The eternal snobbery of the silver screen towards the small screen suggests that cinema bosses would ignore most of TV’s output. However, if you start to think like a movie producer, you realise you can take any television series – be it a decade spanning franchise or small scale mini-series – and attempt to make it bigger, better and shinier. Whilst there have been some missteps – the resounding flop that was Bewitched springs to mind – over the past few years, TV to film adaptations have begun to look up in terms of quality. This July’s remake of The A-Team is surrounded by a swathe of positive hype. In last summer’s Star Trek, J.J. Abrams managed to reshape a series that, whilst being absurdly popular, was perhaps most famous for Spock’s ears and the birth of a whole new species of geek, into a streamlined, highly enjoyable update.
But what happens when the source material is of an unusually high quality? 2003’s quietly brilliant State of Play, a twisty but compact conspiracy thriller boasting the best in British acting talent, was such a standout that any attempt to transpose it to cinema would seem pointless. The fact that it would be the US treading on the toes of the beloved BBC didn’t help matters. The process seemed like a check list of equivalents: Step one: Relocate from English city to American city. Step two: Substitute an abundance of British actors for a few more impressive Hollywood names. It’s obvious that these would be the main pull for audiences – Edward Norton and Brad Pitt were wooed by casting directors before Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe were signed up as John Simm and David Morrissey’s characters. However, the end result somehow managed to be an elegant cinematic success in its own right, avoiding the danger of being simply ‘that film of that TV show’. It was pretty much the best example of how to do a TV to film adaptation right – don’t try imitating something too iconic, don’t remake a comedy series and don’t hold back. The film was an excellently taut piece, keeping the majority of the central characters and plot lines, casting a more polished glow on grittier elements of the original series. And we might well have kept track of the intricate narrative if the fascinating spectacle of Russell Crowe’s curious weight gain hadn’t distracted us from its finer details.