Howard Rollins explains what made In the Heat of the Night different from the movie

There were some big shifts away from the Poitier movie.

With a few exceptions, it's usually the case that a TV show adaptation of a movie fares better than a movie adaptation of a TV show. That makes sense when you consider things like character quirks and runtime. It's so much easier to take a feature-length movie, draw upon its characters, and expand upon its themes. By comparison, it's pretty tricky to take everything special about a long-running series and cram it into one movie. Mayberry, for instance, wouldn't have felt nearly as real if we only had two hours to experience it.

Another great example is TV's In the Heat of the Night, which was based on the same-named movie from 1967. While the Sidney Poitier-starring film was a critical sensation, netting multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the television series made some key changes to distinguish itself from the earlier property.

One of the key changes was downplaying the movie's racial tension between protagonists Virgil Tibbs and Bill Gillespie. Howard Rollins, the show's Mr. Tibbs, explained why in a 1989 interview with The Vancouver Sun.

"It would approach visual Valium for us every week to snarl at each other," said Rollins.

"I think what's much more provocative is when you see two people who come from two different pasts in life approach a problem differently, have arguments about the differences in their approach, and ultimately wind up learning something about each other based on their different approaches and then acquiesce to whichever approach has worked best.

"I think that's much more exciting than to see two people snarl at each other every Tuesday night at 9 o'clock."

Rollins' words have only grown more prescient with time. More than ever, it's important that we view one another as neighbors and partners in bettering the world around us. 

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5 Comments

AltBill 2 months ago
What does: "It would approach visual Valium for us every week to snarl at each other," said Rollins.
mean? !
Runeshaper 2 months ago
"More than ever, it's important that we view one another as neighbors and partners in bettering the world around us." So true! The show was GREAT too!
Andybandit 2 months ago
I love ITHOTN. It is a good show.
McGillahooala 2 months ago
Very nice comments. Also the world looked a lot different in the 80s than the 60s. The racial tension of the movie would have seemed out of place in the TV series. Good show.
Jeffrey 2 months ago
Well, I didn't know that, Thanks MeTV for telling me and everyone.
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