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  • Author Kashfia Kabir
  • Published October 25, 2013

Five TV shows that are better than their films

Marvel’s spin-off show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was born from the huge box office success of The Avengers. But not all TV shows had such fortunate beginnings: here are five TV shows that far outshone their original films.


Marvel’s spin-off show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was born from the box office success of The Avengers. But not all TV shows had such fortunate beginnings: here are five that far outshone their original films.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The 1992 film laid the groundwork for creator Joss Whedon’s iconic, genre-defining TV series. But the laughably bad feature film was heavily rewritten into a lighter, more pantomime version than Whedon intended. Thankfully, his vision for Buffy Summers was more fully realised in the fantastic, seven-series TV show, and its popularity led to spin-off Angel and various comic books. Credit’s to Kirsty Swanson for being the first Buffy, but Sarah Michelle Gellar as the reluctant slayer who saved the world while maintaining a normal high school life made the show. Add in a great balance of comedy and darkness, epic world-saving battles alongside real world troubles, and giving a generation one hell of a female role model – Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one of the best TV shows of all time.

Reinventing Hannibal Lecter for the small screen wasn’t going to be easy, not with Anthony Hopkins’s definitive, Oscar-winning portrayal in Silence of the Lambs looming large. But clever writing, a distinctive visual style and the inspired casting of Mads Mikkelsen as everyone’s favourite serial cannibal makes Hannibal an unequivocal success. The show focuses on prequel Red Dragon‘s storyline, with FBI agent Will Graham (played broodingly by Hugh Dancy – a huge improvement on Ed Norton’s film portrayal) working alongside Dr Lecter to solve strange and gruesomely artistic murders. Part psychological thriller, part grim gastronomy showcase – series two can’t come soon enough.

Penguins of Madagascar
Focussing on the funniest animals of the zoo (penguins and lemurs, natch), this kid’s TV show is far funnier and more acclaimed than the first Madagascar film. It’s even won two BAFTAs. Four paramilitary penguins (bear with us) go on one zany adventure after another to protect the zoo, and their distinctive personalities – Skipper as the leader, Kowalski the genius tech guy, Rico the weapons and explosives expert, and Private is the sensitive rookie – keeps the show fresh and inventive. A film version is set for a 2015 release, with the rumoured voice talents of Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich.
Stargate SG-1 & Stargate Atlantis
The 1994 film kickstarted the Stargate franchise, but these two TV shows (spanning 15 series total) elevated it to cult sci-fi status. SG-1 focuses on a military crew that travels to distant planets using “Stargates” – portals that allow rapid space-travel – to find tech and allies to protect Earth from invading aliens. Oh, and it starred MacGuyver himself – Richard Dean Anderson – as the lead. The series is peppered with mythological undertones and a great sense of humour, and Atlantis continues the story arc with a different crew searching for the eponymous lost city. A third series, Universe, was cancelled after just two seasons, and there are two direct-to-DVD movies, too. If you loved Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, and need more space-based military fiction in your life – Stargate should be next on your must-watch list.

Once A Thief
You’re likely in the minority if you can remember this short-lived TV show. It was a spin-off from John Woo’s 1996 film of the same name and only ran for one season, but boy was it fun. It was very silly, very 90s, very John Woo – and that’s why it was so watchable. Two former Chinese mafia members and a disgraced cop are recruited by a top-secret government agency to take down criminals, all the while embroiled in a love triangle. There are some great (cheesy) lines, awesome action sequences, and a cameo from Julian Richlings. What’s not to love?

Kashfia Kabir is multimedia journalist at What Hi Fi? Sound & Vision.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is currently airing on Channel 4 every Friday at 8pm.
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