Adaptions, hey? Where can you go wrong there? You’ve got the original material that’s proven a success already. Should be simple, huh?
If you think like that, the result is shows like War of the Worlds.
As you might suspect, this late 80s syndicated show was based on the HG Wells novel, but predominantly it was based on the 1953 movie adaptation starring Gene Barry. But to turn it into a series a few changes were made:
- It turned out all the aliens weren’t killed by the common cold at the end of the movie, but did in fact go into hibernation. Fortunately for them, they’re exposed to radioactive waste that kills off the viruses in their bodies and they wake up
- Now they intend to take over the world again, this time by taking over our bodies (hang on, wasn’t that Invasion of the Body Snatchers?).
- Only a lone band of rebels, led by Jared Martin (of The Fantastic Journey fame) and including a single mom scientist and her kid, a black guy in a wheelchair and a Cherokee soldier can stop them.
- Why just them? Well, this is where it gets really good – because everyone in the world HAS FORGOTTEN WE WERE INVADED BY ALIENS – except Jared Martin. We just all forgot. Even though we set off hydrogen bombs to stop them.
- To save on cash, apart from the whole bodysnatching thing, the aliens had to wear special suits to protect them from re-contracting any Earth diseases. So we just saw either generic actors or people in radiation suits the whole time.
- A new set of producers turned up for the second season and tried to improve the show. This involved:
- Killing off the two “ethnic” guys and replacing them with Adrian Paul from Highlander.
- Killing off the aliens and replacing them with an entirely new set of aliens
- Moving the entire show from the “present” to “the near future” in which the whole world has gone Mad Max
Now, this – as you can probably tell – wasn’t a great show. In fact, it was pretty awful. When the show got cancelled, they actually wrote it a happy ending, in which the aliens call off their war and everyone walks out into a happy sunny world.
All the same, it did have a few good touches. It was surprisingly graphic and frequently had melting flesh, et al. But better still, every week, although the good guys won, so did the aliens. So aliens want three million bazillions tons of toxic waste to wake up their entire invading force, the goodies stop them – but the bad guys end up with 3,000 tons instead.
They also, intriguingly, managing to use the famous Orson Welles radio spoof in one story, claiming that it had actually been real and Welles had been forced to retract his broadcast to avoid full nationwide panic.
But those were the only good things, apart from the loving recreation of all the visual and sound effects from the 50s movie. Queue the weird, old explanatory title sequences of both season one and season two.
PS Black guy wasn’t really disabled which is how he ended up running a martial arts dojo in the second season of… Highlander with Adrian Paul.