TRUE ORIGINALITY IN HOLLYWOOD IS AS rare as the tuna tartare served at Mortons. That, however, hasn't stopped TV execs from mining the movies for ideas—from Topper in the '50s and Peyton Place in the '60s to Alien Nation in the '80s. Now the trend is hotter than ever. Already, the WB Network has turned Buffy the Vampire Slayer (see review) into a series, USA Network has adapted La Femme Nikita, and CBS has ordered pilots for Fargo and The Magnificent Seven. Even ABC, despite so-so ratings for Clueless and Dangerous Minds, is developing Time-cop, a sci-fi series based on the Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller, and The Player, a spinoff of Robert Altman's film industry satire, this fall. "A TV show based on a movie is the equivalent of buying a bestseller—there's audience recognition," explains producer Larry Gelbart, who helped turn Altman's 1970 film M*A*S*H into a hit CBS series (1972-83).
For now, the rampant recycling shows no signs of abating. With its serial version of 1994's Stargate starting on Showtime in July, MGM Worldwide Television even has plans to produce a brand-new Fame—already a movie-cum-TV series during the '80s. "The audience," says the division's president, John Symes, "is ready for a '90s version." With that attitude, Howard the Duck: The Series just might be on the horizon.