Same Role, Different Actors

We highlight 10 movie/TV crossovers in which different thespians each tackled the same character.

by | November 14, 2013 | Comments

In the entertainment world, nothing succeeds like success. For decades, we’ve been treated to television spinoffs of popular movies, and blockbuster silver screen reboots of decades-old TV properties. Still, audiences have a natural curiosity about how their old favorites will be handled in a different format, and how a new actor or actress will perform in an already familiar role. (We’re limiting our list to TV-movie crossovers, so you won’t see James Bond here — and yes, we know about the 1954 made-for-TV version of Casino Royale.) With that in mind, we’ve compiled a brief list of roles that were occupied by different thespians when a franchise made the shift from movies to TV (or vice versa). We know there are plenty more examples out there, so be sure to tell us some of your favorites in the comments.

The A-Team (The A-Team)

If nothing else, the 2010 adaptation of The A-Team equaled — and in some cases, bested — its predecessor in terms of mindless action — if memory serves, no one attempted to fly a parachuting tank at any point during the series’ five seasons. And in a head-to-head battle of actor gravitas (George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and Mr. T versus Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), we’d have to give the edge to the latter four. Still, the 1980s wouldn’t have been quite the same without the original series, which mixed explosive action and goofy yuks with greater aplomb than its big-screen cousin.

Winners: The original A-Team. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Joss Whedon wrote the script for the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was panned by critics abut did reasonably well at the box office. In 1997, the TV version of Buffy — which adhered more closely to Whedon’s original vision — hit the airwaves, and became one of the most cultishly adored shows of the decade. Nowadays, when someone mentions Buffy, most people think of Sarah Michelle Gellar, not Kristy Swanson.

Winner: Sarah Michelle Gellar, putting her slaying skills to good use.

Cher Horowitz (Clueless)

A clever, contemporary take on Jane Austin’s Emma, Clueless might not have worked without Alicia Silverstone’s deft comic performance as Cher, a fashion-obsessed rich girl who’s also sly and loveable. When Clueless became a sleeper hit at the box office and a cult favorite with teenagers, a TV spinoff was probably inevitable. With Rachel Blanchard taking over as Cher, and with a few key supporting players from the movie on board, Clueless ran for a respectable three seasons, though it failed to fully capture the wry wit of its source.

Winner: Alicia Silverstone. Some people are not lucky enough to be as naturally adorable as she is.

Bo, Luke, and Daisy Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

No one would ever mistake The Dukes of Hazzard for high art, but for seven seasons, the goofy, exhaust-spewing antics of Bo (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat) — and of course, their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) — scored huge ratings for CBS. But while the 2005 The Dukes of Hazzard movie was a financial success, critics were far less enamored with the big-screen incarnations of Bo, Luke, and Daisy (Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, and Jessica Simpson, respectively).

Winner: The old-school Dukes, makin’ their way the only way they know how.

Richard Kimble (The Fugitive)

Harrison Ford’s frantic, feral energy helped to make The Fugitive one of the biggest critical and commercial smashes of 1993. So compelling was the film, in fact, that it practically erased its source material from the public consciousness, despite the fact that The Fugitive was a sizable hit in its day. Loosely based upon the Sam Sheppard murder case, The Fugitive starred David Janssen as Richard Kimble, a doctor who goes on the lam — and in search of a mysterious one-armed man — after being falsely accused of murdering his wife.

Winner: Harrison Ford, for the epic beard-shaving scene alone.

Maxwell Smart (Get Smart)

Steve Carell seems born to play Maxwell Smart: few contemporary actors are as good at personifying the mix of cluelessness and supreme self-confidence that Don Adams brought to the role in the original series. However, while Get Smart the show emphasized laughs over action, the 2008 film version took the opposite approach, and critics felt the end result, to borrow Maxwell’s famous catch phrase, missed it by that much.

Winner: Would you believe… it’s Don Adams?

Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H)

Robert Altman was one of cinema’s greatest directors, and M*A*S*H is certainly a classic. However, the television version of M*A*S*H has far outpaced the film in the popular imagination. Donald Sutherland played Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce in the movie, but Alan Alda’s performance in the role on TV made him a star. The series finale, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, remains one of the most-watched non-Super Bowl programs in American television history.

Winners: Alan Alda. 125 million M*A*S*H fans can’t be wrong.

Crockett and Tubbs (Miami Vice)

When it debuted in 1984, Miami Vice was nothing short of a phenomenon — as Crockett and Tubbs, Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas were the coolest cops on prime time. Series executive producer Michael Mann adopted a darker tone for his Miami Vice film in 2006, but unfortunately, audiences and critics found the new adventures of Crockett and Tubbs (Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx) to be lacking the sleek, slick fun factor of the show.

Winners: Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. When in doubt, go with the dudes in pastels.

Karen Sisco (Out of Sight / Karen Sisco)

Jennifer Lopez lit up the screen as tough-but-sexy U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco in Steven Soderbergh’s noir-ish crime caper Out of Sight. Unfortunately, Sisco’s magnetism didn’t attract enough viewers on the small screen; starring Carla Gugino, Karen Sisco ran for seven episodes in 2003 before ABC pulled the plug.

Winner: Jenny from the block.

James West and Artemus Gordon (Wild Wild West)

On paper, a big-screen remake of the 1960s CBS series The Wild Wild West — described by creator Michael Garrison as “James Bond on horseback” — probably seemed pretty sound. The show’s proto-steampunk aesthetic could certainly benefit from modern advances in special effects, and the casting of Will Smith as James West (played in the original series by Robert Conrad) was practically money in the bank in 1999. (Kevin Kline played Artemus Gordon, who was portrayed by Ross Martin in the series.) In practice, however, Wild Wild West was a legendary bomb that “won” five Razzies and disappointed at the box office.

Winner: Draw. The movie was such a dud that it even deep-sixed a revival in its source material.

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