The Un-Book Reporter’s Thoughts on Book to TV and Movie Series Adaptions

Not a review this time, but my thoughts on a trend I’ve noticed in entertainment. Books have been getting adapted into movies since the beginning but lately I’ve noticed tv shows getting in on the action. The most obvious and prolific example would be all the comic books and super heroes getting their own shows, but if I start on those things I won’t get to anything else. So let’s start elsewhere.

1—Hallmark Channel Mystery Movie Series’s

When Hallmark channel started doing series’s of movies based on murder mysteries, I loved it and was so disappointed when they stopped. The Mystery Woman and Murder 101 series’s were my favorite but there were at least a few others (that I don’t remember right now). But recently Hallmark started making more, of new murder mystery series’s. The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries; Murder, She Baked; and the Flower Shop Mysteries are just some of the book series’s being adapted. I’ve been enjoying this new batch and hope Hallmark continues to produce them.

I see two particular advantages of this method. One is that instead of the one movie per year you get with bigger theatrical releases, with these we get a few a year. The second is that unlike a traditional tv series, you still get the single plotline of the book going over to the single plotline of the movie, instead of having to draw it all out or some weird thing. It just seems in some ways more compatible between the two mediums. Not that adapting into a regular series can’t work…maybe grab a few books to work into one big season instead of trying for a book per season? But at least with these murder mystery books and Hallmark’s movie serials, this format is working really well.

2—Lifetime Vampires

I think the next thing I saw was when Lifetime did the series Blood Ties, which sadly lasted only two seasons, based on Tanya Huff’s Blood Books. I thoroughly enjoyed both the books and the show and was disappointed when the later was canceled. They’d taken a different story branch from the books but I liked that. There was a character in the first book I thought had more potential and the series took her and ran with her. There was also nifty thing starting up with a demon tattoo that never got to play out due to the cancellation.

It’s a neat idea—using a tv show to explore the paths not taken in the books. While I’m sure the decision to go with a pretty young goth girl in the show instead an underage male prostitute had more to do with mainstreamness acceptability or whatever, I still think that paths not taken thing is a good concept.

3—HBO Horror-Fantasies

The next instance I remember coming across of books getting adapted into a tv show is HBO’s Dexter, from Jeff Lindsay’s series (I don’t think that book series had an actual title). Then there was True Blood from Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka The Sookie Stackhouse Novels). And of course there’s now Game of Thrones adapted from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books. I’ve only seen a few episodes of either (though I’ll get around to them eventually, I’m sure) but I’ve heard enough I feel just fine calling both series’s horror-fantasy, as they all have a foot firmly in each genre (I’m aware Dexter isn’t technically a fantasy, but the books go a little in that direction so, eh). Though I’m not sure if The Southern Vampire Mysteries books are as horror driven, having not read them yet (I have a very long “to get to” list).

HBO also has the freedom to keep the stuff that in a cable show would not be acceptable. Gore not actually being such a problem (at least not in the States—but let’s not get derailed) though books still can get away with things cable can’t touch. That’s not even getting to sex, sexuality, gender identity…a whole slew of hot button topics. This is sometimes a good thing as HBO doesn’t have to cut content, but also can be a bad thing when things just go overboard. Though what counts as overboard is a matter of personal preference, so I’ll just say here that over board is when it starts distracting from or interfering with the story. Though as mentioned above, I think it’s neat when a show can explore another aspect of a story.

Also, HBO provides great special effects budgets.

4—YA Series’s

Whether that’s they were to begin with or not. It’s been a while since I read Terry Brooks’s Shannara books—not all of them (there’s a lot) but the original trilogy and the Heritage of Shannara quatrology…and maybe others? Like I said, it’s been a while. So when I saw The Shannara Chronicles on tv, I gave it a shot. I can say that from the books I wasn’t expecting the show to be YA (young adult) but as it’s on MTV, I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised. I’m will to go with it (there’ll be a full review after the first season is done).

I also recently noticed Shadowhunters, named for the demon hunting organization in The Mortal Instruments books by Cassandra Clare. I haven’t seen the show yet but I’ll be giving it a look. My friend saw the first episode but was unable to give me an opinion as she’d thought the book being adapted was Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter (which she says is an awesome book) and was therefor expecting steampunk. The disappointment colored her experience too much so she’ll be going back and watching again with that expectation and see how it shapes.

As I’ve yet to get much experience with this particular subset of trend—the YA target in the adapting—I want to see more of it. YA novels are often some of the most inventive and I’d love to see more of these worlds brought to life. No doubt all the movies getting made from YA books are nifty—though of varying quality, like movies in general—but a tv series has more time for the slow build. In a movie, you’ve got to really pick and choose your moments. In a series, you can keep a little more of the subplots and get to know the secondary characters.

Final Thoughts

So those are the thoughts. If you’ve got anything you’d like to say about any of this, or another adaption you’d like to share, drop by the comments. I’d love to see what everyone else thinks of all this.

2 thoughts on “The Un-Book Reporter’s Thoughts on Book to TV and Movie Series Adaptions

  1. I don’t normally watch much television, but I like the points you made about adapting books (especially a series) to television. It sounds like a really great fit.

    Also, thanks for the heads up on the Hallmark mysteries. I think these could be a lot of fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Hallmark Mysteries are a lot of fun. It’s a tie right now between the Aurora Teagarden series and the Gourmet Detective series for my favorite of the new bunch. Let me know which one you like best, if feel like it. I love finding these things out!

      Liked by 1 person

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