From Page to TV Screen

By Ellie Sutcliffe


Is TV the Future for Book Adaptations?

It’s a well-known view that a film isn’t going to be as good as the book. And If you’re anything like me you probably felt a pang of irritation as you watched a version of Harry Potter where Peeves doesn’t torment the students, Hermione doesn’t campaign for elf-rights and the origin of the Marauder’s Map is glossed over like a fresh coat of nail polish. The die-hard bookworms amongst us are almost always left bitterly disappointed when our favourite story is chopped and changed beyond recognition.  Sometimes it’s necessary to change or condense plot points, but is there any way of bringing a book from page to TV screen without sacrificing parts of the story?

page to tv screen, book adaptations

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket’s thirteen volume account of the Baudelaire siblings’ misfortunes, was first tackled back in 2004 when the story was adapted for the big screen. The film squeezed the plots of the first three books into its 108 minute runtime and altered the source material particularly during the climax. Although the film enjoyed success, grossing highly in the box office, a sequel was never made. Now Snicket’s tales are to be revisited in a new 13 part TV series commissioned by Netflix. Will this latest foray to the small screen fare better for this unfortunate story?

In recent years television seems to be taking a more prominent role in the realm of book adaptation with bigger budgets and better special effects resulting in a more film-like quality on screen. Possibly the biggest book-to-screen success story of recent years, Game of Thrones is a good example. With its large cast, lavish costumes and epic sets, the show has won numerous Emmys and is in such high demand that it gets the dubious honour of being pirated more than any other television show. Not bad for a genre that until a few years ago was considered niche. However, the land of Westeros isn’t immune to its source material being dabbled with. During the last season run there was well-publicised backlash from the show’s fan-base when the fates of certain characters were controversially altered to better fit the flow of the series.

Considering this, is television the future for book adaptations? The epic saga brand of storytelling, fantasy or not, seems to work better on the small screen than the large. Spreading each volume of story over several seasons means that there’s less chance that chunks of story will be hacked away and more of the original tale will be present on screen, giving the writers more time to tell it. There’s still the danger of shows outstaying their welcome and ending on a lacklustre season such as True Blood and Dexter. There’s also still a chance the story will be altered to better fit the screen.

No matter what the screen size or budget though, the feeling of discovering a story for the first time in the pages of a book can never be adapted.

What do you think?

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Read more about this here : ‘Are TV Series becoming better than film?’

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