Bookish Topic Tuesday – Book To TV

Bookish Topic Tuesday

Book to TV

I do apologise firstly for the lack of these posts for the last few months, didn’t quite get organised as I thought I might, and these will probably be infrequent into the future as well.

Inspired by GoT (Game of Thrones for those outside the loop) I thought I would discuss TV today and those books which have graced the small screen. Of course the screens aren’t that small any more, and I think that TV is having a renaissance. Well, I’m not sure about actual viewing of TV, but TV programs have certainly become more popular, GoT is case in point, along with the likes of Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, The Walking Dead etc. Three out of four of those I just listed are based on a book of some sort, and I think that book to TV has started being more commonplace. And I’m happy with that. I’ve discussed Book to Film previously.

I did a quick search of wikipedia and found that in the category of TV based on books there were around 600 shows (or TV movies) listed, compared to a whopping 4,000 in the category of film based on books. Of course this might not be the best and most definitive source, and doesn’t highlight any trend, but it goes to show that it is far more common for a book to turn into a movie compared to a TV show. And even of the 600 shows, there were a large number of TV movies, and not that many series (more likely to be mini-series). But I do think that more and more TV shows are being based on novels, and this list of 23 shows for 2014 based on books, provides some evidence for that.

A TV show can do a book a lot more justice than a movie. A TV show can easily exceed even the longest blockbuster, and get upwards of 10 hours of TV on a single book. That means there is a lot less that needs to be cut. Of course, it also paves the way for a lot of stuff to get added in, and potential for the show to be dragged out considerably, perhaps more than necessary (The Walking Dead may be a case in point). Certainly just because there is more time does not mean greater accuracy in the adaptation. While, GoT (at least for season 1) remained quite faithful, The Walking Dead certainly didn’t do the same.

I think for a series of books especially, a TV series works quite well because it allows for the complexities to be drawn out, and ensures that they don’t have to cut a lot of material like they would to squeeze out a 2 hour movie. I also think that with TV we get to stay with the characters for longer and get to know them, so we develop stronger emotional connections with them. Which is why I think people have moved back to TV, and why books make good TV.

I’ve heard quite a few of my friends express concerns that GoT the TV show is going to overtake the book series since GRRM hasn’t finished the series, the same concern can be said of The Walking Dead which is an ongoing graphic novel series. I think there is legitimate concern about that, but my feeling is that usually the writers of the books communicate with the writers of the show to ensure that they know where the series is going. Often they probably know some details about the end, and I think of JK Rowling telling Alan Rickman that Snape loved Lily early in the filming so he could get the character right. And even if the show catches the book there is always the possibility that the show diverges from the text, with The Walking Dead that I think is likely given the changes they’ve made already, with GoT I don’t know since I haven’t seen/read it all yet.

For my favourite books I think a number would make good TV shows, while others I admit probably are better as movies. Like, I think that The Hunger Games work better as movies, and I’m even tempted to say Harry Potter as well is in that boat (granted there’s a lot of detail, but I feel the story is better told via film). I think whatever the medium, adaptation is a difficult beast, but by and large, they do a pretty good job.

What do you think? Is TV having a revival of sorts? Are TV shows based on books a better idea than movies based on books? What TV shows based on books do you like?

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2 thoughts on “Bookish Topic Tuesday – Book To TV

  1. I don’t think television is having a revival so much as I believe the medium is finally being exploited as a form of great creative expression. For most of history sponsors and the desire to make self-contained episodes so anyone can tune in any week and get a complete story have held television back from being a great art form. Dallas and Dynasty showed the networks the potential for serialized television, The X-Files introduced the idea of a long-running story, and David Chase and Tom Fontana raised television to an art form in the next decade with Oz and The Sopranos. And it really does thrill me that this finally happened. The only show of the current TV renaissance I have watched is Mad Men. I just got through watching every episode that is available on Netflix, and that is not at all a show you can watch 1 episode of strictly to be entertained by it. It is a unified work of art that provokes thought and relies on having seen every episode that built up to the one before in order, and you have to watch every episode in order to appreciate the show and to even know what it is. This is probably true for Breaking Bad and The Sopranos as well (yet I admire Mad Men for reaping drama with so little violence outside of the occasional suicide).

    I think TV shows based on books probably are a better idea, because a movie is so limiting in its time-frame and I have a special relationship with books for how you can control how long it lasts and develop a close connection with the characters. Only TV shows can really compare. I do feel the Harry Potter books would have been better off as a TV show. When you read the book you get Harry’s full year at Hogwarts and get to experience this gradually with him. When you watch the movies you get it all in one dose and it moves so sporadically it is a betrayal. But even if you do not agree with this, there is so much vital information left out of the 3rd and 4th Harry Potter films (this is far as I have gotten in the adaptations) that one cannot truly understand them without having read the book. Sirius says “The map never lies!” How does he know anything about that map? I recently had to explain to the old lady across the street from me that Harry’s parents did not return as ghosts to save Harry from Lord Voldemort! The films only grasp the surface appeal to the Harry Potter series and I don’t think they should even be watched unless one has read the books first because after the first 2 movies (though Chamber of Secrets is just a rather flawed-to-decent story in any case) they couldn’t really stand on their end outside of adaptations.

    The Hunger Games film did improve on certain aspects but I watched it before reading the book and it was obviously an adaptation. I feel I understood the characters better and appreciated the story more after reading the book. Holes is the best film adaptation of a novel I have ever seen.

    I have neither read nor watched Game of Thrones. I have watched 1 episode of the 1980s Jeremy Brett series of Sherlock Holmes stories (to go with the 1 story I was made to read in my world literature class). This does not really count at all, and I’m sorry to go on for so long, but anyway I do see the great potential and am very glad Game of Thrones is exploiting it well apparently!

    1. That certainly is a good point which I hadn’t considered, and it makes sense. I most certainly prefer serialised television, and absolutely loath to watch something out of order.

      Yeah they certainly left lots of quite important things out of the Harry Potter films, but maybe it’s because I’ve accepted the films as the only adaptation, I don’t really feel another adaptation would be the same and I grew up with those films just like the books? While I admit a Harry Potter TV show would be quite interesting, there’s some part of me which is against it, but I think if they actually made one (of course I’d watch it), I’d probably accept it as quite good.

      Having read the second GoT book and seen some of the second series, they didn’t quite remain so faithful…

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