Okay, I know you probably expected me to put something up in the days that have gone since last Friday, and if I’m being honest, I did too, but then life got in the way and I was sad and preoccupied and here we are!! So we’re going into this Friday’s post straightaway. (It’s a Saturday. I’m a mess.)
On the bright side, I’m not sad anymore, partly because we’ve got a couple of exciting interviews, reviews and collabs coming up this month! So stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here we are with Fave Five Friday, in association with Buzz Magazine, for the second week. And this time, it’s all about the best book to screen adaptations out there.
In this post, I’ve concentrated on non-animated TV series. (Movies in another post, maybe?) There are a bunch of really obvious ones out there, such as Game of Thrones and Sherlock, but I’ll do my best to avoid those. Here are my top 5 picks of book-to-screen adaptations, hopefully excluding the ones you’ve already watched:
#1 American Gods
A surprising number of people on my timeline haven’t watched this show, and if you like weird visuals, weird storylines, weird and surreal onscreen aesthetics and weird sex, I suggest you get on to it straightaway. The show, based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, is about Shadow, a man who has just been released from prison shortly after his wife’s death, and taken into the service of a mysterious Mr Wednesday. The first season follows Shadow and Wednesday on a pan-America trip filled with creepy animals, creepier people and- you guessed it- a lot of creepy gods.
Pro tip: Watch out for the scenes in which groups of Americans arrive in on the continent, especially for Anansi’s.
#2 The Handmaid’s Tale
If you haven’t heard of Margaret Atwood’s epic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, now, in the age of decriminalising marital rape, would be a good time to get it on your reading list. The novel is set in the near-future when a Christian theonomy has taken over the United States and controls every aspect of human life. Due to dropping birth rates, fertile women are assigned to officials to be impregnated and referred to as ‘handmaids’. The story follows Offred, one such handmaid. The TV show is closely aligned with the book and even more horrifically vivid. Elizabeth Moss, from Mad Men, plays Offred with poise and depth.
Pro tip: Watch out for what I call the ‘collective birthing’ scene. It gives you chills.
Hate to feature two shows by the same showrunner here, but I have to make an exception for Hannibal, conceptualised by Bryan Fuller, who is also the dude behind American Gods. The shows share the same dreamy, surreal, almost metaphysical landscape, in which a lot of the visuals are more like poetic metaphors than literal images. Hannibal, based on the books Red Dragon and Hannibal by Thomas Harris, looks at the relationship between FBI agent Will Graham and part-time psychiatrist, full-time psychopath Dr Hannibal Lecter. Watch the show for the insanely talented cast that include Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Gillian Anderson.
Pro tip: Don’t watch the show while eating. Just don’t. Trust me.
#4 Wolf Hall
Based on Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction series, the show stars Damian Lewis as Henry VIII, Claire Foy (of The Crown fame) as Anne Boleyn and Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell. The production is sophisticated, but the acting triumphs over everything. If you want to get lost in some royal intrigues while waiting for the next Game of Thrones season to return, try Wolf Hall. Now might be a good time to check out The Hollow Crown series, too, and The Night Manager if you’re particularly into Tom Hiddlestone.
Pro tip: Read the books first! The list of characters is enormous and it’s very easy to get confused. On the other hand, if you’re better at remembering things visually than verbally, you might be better than me at this.
This is the only show in this list that’s based on a short story, rather than a novel or a series. (I suppose Sleepy Hollow could have been another one, if it hadn’t nosedived into meh-territory after the first season!) Legendary crime fiction writer Elmore Leonard’s short story, Fire in the Hole, was the inspiration for this show which follows Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens as he returns to his birthplace, Harlan, in Eastern Kentucky. The show, constructed like a modern Western film, is gritty, dark and sometimes very sad, with a touching pathos that elevates it from other crime shows. It’s incredibly well acted, especially by Walton Goggins as Raylan’s sometimes-enemy, sometimes-friend Boyd Crowder.
Pro tip: Watch out for the ladies, especially Mags Benett and Ava Crowder. It’s so rare to find well-written female parts on male-centric TV shows. These two are amazing.
Bonus Mention: Dexter
If you didn’t know (I didn’t, until like the show’s 8th season!), Dexter is based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. It’s the first of a series of books that the show doesn’t really follow after its first season. Dexter Morgan, the titular character, is a forensic blood spatter analyst by day and a vigilante-murderer by night. How does he balance these two very different parts of himself?
Dexter one of my absolute favourite TV Series EVER and if you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it. My favourite season is the third one, after which, in my opinion, the show lost its way. But watch it for yourself to find out!
Which are your favourite book-to-screen adaptations?
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See you next time!