This week sees the return of El Rey Network’s TV adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn, for a third season. Based on the 1996 film of the same name, the show takes Quentin Tarantino’s original script, based on the story of director Robert Rodriguez, and enlarges on its Aztec mythology, which basically amounts to: monsters in Mexico!
Now, I entirely and without reservation LOVE From Dusk Till Dawn, the movie. The supernatural twist is so out of left field, so completely distanced from the buddy-crime-road-trip flick that precedes it, that I can honestly say I have never been so astonished when vampires show up.
Here’s the thing, though. I have been watching From Dusk Till Dawn, the series, and I am having a difficult time explaining WHY. It’s not that it’s not good – it’s well-written, well-cast and well-executed – but exactly why did I decide to watch it in the first place? Why watch a TV series based on a movie that is chiefly enjoyable for the fact that it is so crazily whacked out in its third act?
I mean, I know there are vampires – and, to its credit, the TV show is quick to inform us of this, assuming that most everyone watching is similarly aware. So, with its big reveal pre-revealed, and no Clooney, what made me commit an hour each week to a story I already saw play out in 108 minutes? (And make no mistake, almost the whole first season is just the movie retold, with added Wilmer Valderrama. Who is excellent, by the way.)
So, why did I – and do I – watch? Because, dammit, I always, always do.
I think the first TV-ization I ever knowingly assayed (I only later learned that Flipper, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and, uh, Mr. Belvedere were based on films) was Weird Science. John Hughes’s 1985 film saw science nerd losers Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell Smith) attain popularity with the creation – in a gross exaggeration of the capabilities inherent in 64 kB of RAM – of heavenly body playmate Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), a woman who could somehow grant them their every desire with but a thought. Also notable for early appearances by Bill Paxton and Robert Downey Jr., Weird Science was not only a wish-fulfilment parable about being both careful what you wish for and, y’know, yourself, it was – and is – also a funny, slightly raunchy, pop culture-laden exploration of the geek condition, with added horrific misogyny. Certainly, it remains a formative geek experience for many; especially as, like War Games before it, it illustrates how very easy it is to hack into the Defense Department mainframe via a dial-up modem.
The Weird Science TV show came about in 1994, lasted an unbelievable five seasons and starred Vanessa Angel as Lisa. Its plots featured more homages to other TV shows and movies than even Supernatural’s, and yet despite its Wish of the Week Goes Horribly Wrong formula, it still managed to get me back again and again.
But there was many another movie-based tour de force (or, indeed, tour de farce) to be seen at that time. I would often find myself – almost against my will, it seemed – watching movie-turned-TV shows like RoboCop and Timecop and The Net and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven.
None of which lasted more than a season. For surely, no other avenue of television creation is nearly as rife with abject failure and/or unjust cancelation as that of the movie-to-TV adaptation. (You’ll always live in our hearts, The Sarah Connor Chronicles!)
Of course, some of them run for YEARS, because they are amazing – Stargate SG-1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, La Femme Nikita – and yet others run for years because their leads have really nice hair. Or, at least, that is my explanation for why Highlander: The Series aired for six seasons. Six!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I will defend the Highlander movies to the death. (And from Highlander II onwards, they need some quality defending.) Also, when it comes down to it, the Highlander TV show is by no means terrible. But six seasons?!? Plus a spin-off, and an animated spin-off?!? That’s more than Angel got.
Starring the Regency villain-tressed cardboard cut-out Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, an Immortal into whose long, long life comes much pain and chaos, Highlander: The Series brought the movie’s mythology into the modern era, and completely ignores the existence of the sequels. Of course, it still doesn’t make much sense, continuity-wise, where even the original is concerned – I mean, where the hell did all these thousands of Immortals suddenly come from? – but it features pretty people and sword fights and Peter Wingfield as Methos, one of the more perfect blendings of character and actor that any show has ever produced. So it definitely had its moments, but I still quite can’t believe I watched one hundred and nineteen episodes of it. Because, yes, I watched them all.
Just as I will continue to watch From Dusk Till Dawn. And in fairness to the show, Season 2 diverged more from the source material, and Season 3 is set to chart almost entirely new territory. I really like the vibe between bad boy Seth (D. J. Cotrona) and good girl Kate (Madison Davenport, in the Juliette Lewis role), and all respect to Quentin Tarantino – he certainly didn’t deserve that Razzie Award nomination for his work in the original – but TV’s Richie (Zane Holtz) is genuinely, compellingly creepily… well, charming. Meanwhile, Eiza Gonzales, who takes on Salma Hayek’s spangled underwear here, may be the most beautiful woman in the world. I’m in this for the long haul.
And I’m watching 12 Monkeys. And Scream. And, like, Teen Wolf. (SHUT UP. It’s all about Stiles, baby.) And I was genuinely disheartened when Minority Report came to an end after only ten episodes, as justified as that probably was.
I just cannot seem to help myself.
But if they manage to make that Galaxy Quest series over at Amazon they’ve been promising forever, that might be where I draw the line. Some things just shouldn’t be messed with.
By Grabthar’s hammer, and all that.