Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks - Television Edition: Book to TV Adaptations

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies (or, on the last week of the month, TV shows) that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Sometimes, especially when dealing with a series of books, it makes more sense to adapt a book to TV than to a movie. The extra space gives the story the same room to breathe as it has in a book, and the episodic nature of TV mirrors that chapter structure of most books. And so, herewith, are two great adaptations and one terrible one, for contrast.

Game of Thrones (2011-present) OHMYGOD YOU GUYS THE FINAL EPISODES START IN JUST OVER A MONTH AND IT'S GOING TO BE OVER SOON AND WHAT WILL WE ALL DO WITH OURSELVES?!?!?!? In case you've been living under a rock for the past eight years, Game of Thrones is based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, detailing the events of the fictional country of Westeros, where seasons can last for many years, in the wake of the death of the King's advisor. The novels still aren't finished, meaning that for the past... three seasons or so, I think... creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been working off an outline of events Martin gave to them. Some say that the series has gone down in quality of writing since then, and while I generally agree, I don't think the drop-off is as bad as they have said. Basically, Game of Thrones on a bad day is better than most other shows on a good day. The epic sweep of its stories, and its reckoning with storytelling conventions we have come to expect from stories like this, is unlike anything we have ever seen on TV, and it's downright stunning.

Younger (2015-present) Liza Miller has just turned 40, and has recently gotten divorced. Since her lout of a gambling-addict husband lost their savings and their house, she has to find a way to support herself, and her daughter's college education. So she moves to Brooklyn with her artist friend Maggie and starts hunting for jobs in publishing, as that's what she did before having her daughter. But twenty years out of the job market has put her right on the bottom, and no one wants to hire a 40 year-old intern or assistant. But after a smoking hot 26 year-old tattoo artist mistakes her for a fellow 26 year-old, she gets a brilliant idea. She lies about her age, and lo and behold, she gets a job as an assistant to chunky jewelry enthusiast Diana Trout at Empirical Press. If you can get past the absurdity of its premise, Younger is a fun show to watch, even addicting. Sutton Foster is a ray of sunshine as Liza, and Hilary Duff, of all people, is great as Kelsea, her ambitious young co-worker and new friend. The entire cast is fantastic, and the show is a well-appointed Sex and the City-style fantasy of New York life. The whole series is on Hulu, and you can easily binge it all in almost no time.

The Magicians (2015-present) Quentin Coldwater and his best friend Julia Wicker are a bit adrift in the end of their college days. Until, that is, they both end up taking an entrance exam at the mysterious Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy. Quentin, a lifelong fanboy of the fantasy series Fillory and Further, gets in. Julia does not. The show follows their respective journeys as an official and unofficial student of magic, respectively. I was a HUGE fan of Lev Grossman's trilogy of novels, a sort of American version of Harry Potter where Hogwarts was college instead of boarding school, thus making the stakes much higher. But the show made a large number of changes to the novels that were unnecessary and much to the story's detriment. Most damningly, while the books are a deconstruction of the "chosen one" narrative, the series fully embraces it. I hate-watched the first season before coming to the conclusion that there are just not enough hours in the day to spend time on something I hate. But really, this show is a mess, and the things that made the novels interesting and exciting are so dulled that it has almost no value.


  1. I know I am in the small majority but Game of Thrones just never engaged me. I've tried multiple times with it, the last when Diana Rigg joined, but nope even she wasn't enough for me to embrace it. I was surprised since by and large I like that sort of thing. Oh well everything isn't for everybody.

    I've heard of the other two but never watched.

    I don't watch much series television so I went with adaptations that were either specials or miniseries.

    A Doll’s House (1959)-This Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of the Ibsen story (back when that program was the benchmark for quality TV-years before it became the dispenser of treacle that Hallmark is today) traces the emotional awakening of Nora Helmer (Julie Harris) from her previously unexamined life of domestic wifely comfort. Ruled her entire life by either her father or husband, Torvald (Christopher Plummer) Nora finally comes to question the foundation of everything she believes in when her marriage faces a profound test. Stacked with an astonishing cast, beside Julie Harris & Plummer it includes Jason Robards, Hume Cronyn, Eileen Heckart and an eight year old Richard Thomas this is currently showing on Amazon Prime.

    East of Eden (1981)-Miniseries adaptation of the entirety of the John Steinbeck sprawling novel (the James Dean film only dealt with the final third) of brothers Adam & Charles Trask (Timothy Bottoms & Bruce Boxleitner), Adam’s sons Caleb and Aron (Sam Bottoms & Hart Bochner) and how their lives intertwine with the Hamiltons lead by patriarch Samuel (Lloyd Bridges) and especially the unknowable Cathy Ames (Jane Seymour) throughout the decades of the late 19th and early 20th century. With a who’s who of notable names in support the highlight of this is a riveting turn of nearly unbridled evil by Jane Seymour as human succubus Cathy/Kate.

    Lonesome Dove (1989)-Beginning in the small Southern town of Lonesome Dove around the 1860’s two former Texas Rangers and best friends Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) head out to Wyoming on a cattle drive that takes a heavy toll on all involved. Massive, violent and intense adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s epic tale is loaded with talent-Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper and Steve Buscemi to name just a few- won unanimous praise upon its release.

  2. We match on Game of Thrones! I'm obsessed with them and will probably cry when it's all over and I have to continue waiting for the rest of the books.

  3. I've been getting frustrated with GoT as the years have gone on but you're definitely right that even on a bad day it's better than most normal shows!

  4. I used to love Game of Thrones so much but they screwed over Catelyn's story-line after Red Wedding so bad I just cannot get excited anymore. It's like, let's just get it over with :)

  5. I know Game of Tnrones but still have to see it. The next one looks funny and seems an update Sex and the City. I know of the Magicians but looked bad so I never watched it..glad about that decision.

  6. I have not kept up with the newer seasons of Game of Thrones, but I do like the series, and will probably binge them all eventually.

    I tried watching The Magicians but only made halfway through the first season. None of the episodes are great and it's typical SyFy with its bad production values. Also the acting of some of the actors especially the nerdy girl is so so bad.