Adapting TV shows into feature-length films is one of the many regular ways that the cinema industry keeps the reboot process alive. As a devoted Human Being, I am particularly invested in the possibility of a Community adaptation to complete the #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy. This has led me to consider two important quandaries: 1) what different types of tv-to-film adaptations exist, and 2) which ones are most likely to result in box office and/or critical success? Over the course of pondering this topic, I have come up with the following taxonomy:


The Continuation is released either in between seasons of the show or after the show has ended its run, usually within a few years. It features the same main actors playing the same characters and can typically feel like a longer, bigger-budgeted episode. If the show is a cultural phenomenon, this tends to be a safe box office bet. Otherwise, it tends to be considered a “fans-only” affair.

Examples: The X-Files, The Simpsons Movie, Sex and the City, Veronica Mars


The Reboot features the same basic premise as the original show, but with a new creative team and revamped continuity. Reboot adaptations are generally released decades after the show first aired. Their success is surmised on a basis of name recognition and a lack of loyalty to one way of telling a particular story. Depending on the strength of the premise and the brand, there is a broad range of financial and critical possibilities for this type.

Examples: The Fugitive, Get Smart, CHiPs


The Meta is a sort of self-aware subset of the Reboot. Sometimes, it’s a Reboot that turns out to sneakily also be a Continuation when characters from the original make a surprise appearance and confirm that the movie is taking place in the same fictional universe. If the meta elements are front and center, these films tend to be cult items or curiosities. But if the meta-ness is sneakier, a big hit could be on the table, as in the case of 21 Jump Street.
Examples: The Brady Bunch Movie, Bewitched, 21 Jump Street


The Franchise started out as a reboot or a continuation, and then it became so successful that multiple sequels (and possibly prequels and reboots) followed. The end result is a whole fictional universe that might extend back into TV and into other media forms, like comic books, live theater, and oodles of fan fiction. If you’re trying to turn your TV show into a franchise with your first big screen excursion, you might be getting a little ahead of yourself. But once it has come far enough along to qualify as a franchise, you know you’ve made it.

Examples: Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Addams Family, The Naked Gun