Monday, September 5

One Book = A Season of Television?

I've mentioned books being split into two feature films. What about book-to-screen adaptations that don't make it to the cinema but instead premiere in our homes?

Since the dawn of time – or at least since Sherlock Holmes – there have been many instances of books being adapted into TV series. Do these adaptations do the books justice? Could they even improve on the original story?

I love reading books. I also love a good television series. When I learn about a TV series that is being adapted from a novel or book series, I often wonder if I want to read the books before I watch the series (the policy I give my best shot with book-to-film adaptations) or if it will subtract too much from the development of watching events unfold in the TV drama.

We all want to be entertained, and writing can transcend a specific media, including book-to-television. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few instances of book-to-television adaptations: Dexter, True Blood, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Perry Mason, Bones, Gossip Girl...

Of course, I don't watch all of these television series. I've never seen 'The Vampire Diaries' or 'Pretty Little Liars' because I wanted to at least try and read the books beforehand. So far I have only read the first volume of the latter.

'True Blood' is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris and I have only read the first four novels in the series. From what I can tell, each TV season is based loosely on the books, but while I think that it does the books justice, it does veer off into enough of an original plot, that reading the books beforehand does not take the enjoyment out of the television series.

I haven't read any of the books that inspired series 'Bones' but my mum reads them all. Apart from an occupation and name, the main character of the series doesn't seem to share much in common with her novel counterpart at all, but the series is still greatly enjoyable.

I'm torn. When it comes to TV series I’m always a little timid. Should I read the book first? Shall I just watch the series and then pick up the first novel later?

There are television adaptations that are completely different from the books they were inspired by and then there are ones who follow it almost word-for-word, scene for scene.

Unlike book-to-film adaptations, however, I find that I enjoy television adaptations sometimes even more than the books they were sprouted from. Blasphemous! There is just so much more room for character insight. Where a book might focus only on the protagonist, a TV series might allow for further perspectives and story line developments. After all, if a series needs to span several episodes, they will have to fill in the time, and what happens if they fill it in with something even more intriguing and surprising?

What is your opinion on book-to-television adaptations? Do you find them enjoyable or disappointing? Do you give them a go before or after you have read some or all of the novels...or do you just stay clear?


Determinist said...

Don't forget "A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin - great adaptation. In some ways better than the book. The author is closely involved in that one, so it makes sense.

I think Dexter is a huge improvement on the novels. I couldn't even read the entire first book, but I'm a rabid fan of the tv series.

I watch true blood, but never read the books. Don't know if they are an improvement or not.

Sherlock Holmes has been going for so long, they aren't really part of anything new at all.

As with every other subject, there is a wikipedia page about it! :)

Becs said...

Sometimes I watch TV shows and don't even realise that they were based on books. I do love Bones, and I have just started to watch Game of Thrones (very intense). As for the others I haven't seen or read any except for the first 'True Blood' novel. I didn't like it much and the TV show doesn't show on free to air TV here in Aus. I think though that TV does offer more room for plot/character development and more authors should sell their film rights to TV production companies rather than major motion picture ones.

Keri said...

I'm now caught up on Game of Thrones, and am reading (well, listening to) the fourth book in A Song of Ice and Fire. I was determined to read the books before watching the corresponding seasons. While the show is exceptionally well adapted, I have to disagree that it is better than the books. There is just so much more substance to the novels than the TV series can touch on. Still, they are both superb.