Ran: 11 seasons, 1972-1983
Robert Altman's breakthrough 1970 hit looked at the horrors of war — specifically the Korean conflict, though it was Vietnam by any other name — through the lens of countercultural coolness and gallows humor. When Larry Gelbart decided to turn the misdaventures of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Unit into a series, he opted to downplay the gonzo aspects and deepen the emotional bonding between the camp's various medics, Majors, maniacs and patient-of-the-week military personnel. The result made TV history: A dramedy before such things were commonplace on the tube, a Top 20 show for close to a decade, a left-turn take on a popular movie that not only mined its war-is-hell subject for laughter and tears but eclipsed its source material several times over. The series finale remains the single most watched TV event that wasn't a Super Bowl game. It remains the gold standard for taking a movie's tone in a different direction and creating great television out of it.
Success rate: 10