When movie writers put together a script, they’re usually crafting a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a few bumps, detours, and reversals along the road to the climax. When TV writers put together a script, they’re usually crafting a beginning, a middle, and then a whole lot more middle, if their show survives. Indeed, for most of a TV show’s life, the writers will be stuck in the middle, figuring out how to extend and elaborate on the original premise.
When TV writers pick up a self-standing “big screen” movie and adapt it into a weekly series, as they have this week with Fox’s “Minority Report” on Monday at 9 p.m. and CBS’s “Limitless” on Tuesday at 10 p.m., they have to do some major rethinking. How will they open up a story that has already been closed? Where will they take viewers as they travel through miles and miles of middle?
Neither of the two new movie-to-TV adaptations is especially successful at pushing off from its original movie. “Minority Report,” based on Steven Spielberg's 2002 film, which was based on a Philip K. Dick story, is the lesser of the two shows, as it gets twisted up in its efforts to both refer back to the movie and strike out on its own. The futuristic visual effects are mildly entertaining, but the story line becomes tedious and morally defanged by the end of the pilot. Long story short, 11 years have passed since the end of the movie’s timeframe and Dash (Stark Sands), one of three pre-cogs who has visions of future crimes, teams up with a cop played by Meagan Good. Together, they solve crimes.
It’s all pretty basic — a typical police procedural, with a mythology involving Dash and his pre-cog brother and sister. Some of the lines are about what the future will be — “My mom hit 60 and went off her birth control,” the cop says about her infant sibling — but all the questions relating to the idea of pre-crime and arresting a person before they’ve done anything have been lost in translation.
“Limitless” is just a little bit better, perhaps because it’s not mired in bland hysterics about tortured seers and it has a likable lead. Jake McDorman — from the failed sitcom “Manhattan Love Story” and a guest arc on “Shameless” — stars as a guy named Brian whose dream of becoming a rock star is fading painfully. During a temp job, he runs into an old friend who has become a top investment banker. That friend gives Brian a pill called NZT, which makes him really, really smart — smart enough to instantly figure out exactly where a train will stop after he has jumped in front of it.
Naturally, Brian eventually links up with a cop played by Jennifer Carpenter of “Dexter.” Of course, they too will solve crimes together, and Brian will receive visits from a wealthy man who is running for office — played by Bradley Cooper, star of the 2011 movie, who will appear occasionally. As with “Minority Report,” you don’t need to be a pre-cog to predict that “Limitless” will continue to fill up the middle with lots of middling material.
Starring: Meagan Good, Stark Sands, Wilmer Valderrama. On Fox, Monday, 9 p.m.
Starring: Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter. On CBS, Tuesday,Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.