn’t be enough time to go through everything. Coincidentally enough, that’s the exact reason why Game Of Thrones makes for a perfect example of how sometimes turning an idea into a TV show is better than making it into a possible blockbuster flick.

Fortunately, we have no one else but George R.R. Martin himself to thank for this, his steadfast refusal not to give his precious baby to anyone except the worthiest of creative talent has resulted in a series that has blown up making it one of the most watched shows around the world.  Just take a look at this interview and watch as he tells it.

It’s relatively long and there’s a bunch of interesting stuff on the video, but skip to 1:28 (1 minute, 28 seconds) to where the beloved author talks about meeting the men who would turn his book into much, much more.

I for one think that Game Of Thrones has outdone itself to such a degree that it’s impossible to imagine it in any other format. There is just no other way for us to understand the complexity of this particular fictional universe. The numerous relationships, the undercurrent of politics behind every move and the desires of each and every character; oh, and let’s not forget the backstabbing either…

Every character seems so important, and I’m sure you have your favorite by this point. I think that at least partly, it’s the falling in love with the people that make us so spellbound in watching the show. I mean just watch a little bit of it and it doesn’t take too long before we’ve undoubtedly found someone that we can relate to and subconsciously root for. Whoever your soul goes out to, whether it’s the ever growing Daenerys, the crafty Tyrion or any number of the different characters the bottom line is that without their screen time we wouldn’t be enjoying the show half as much.

Without a doubt I’m glad that HBO took it upon themselves to green-light this marvel of entertainment for no other reason that anything else just wouldn’t have done half as well. And I certainly wouldn’t be as excited for their fourth season.


This one is a little easier to compare, after all it already has something that’s easily comparable. There’s the Sherlock Holmes movies that star Robert Downey Jr and then there’s the modern series that has taken the grand old idea and pumped it full of steroids.

On one hand, we have a pair of movies that are interesting and certainly entertaining enough. If I just watched the movies,  I would have been satisfied. They’re just that good. Well, that’s what I thought  until I was introduced to BBC’s Sherlock, courtesy of Netflix and boredom.

I was blown away, and here’s two examples of why.

Sherlock is one of my favorite shows of all time, and to think that I passed on watching it time and again because I thought that there was no way something on the television was going to be any better than Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal, I mean he’s Iron Man!

Boy. How Wrong, I was.

It’s simply better in every way imaginable. The show manages to convey intrigue, mystery and comedy in one neat little package. Sure, it may just have 3 episode seasons, but every episode plays for an hour and a half. That’s the length of most movies, yet there’s almost no down time. No year or two of waiting before we see the next act.

Not only that, but Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have enough chemistry to make their mundane banter, something worth watching.  I could listen to them going at it for hours, but luckily that’s not all there is to it. There’s always something to solve, but there’s one overarching mystery that unfolds over the course of each season, culminating with the season finale. Now, that isn’t too shocking, but the fact of the matter is that the writers must be geniuses of some sort, because every single time I’m blindsided as to how things will unfold.

Nothing is ever predictable, and the show makes you look in one direction only to hit you from the other, it’s something that the movie version has never been able to do, and that is just one of the reasons it’s better than its big-screen counterpart. 

There’s no better experience as a viewer than watching things come together, the sudden thought of Eureka! That’s how it is done, it’s exciting and exhilarating while managing to boggle the mind at the same time – a feeling that makes me giddy.

I think, this series showcases just how much better a TV show can be compared to a Movie, even when using the same source material. For me the TV version is just light years ahead of its movie equivalent. There’s just no other way to put it. Apparently, I’m not the only one who agrees – seeing as how the show has already been given the go ahead for two more seasons. I seriously can’t wait.

The Walking Dead

How many Zombie movies are out there? Have we ever cared for any of the characters in them as much as we’ve cared for the people trapped in an out of the way prison? I know I haven’t, at least not until I finished watching a handful of Walking Dead episodes. Caring for the characters is certainly a strange feeling for me, especially when it comes to watching a show that has elements of the undead gruesomely displayed. On the other hand, the changes of pace provide nice building blocks that allow for pleasant and exhilarating feelings to be replaced with sudden terror and dread. The show isn’t about how they’ll die, but rather what they’ll do to survive.

While there have been a number of zombie-themed movies in the past, not one of them has made me feel so many emotions as this story has as it unraveled. Heck, watching AMC’s Walking Dead made me so devastated at any one point, I cried like a little baby. I bet fans can guess the exact episode I’m talking about. Luckily enough, I don’t have long to wait before I get more stuff to watch as the next half of the season is almost upon us.

So all in all, a movie just wouldn’t have enough time to show us all the events that go to make up a character’s history as they unfold. It would have left us with more questions than answers, gaping holes in our knowledge. Attempting to explain everything in such a short time frame would have been madness and boring. I’m sure I wouldn’t be as attached to the characters either, and we wouldn’t care as much about what happened to them. Sitting through a movie is rather a short time for them to be on our minds, compared to tuning in every week.

Without a doubt these TV franchises are great and deserve all the hype they get. The days when the big screen took all the glory are slowly fading away, the smaller screen is definitely providing us with more and more quality entertainment. A win in my book, still I wish more movies didn’t leave me with the bitter thoughts that it would have been better as a TV series, something that is happening more and more these days. I suppose it’s lucky that a few great shows do fall through the cracks and get turned into greatness.

I’d like to ask what shows you think fit my description? I know Breaking Bad should be included, but it was my fourth pick, and this wall of text has gone long enough so instead, why don’t you just tell me what you think would qualify? Comment or email me.

18 thoughts on “3 Great TV Shows that Would Not Have Made Great Movies”

  1. I can’t get into Walking Dead as a TV show so I’m pretty sure the movie would do nothing for me. I think it’s the whole zombie thing. The last thing I want to see is yet another movie with groaning, moaning, decaying people. I’ll pass

    1. Man, you’re missing out. Walking Dead is a great series and it doesn’t have anything to do with the zombies. Sure, the groaning dead is the centerpiece, but it’s the oh-so-human characters that really make this series something to see. I’m not a huge fan of zombies either, but the human interaction is enough of a reason to try giving this show a second chance. At its core, it’s a survivor story, a group of people trying to do their best to survive in a horrible world. The moral dilemmas they face are spell binding and heartbreaking, this tv show will hit you over and over again when it hurts the most, emotions will run rampant and you’ll find yourself wanting to see, what happens next.

      While I do say it could easily be a zombie movie, Walking dead is no lame-ass kill zombies and wait for rescue, it answers the question – What if it was all real as it honestly as it can,

      I highly suggest you try it again, and try to look past the Zombies and watch the people.

      1. I totally agree with you! I LOVE the walking dead and I am SO excited about the mid season premiere! I can’t wait!

        I also really love Game Of Thrones, i read the books till the third season.

  2. I completely agree that Game of Thrones would not have been better as a film series.
    I remember an interview with George R. R. Martin, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff where they talked about this. They all agreed that the television format it’s in is better for the content.

    Have you ever watched Deadwood? It’s one of those shows that was extraordinary in every way and cancelled before its time. It could have been a great film, although, it too would have suffered if the format was shortened even further.

    1. It get’s mentioned in the Link above, the Emmy Panel. But yeah, Unless you’re Peter Jackson, game of thrones should only be a cable series.

      Deadwood? I’ll look it up.. Unfortunately there are plenty of shows that die before their time, cough cough… “Firefly”, So many great things that get cut because some producer or bigwig doesn’t know what good is…

  3. I actually think all three would have been better as movies. Of course it’s great getting to know all the characters, but do we really need another TV show? Just in general.

    1. I think they’d be horrible as movies, or at the very best “okay” Nothing as groundbreaking as their television counterparts.

      I mean just look how bad Enders Game Turned out? I was so excited for that movie and they butchered it. It could have easily been better if there was more time to tell the story, get in deep and touch the gritty darkness of humanity and stuff, but they just took good material and tried to make some money… and The actors tried so hard too.

      Shows can convey a lot more these days, and I think we’ll be seeing more and more interesting stuff sprouting up in the next coming years.

  4. All great shows! No way could they ever be just movies, because they would have to condense them so much. I love that each Sherlock episode is the length of a movie! And Game of Thrones is just epic! I can’t wait for the new season!

    1. Are you talking about season 3 of Sherlock? Because all I can say about it is WOW.
      I know they do a good job of keeping the viewers on their toes, and try to keep us guessing even till the last moments but season 3 really does take the cake. It has one of those reveals that just makes you scream, oh – shit, no way – he has to be dreaming or something.

      Needless to say it was good and makes me glad they extended for 2 more seasons, I even hear they plan to keep on doing it until the actors are too famous or something like that.

      GoT is coming back April ! And it’s going to be so awesome, and so sad…

  5. Sherlock got two more seasons? Stoked! I love that show so much. Same with Game of Thrones. I haven’t watched much of Walking Dead, but all my friends seem to like it. TV is great for telling every little detail of a story. If it is done right, like Breaking Bad, the story can take you all over the place. I think a series can be really amazing if they know when it is time to end. Some shows like Heroes or Lost just seem to end up repeating themselves, and thus have unsatisfying conclusions!

    1. Ugh, Heroes was a train wreck after season 1. The writers just didn’t know where to take it, and watching it quickly felt confusingly complex. It had a lot of potential, but it, squandered it. I would love to see an original new show with comic-book like super powers that manages to be serious and doesn’t concentrate on that romance formula the CW seems to be doing but that’s just wishful thinking…

      I’ll just have to survive with Arrow..
      I also agree that stretching out a story just starts to kill it, like an infection that just doesn’t want to get better until it’s finally time to put the show on the chopping blog.

      Yup, Sherlock gets two more seasons, when we’ll see it is anyone’s guess, but hey, at least we know its coming. And GoT is 2 months away! A lot of photos are showing up on the interwebs and make me all excited. Daenerys = Love,

      Definitely try walking dead, find a day and marathon that shit… If you can stomach Game Of Thrones, you can handle all the emotional twists that Walking Dead will bring about. Enjoy 🙂

  6. I actually think Sherlock could work as a film, if they dedicated each film to a specific mystery instead of trying to cram a whole seasons of crimes into a single picture. Well, they’re practically movies already. One thing you said was that the great thing about Sherlock was that there is no waiting for the next act. Except we did wait almost two years between seasons two and three!

    But I do agree with your other pics. If Game of Thrones was a movie, we’d get AMAZING CGI (seriously, think of all the epic battle scenes and the dragons. Dragons everywhere) but the story wouldn’t be as compelling as it is.

    1. Hmm, I don’t know, Sherlock as a Film… I would be on the fence about that. It’s the overarching plot that accompanies every episode that really makes it for me. Then there’s the fact that if I think about a Sherlock Holmes movie I think about the Robert Downey Jr films, Yes, it’s entertaining, it’s fun and adventurous but it doesn’t quite stoke my fiery imagination like the series does.

      In short, It’s good, but not great. Could the Mr. Cumberbatch and Mr. Martin make up for that discrepancy?

      Maybe, maybe not, but what I do know is I’m finding it hard to even imagine it as a movie.

      Maybe I’m a little biased, but I love every moment of screen time I can get from Sherlock and even subtracting a single minute of it would leave me sad. It’s just they’re great together, all that chemistry makes for great and amusing times.

      Yeah, the next act… I see what you mean by that lengthy break… But the thing is, we the viewers are usually left satisfied with how the whole thing unfolds. Sure, there are questions at the end, but that’s another game as Sherlock would call it. A new mystery to be solved,

      Game of thrones already has amazing CGI, but yeah, I totally understand where you’re coming from. CGI battles would totally be awesome for me, I can still remember Return Of the King and can’t help but wish for something a little similar, but yeah they do have a budget per episode to consider, sadly. Still, Thats one plus and a whole lot of negatives… so I’ll be happy with what we got.

  7. TV shows have smaller budgets than big movies, they are lower risk because the advertising is an ongoing income stream. Movies require all the investment up-front, so companies will only take on books that they are confident will succeed on the big screen.

    I agree with you Sidney that a TV series is usually better than a movie for many books. It has more time to cover the full story in the book and does so more effectively.

    There are many books that come to mind where Hollywood money has obviously trumped TV show money and the results have been visually impressive, but have failed to stay true to the original authors’ intentions. Two series that spring to mind that were abused in this way are The Hunger Games and Harry Potter books.

    I think TV shows probably have more sensible budgets with smaller amounts for graphic effects and insane salaries for actors and directors. They also reach more people through the small screen; all the people who will not pay 10 euro a seat in the cinema or who object to the whole popcorn throwing experience that so many cinemas have become.

    1. Thanks for commenting Philip, I agree on a lot of your points but then again, sometimes it all comes down to who gets the source material. If the creative talent is up to task up transforming words into action then we, the viewers usual end up with something entertaining but maybe not as close to the books as we like. Not to mention that it’s also true that the lines can become blurred, taking a sharp right turn and not looking back until we don’t recognize the directions at all. Heck , Who am I kidding, that’s how it usually goes.

      Starship Troopers for instance? I was so surprised when I read the book, I was like.. this isn’t right.

      I mean it’s entertaining, exactly like Harry Potter and the Hunger games but more often than not it’s easy for them to slip down that slippery slope and that snowballs until the whole thing is terrible.

      Now that I think about it, It’s a lot easier to succeed with a TV show, but then again, it makes the failures all the more terrible.

      btw got any shows you’d like to recommend? I always try to expand my horizons with shows that offer depth and excitement, anything that can make me cry is a plus too

  8. I agree that TV series have more depth.

    I think that people of different personalities will prefer different media; each medium brings its own enjoyment for its own audience.

    When I go to the cinema to watch a movie, I look for the whole theatrical experience rather than the depth of the story line; this is not something any other media can incorporate.

    When I watch a TV series I enjoy its depth and the surprise when new elements are allowed to be added. However, I don’t like a lengthy TV series that occupies too much of my time, especially when it is not based on a book but is just a script just written before each series.

    Perhaps no one medium can replace any other and each serves its own purpose.

    Very impressive post and comments, Sidney. You did a great job in expressing how the TV series medium has met your expectations.

    1. That illustrates my point, exactly. Once upon a time it was the movies that had more depth. It was Hollywood that told the stories that moved audiences and made them cry and weep. The original Star Wars Trilogy and Titanic are great examples of this, such emotional upheavals that crystallized them into the talk of the day.

      It just shows us how much times are changing.

      I also agree that everyone has their own preference when it comes to entertainment, but on the issue of movies and TV shows, the lines are a little blurred, it’s hard to figure out where one thing begins and another ends. I’m sure that the characteristics can be argued back and forth, but let’s not let it distract us from the sheer enjoyment of a story unfolding, a great story need not be analyzed merely enjoyed…

      Yeah, I completely agree it’s easy to get lost in entertainment, they’re practically sink holes for our time. Still, every once in awhile there’s that show that tugs at the imagination that simply begs to be watched, and watched frequently.

      Min Min, thank you for your kind words, I always love sharing my thoughts and ideas and talking about them..

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