But Will It Have Bunny and Kitty Fighting Crimes?

So there might be a movie following the fourth and potentially final season of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

That sounds fine, though I’ll smirk a bit as I consider why an actual movie is necessary when so many TV shows in the last few years have been described as “really just one 12 hour movie” or some such. I haven’t made it through the third season of the show yet, but might dive back in at some point to see how things wrap up.

The news got me thinking about other instances where a movie has directly continued the story from a TV show. I’m not talking about an adaptation or remake 20 years later, I’m talking about times when the original cast (or close to it) has taken the story right from the small screen to the big one. “Kimmy Schmidt” might not get a theatrically-released film given the show is a Netflix original, but there are plenty of times that TV shows have found extended life in theaters.

(It should be noted I’m overlooking here the number of animated shows that have received feature adaptations/sequels/extensions because there’s just so many of them.)

Firefly/Serenity

The big one, in my opinion, because this was very much a “fans want it” moment in the days before Kickstarters and other crowdfunding efforts. Joss Whedon’s brilliant sci-fi western developed enough of a passionate fanbase in its too-short television incarnation that people clamored for more adventures of featuring Mal, Zoe, River and the rest of the crew. While there wasn’t a whole lot carried over from the show it did retain the basic ideas that the Alliance was an all-powerful galactic government who wouldn’t let a good man do bad things in peace and that the Reavers were frightening cannibalistic mad men to be feared.

Mystery Science Theater 3000/MST3K: The Movie

There really wasn’t much of a story to continue as the cult TV show came to theaters in 1995, just the idea that a guy and his robot friends were stuck aboard a spaceship and forced to watch bad movies, keeping their sanity by making wisecracks at the screen. The concept didn’t really lend itself to the bigger canvas and while the movie is great, it’s missing the jury rigged energy of the original show. Notably, the movie came at a time when the fate of the show as largely uncertain as it shifted cable network.

Police Squad/Naked Gun

It was quite a few years before Lt. Frank Drebin and his fellow Police Squad detectives came to theaters, again after a TV show that didn’t last long. The running time of the three Naked Gun movies is probably longer than that of those combined six episodes. Again, there really wasn’t a story to continue, the original movie and its sequels just used the same characters that had been introduced on TV and put them in a new set of situations and circumstances, upping the stakes ever so slightly.

Reno 911/Reno 911: Miami

This is a case where the movie arrived during the TV show’s run, not after it was over or in a period of transition like MST3K. It essentially plays as a “very special” episode of the show, following the faux documentary format while the location is shifted from Reno to Miami just like when The Brady Bunch or Lucy, Desi, Ethel and Fred would go on vacation for a while. The same antics and problems plague the not-too-bright officers, including some surprise visits from Reno regulars.

The Simpsons/The Simpsons Movie

The idea of a “The Simpsons” movie had been percolating among fans and even the creators for a while before it finally arrived in 2007. Once more, the stakes are slightly higher in the movie’s story than they are in a standard episode of the show, but only barely. As an animated program and feature the limits were only really defined by the constraints of when the final product was due, so having the extra production time of a film let the creators expand the scope a bit.

Kids in the Hall/Brain Candy & Strangers With Candy

I’m pairing these two because the execution is roughly similar. As sketch shows there wasn’t really any story to carry over or continue when the theatrical version was produced. Strangers With Candy, though, did more to bring in established fan-favorite characters, while the Kids in the Hall took the Monty Python route (as they’d done throughout the show’s run) and simply applied the same approach and style to a movie. If you don’t share my opinion that Brain Candy is one of the great dark comedic sci-fi films of the last 40 years, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Mr. Bean/Bean, Mr. Bean’s Holiday

The character of Mr. Bean remained intact as he transitioned from TV to movies, still played by Rowan Atkinson as a more overtly comic version of Peter Sellers’ Chauncy Gardner from Being There. He’s a simpleton who’s occasionally mistaken for genius and, in the movie, gets involved in a much more complicated story than he did in any of the source show’s episodes. Still, Mr. Bean is who he is, no matter the medium. What’s astounding is that there was a sequel to the movie, something that’s very much the exception here and not the rule.

Veronica Mars

It’s kind of remarkable that with the kind of stuff that *is* produced by Hollywood studios, there was no one willing to take a chance on a theatrical version of this show. So the creators turned to Kickstarter to get fans to back it and prove there was an audience. The movie does a good job of catching everyone up on the lives of the characters, most all of whom make at least a token appearance here. It has the same pop and energy of the show, showing the talent in front of and behind the camera hadn’t lost touch with the characters or their world.

The X-Files/Fight the Future, The Truth Is Out There

Here’s an interesting situation where the first movie happened in the middle of the show’s run while the second didn’t come out until several years after the show had ended, at least before the recent revival. The two movies represent the two different kinds of episodes that were common on the show: Fight the Future was steeped in the mythology of the show, about Mulder’s search for his sister and the sinister cabal seeminginly aiding an alien invasion of Earth. The Truth is Out There, on the other hand, is more like one of the stand-alone, monster-of-the-week episodes about Mulder and Scully’s investigations into a weird event.

Star Trek

The granddaddy, the gold standard of this concept. What was a cult hit TV show that redefined what it meant to be a passionate fan waited several years before making the leap to the big screen to continue the story of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The first movie is a bit rough but after that the producers found a groove and the franchise hasn’t really stopped since. Not only did the follow-up TV show “The Next Generation” follow in the original’s cinematic footsteps but a number of other shows have come along since. None of those have made the medium leap, but the reboot film series shows there’s still an audience out there for these characters and this universe.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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