Gone are the days when a successful book was followed by an even more successful film . . .

The latest epidemic is American-born; television series’  based on classic cult horror movies . . .  and it’s spreading to Britain.

New to our screens last month is “Bates Motel”: a dark serial drama promising us a look into the twisted mind of Norman Bates, the shy, ‘mummy’s boy’ of Alfred Hitchcock’s controversial masterpiece, “Psycho”, in his teenage years when the shower slaughter of Marion Crane was still a long way off. The film’s shocking conclusion unveiled Norman as “Mother” as the murderer and Mother as nothing more than a rotten corpse, with undoubted potential for a prequel, but is TV the way to do it?

In keeping in the vein of “Bates Motel”, “Hannibal” has also graced the small screen this past year. Based on the books of Thomas Harris and made famous by Sir Anthony Hopkins’ chilling performance as Dr Hannibal Lecter, opposite first Jodie Foster and later, Julianne Moore as Special Agent, Clarice Starling.The newest “movie to TV” transformation is “Sleepy Hollow” which hit UK screens this week. Tim Burton’s 1999 adaptation of Washington Irving’s tale saw a Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken) terrorize Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in 1799 Manhattan.

There’s a reason I spend more time in front of the big screen rather than the small: there’s no urge to grab the remote in the cinema, unless truly nothing is happening. There’s just too much that needs to be said in a limited amount of time, so a even pee-break is dangerous to your understanding of the story. Rumour has it, so many aspiring screenwriters get knocked back by Hollywood producers so often, that their back-up plan becomes TV studios; suddenly a budding film writer has to stretch an hour and a half worth of material into at least six, 45 minute long episodes, and if they don’t go for that they’re screwed, unless they want to run it by radio?

Does this make for compelling TV?

Well, “Bates Motel” started with a bang, or to be more precise, a gritty rape/murder scene. Just 30 minutes or so into the first episode with nothing much in the aftermath. The look into Norman’s mind we were all promised comes in painstakingly small doses to the point that even at the end of the series he’s just established as a boy with mummy issues.

“Hannibal”, however, impressed more by being the ultimate game of cat and mouse; the murderer hunted by his therapy patient whose sanity is disintegrating fast, until by the end of the series with Special Agent Will Graham’s mind being so warped that no one believes him about Dr Lecter. Before that, Hannibal himself is basically forgotten; what keeps you gripped are the horrific crimes going on around him: bodies buried to farm magic mushrooms (still alive!) and guts harvested to make bow strings. It’s just enough for the voice yelling “What’s that got to do with Hannibal?” to forgive.

The problem these TV shows will have in the long run is just that; looking into the future. More often than not, these new shows are prequels to their films; will “Bates Motel” end with the death of Norman’s mother or will it simply be another plot-line ending as “Psycho” starts. Plus, in between, how many yawns and channel-hops are we going to have to endure before these climaxes make an appearance? Just how far will the studio attempt to stretch an interesting premise? To the point that it’s stretched so thin that it tears in the middle with the cancellation of the show?

“Hannibal” is making sure not to allow a dull moment, but to do that they are straying away from the premise with Dr Lecter’s only contribution to the first few episodes being his impressive gourmet cooking skills.

The reason shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Lost” succeeded is due to the many characters, there is no one obvious favourite. To have a series surrounding one person is dull, you get sick of seeing them quickly, so they compensate for this by introducing unheard of characters, which would be fine except we never saw them in the movies so we’re not as attached, which always amounts to “not the least bit interested”. It’s why, in “Bates Motel” we like Mother, but not his new half-brother (who I predict will die in the next series) and why we like Will Graham but not his superiors, in “Hannibal”.

“Sleepy Hollow” appears to be clutching at straws already. The premise of “Sleepy Hollow” is a town terrorized by a headless horseman; past one thrilling episode of horror, and maybe one of catching him, what more story is there? Not enough to fill a TV screen. Presuming the series finale will be the capturing of said headless horseman, how will they spin it without making it look like an episode of Scooby Doo?

The reason “Sleepy Hollow” has been kept a periodic story until now, is to keep the mystery alive: there’s no technical explanation of who/what is the headless horseman and we don’t need one. Forensics and fingerprints aren’t going to find a ghost and so they shouldn’t. Cue time travel plot-line of current TV series . .  . Watch this space.

An additional problem with films-turned-TV is shock factor;there is none! As with any prequel, if you’re a fan of the original film that brought you to this show, you already have a feel for how things are going to happen and know too well how the series will conclude. “Hannibal’s” first series ended with the “shocking” discovery that Dr Hannibal Lecter was a murderer. No! Really?!!

Is it possible to make a success of a TV series based on a film? In short, no. A good slab of buttery concept is being spread too thinly over many slices of bread. “Hannibal The Cannibal” is still down in the ‘dungeon’ playing quid pro quo with Clarice and Norman is ‘cleaning up’ after ‘Mother’ . . . leave them there.

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