7 Cult Shows We’d Like to See on the Big Screen

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Let's qualify the title of this article. Below are seven cult TV shows we'd like to see on the big screen so long as they're not watered down by Hollywood producers or turned into gross franchises designed to sell Chicken McNuggets. But in this day and age, with such a dearth of creative story-telling in the U.S. film industry, is this even possible? And isn't the small-screen medium of television, where a show's half-hour time slot is broken up by three commercial breaks, exactly what made these shows so creative in the first place? Director Tim Burton might answer "yes" to that last question, but he is the one mainstream filmmaker we trust to bring to the big screen a television show as unique and weird as the Gothic, afternoon soap opera Dark Shadows. Even if his film ends up sucking, at least there's a whole new generation of kids who might be inspired to check out the original on DVD. With that in mind, we wondered what other cult television shows might hold up if given the big screen treatment.

  1. The Prisoner (1967-1968)

    Probably one of the strangest and most disturbing television shows of all time, The Prisoner is more like a surreal allegory than any kind of spy thriller. In the show's iconic opening credits, Patrick McGoohan, playing an unnamed secret agent of some sort, is seen angrily resigning from his job before returning to his home to pack a suitcase, presumably for a much needed vacation. He is gassed before he can finish, wakes up in "the village," and is told by a snide yet ominous disembodied voice, identifying itself as "the new number 2," that he is now "number 6." McGoohan's character shouts "I am not a number! I am a free man!" Throughout the series, McGoohan does his best to screw with the heads of his mysterious captors while they try to screw with his, demanding "information" and an answer to their question, "Why did you resign?"

  2. The Ernie Kovacs Show (1952-1955)

    There's no question that without Ernie Kovacs, there would be no Will Ferrell. Kovacs' brand of humor was as broad as it was cerebral. He produced the first sketch comedy show on television, developing television camera tricks for humorous effect that are still used on live sketch comedy shows, including Saturday Night Live, today. Kovacs was spontaneous and comfortable as an improviser, but he also constructed elaborate and expensive sight gags that sometime lasted only a few seconds. He apparently disliked performing in front of live audiences, who were sometimes unable to appreciate his humorous visuals while separated from the television monitors. Some of Kovacs' most appreciated comedy was both surreal and absurd. His recurring "Nairobi Trio" sketch featured three actors in monkey suits mechanically miming to the music of Robert Maxwell's "Solfeggio," clobbering each other in time to the music's cadences.

  3. Space: 1999 (1975-1977)

    Starring the hot and heavy couple of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain who were married at the time, the elaborately and expensively produced Space: 1999 may be the most quintessential of '70s television shows. Thanks to the feathered haircuts and flared trousers, as well as special effects that owed much to Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, traveling the galaxy on a moon that's been knocked out of its orbit never seemed so groovy. The music for the first season's opening credits, composed by Barry Gray, featured plenty of wah-wah rhythm guitar, soaring strings, and enough stacked brass to blow out the sound systems of a thousand discos.

  4. Roobarb and Custard (1974)

    Roobarb and Custard is a dog and cat duo created for British television by writer Grange Calveley and celebrated animator Bob Godrey. It was the first fully animated series to be created in the United Kingdom. The animation was drawn with marker pens in a purposefully rough style, the result being the animated characters constantly moved or "boiled" and infused the humorous dog versus cat stories with a kinetic energy. The show's crazy theme song was composed by Johnny Hawksworth.

  5. The Persuaders! (1971-1972)

    Tony Curtis is Danny Wilde, who went from the mean streets of New York City to become an oil millionaire. Roger Moore is Oxford-educated fop Lord Brett Sinclair, a former army officer and race car driver. After first meeting and nearly beating each other to a pulp while on holiday in the French Riviera, an enlightened judge employs this odd couple to solve a local crime as recompense for trashing a hotel bar. Wilde and Lord Sinclair then decide to continue to put their talents to good use while gallivanting together across the globe. This show was wildly popular in both the U.S. and Europe, and still has a strong cult following.

  6. Night Gallery (1970-1973)

    Writer and television alchemist Rod Serling got even weirder after The Twilight Zone. Each episode of his show Night Gallery takes inspiration from a gallery of garish paintings, as well as stories by several luminaries of horror and supernatural writing, including H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, and A.E. van Vogt. The show maintains a grim, often grotesque vibe, even when the material is treated tongue in cheek or played up for laughs. Although there has yet to be a film adaptation of the Night Gallery oeuvre, the show has influenced many film makers, including Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro.

  7. The Secrets of Isis (1975-1976)

    The Secrets of Isis may not qualify as a "cult" television show, or for that matter a particularly good television show. But it deserves to be remembered for being the first weekly American live-action television series whose lead character happened to be a female superhero and happened to be, well, pretty hot! Joanna Cameron plays a school teacher who, during an archeological dig, finds an amulet that grants whoever wears it the powers of Isis, which include just about any super power a superhero needs to take care of business. Maybe the concept is a bit threadbare and the characters a little too goody-two shoes for today's young audiences. But Cameron was absolutely charming in her role as a 20th-century ass-kicking Egyptian deity. And the show lives on thanks to Hulu.

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