So many popular films are put into the series sausage factory and come out tasting like some curious brand of mystery meat (hello, Highlander!). But there are a few remarkable exceptions, including Fargo, which airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX Canada. Here are FLARE‘s favourites. —Flannery Dean
Television series: 2014
Reason watch the film: The Minnesoh-da accents as performed by William H. Macy as hapless murder conspirator Jerry Lundegaard and Frances McDormand as the heavily pregnant deputy Marge Gunderson. A darkly funny murder mystery in small Minnesota town, courtesy of the Coen brothers, it’s the kind of quirky flick that makes you wish it was a TV series just so you could spend more time with the characters. Think of it like AMC’s The Killing, but minus the angst and heavy-handed atmospherics.
Reason to watch the series: It’s an entirely original takeoff on the movie with all new characters and storylines. The only constants are the locale, the accents and the highly capable cast, including The Office’s Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, and Billy Bob Thornton.
If you had to choose one, see… Both. You don’t have to choose! And if the first two episodes are any indication, the TV series may just equal the film.
Television series: 2010
Reason to watch the film: It’s very funny and no-I’m-not-crying-just-congested poignant, thanks to comedy superstars Steve Martin and Rick Moranis playing against dramatic heavy hitters like Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, and Dianne Wiest. Crush-worthy points of interest include a Bill and Ted-esque Keanu Reeves and a 14-year-old Joaquin Phoenix (then known as Leaf).
Reason to watch the series: It does nuanced family drama with a cable-TV edge, focusing on the mini-heartbreaks and simmering conflicts that define family life. (Oh, and Tavi Gevinson guest starred as a lesbian dream girl, giving the series some nice youth culture cred.) Like the film, the show also boasts an ensemble cast with incredible TV lineage, including Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls).
If you had to choose one, see… The movie. Hilarious, touching and totally timeless.
Friday Night Lights
Television series: 2006
Reason to watch the film: Based on sports writer Buzz Bissinger’s bestselling book, the movie shows the agony and the ecstasy of Texas high school football and the attendant hysteria that makes gods (and monsters) out of teenage boys. Led by Billy Bob Thornton, the cast was stocked with then-unknowns, including Garrett Hedlund and Amber Heard.
Reason to watch the series: The characters. The show may take its overall premise from the film, but it has more complex character development that can only be achieved from week to week. Fans of the series—and they are a passionate crew—don’t mention the action or the drama; they’re hooked on the people: beloved Tim Riggins (played by British Columbia’s Taylor Kitsch), Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler), and his wife Tami (Connie Britton).
If you had to choose one, see… The series. Watch the film once and you’re good. But you could watch the TV show over and over and over again.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Television series: 1997
Reason to watch the film: It’s a bit of goofy fun, with blonde babe Kristy Swanson playing the bitchy cheerleader-turned-vampire-slayer, and Luke Perry (at the height of his 90210-era hotness) sulking around as her soul-patched love interest. Quintessential ’80s bad-guy Rutger Hauer is actually scary and a one-armed Peter “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens is hilarious as his #2, while Donald Sutherland has a surprising gravitas as Buffy’s surly trench coat-wearing mentor.
Reason to watch the series: It far surpasses the film in creativity and humour, thanks to teen-savvy showrunner Joss Whedon (who reportedly loathed what the studio did with his original screenplay). Action, drama and romantic distractions like Angel and Spike make the series a triple threat with a serious cult following. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy stands as one of TV’s all-time great super-heroines: she’s smart, sassy and soulful.
If you had to choose one, see… The series. (The Buffyverse will accept no other answer.)
Television Series: 1996
Reason to see the movie: It’s one of the most well-known pop culture touchstones of its era—Fast Times at Ridgemont High for the MTV generation. Aerosmith video babe Alicia Silverstone gave a surprisingly sweet—and funny!—performance as an airhead who eventually grows up, opposite baby-faced Paul Rudd (before became Judd Apatow’s everyman). The film remains a fashion favourite; just this spring, Iggy Azalea recreated some of the movie’s iconic outfits and scenes for her “Fancy” music video.
Reason to watch the series: It’s fun! The show combined the film’s easy-Cali vibe with PG-13 storylines and colourful, over-the-top fashions worn by Canadian actress Rachel Blanchard (Cher).
If you had to choose one, see… The film. It’s too zeitgeist-y to duplicate.
La Femme Nikita
Film(s): 1990; 1993
Television Series: 1997; 2010
Reason to watch the film: The legend of Nikita, former convict turned secret spy-assassin comes via Luc Besson’s 1990 film La Femme Nikita. The female Bourne, Nikita runs, fights and uncovers corruption at a breakneck pace. There’s also an inferior American remake, Point of No Return, starring Bridget Fonda.
Reason to watch the series: Nikita, like Buffy, is a great character for TV, clearly—she has so far inspired two TV series: 1997’s Nikita, starring Peta Wilson, and 2010’s Nikita with Maggie Q. Both make the most of their heroine’s beauty and prowess with cheesy but entertaining fight scenes and sultry costuming.
If you had to choose one, see… Everything! And count on other iterations to come—her kick-ass persona is never going to go out of style.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Television series: 1990
Reason to watch the film: The combination of a youthful Matthew Broderick and teen-movie god John Hughes. The twosome turned a movie about a teenage boy who skipped class for a day into an enduring pop culture phenomenon full of iconic moments, including that famous parade scene in which Bueller sings “Danke Schoen” to the people of Chicago. It also features a priceless cameo from a then unsullied Charlie Sheen.
Reason to watch the series: There’s only one good reason to watch and that’s to marvel at a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston, who plays Bueller’s sister Jeannie in the doomed adaptation (it was cancelled after one season). That is, if you can recognize the sleek A-lister in the awkward, dark-haired, Dockers-wearing young actress.
If you had to choose, see… The movie, of course. Matthew Broderick is Ferris Bueller. There can be no other. Ditto John Hughes, may he rest in peace. Danke Schoen.