HomeReviewAsked & Answered: What Book Should be Adapted into a Television Show?

Asked & Answered: What Book Should be Adapted into a Television Show?

This week’s question is: What book–fiction, non-fiction, comic, coloring book, crossword, etc.–would you like to see adapted into a television series, and who would you like to see manage that adaption?

Naveen: As a child, I cherished Ellen Raskin’s charming mystery tale, The Westing Game.

While it has already been adapted into a movie, the story features sixteen main characters, each with their own motivations for vying for the $200 million inheritance at the story’s core.

In my imagination, it would be best suited for a TV miniseries, maintaining the key plot elements while delving into character development and employing fluid flashback scenes to enhance storytelling, a departure from Raskin’s more cumbersome prose style.

The ideal adaptation would necessitate two types of individuals.

"The Westing Game" has been adapted for the screen a few times, including a television movie in 1997 and a play.
“The Westing Game” has been adapted for the screen a few times, including a television movie in 1997 and a play.

The first would be a writer who truly grasps the concept that “information is power,” which is a direct quote from an early episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Naturally, my top choice for this role would be Shonda Rhimes.

The second role calls for someone who can delve into the unique mindset of an eccentric elderly wealthy individual who fervently believes in America as a land of immigrants and has devised a way to unite a diverse cast of characters for mutual learning.

In this regard, the tag-team of Bays/Thomas would be the perfect fit, given that the premise of a wealthy elderly man passing away and leaving behind an unusual will aligns with the concept of the short-lived The Goodwin Games currently airing on FOX.

As the writer-creators of How I Met Your Mother, I believe they would excel in adapting Raskin’s novel into compelling television.

The ultimate adaptation would ideally involve both Rhimes and Bays/Thomas, but, alas, this remains purely hypothetical.

The combination might not be entirely feasible, but it’s a pleasant dream to entertain.

Also Read: Asked & Answered: What is the First TV Death You Remember?

Abhishek: My initial reaction was to express disappointment regarding the attempted TV adaptations of the comic book series Locke & Key and The Sixth Gun.

Both of these series currently stand as some of the most captivating content available, and they could have translated exceptionally well onto the small screen.

Regrettably, these aspirations never came to fruition, leaving me to explore alternative avenues.

Ancient mythologies are replete with tales that still possess profound significance and entertainment value today.

Among them, the narrative of the Greek hero Perseus caught my attention some time ago.

While I’ve elaborated on this idea elsewhere, in brief, the traditional tales surrounding Perseus contain all the ingredients for a 13-episode season or miniseries: a heroic protagonist, a formidable antagonist, complex romance, moments of humor, and more.

A suitable choice for a showrunner would undoubtedly be Steven DeKnight, as demonstrated by his recently concluded series, Spartacus, which showcased his ability to infuse modern relevance into an ancient world setting and themes.

However, there are other creatives who could bring unique perspectives to this material, such as Brian K. Vaughan with his talent for world-building, or Ben Edlund, known for his adeptness in exploring various hero-trope storytelling modes.

Kriti: I’ve recently delved back into Sylvia Plath’s journals, revisiting them for the first time since high school.

It’s sparked my interest in envisioning a mini-series centered on Plath’s college years.

While there has already been a movie featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, exploring Plath’s turbulent relationship with Ted Hughes (unendorsed and unsupported by Plath’s family, lacking her original poetry), the version I’d like to see would shift the focus away from her suicide attempt and eventual death.

Instead, it would concentrate on Plath’s journey to establish her identity as a woman and a writer in 1950s America.

What stands out in these journal entries is her frequent discussions of the challenges she faced due to her gender and her quest for a partner who could be her equal both romantically and creatively.

There’s a wealth of material in the realm of unfortunate dating experiences that could provide ample content for this project.

Additionally, the prevailing fear of atomic war during the post-WWII and early Cold War era, as experienced by ordinary citizens, is a theme I’d like to see a show explore.

One individual who could excel at bringing this narrative to life is Sofia Coppola, known for her ability to portray disaffected and directionless young women.

Although Coppola’s tendency to position herself as an observer rather than delving too deeply into her subjects can sometimes be a concern, for a figure as extensively analyzed as Plath, this approach could offer a fresh and intriguing perspective.

Sidant: Personally, I harbor a strong desire for a television series based on Kaplan Bar Review: New York Subjects Outline Materials.

Ideally, it would be helmed by David E. Kelly.

However, I understand that such a niche interest might restrict it to a Lone Star-esque limited run. As an alternative, I would like to propose adapting James Patterson’s Alex Cross series.

The Alex Cross series is one of the most prolific detective series in modern literature.
The Alex Cross series is one of the most prolific detective series in modern literature.

The Alex Cross books have seen their fair share of adaptation attempts, including three movies, two featuring Morgan Freeman in the titular role, and one with Tyler Perry.

Unfortunately, none of these three adaptations achieved critical acclaim or box office success.

James Patterson himself has ventured into television, with his Women’s Murder Club series transformed into a 2003 Made-for-TV movie (starring Tracy Pollan!) and a 2007 series (starring Angie Harmon).

Adapting the Alex Cross books could offer television a rare gem, especially on the network side – a predominantly African American cast.

Given her prowess in promoting cast diversity and her impressive work on shows like Scandal and, at times, Grey’s Anatomy, a Shonda Rhimes version of the Cross world could effortlessly transform it into a captivating ABC series.

Muskan: The moment I laid eyes on this question, I knew my response. My all-time favorite books, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart-Lovelace, have never made their way to the silver screen or TV.

For those who might not be familiar (likely, most of you), the Betsy-Tacy books trace the lives of a group of girls – Betsy, Tacy, Tib, and their friends – from the tender age of five all the way into married life.

These stories are set in Minnesota around the turn of the 20th century, brimming with profound friendships, family ties, great romances, and surprisingly modern feminist viewpoints.

It’s a mystery to me why these books, penned in the 1940s and ’50s, have never received the movie or TV treatment.

There could be legal rights issues, or perhaps the books aren’t considered popular enough, even though their fans are extraordinarily devoted.

These books possess the potential to become a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ for the 21st century, but I envision them more as a PBS mini-series in the vein of ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ which I would eagerly watch.

Nikita: I’ve read an abundance of books, so it’s not easy for one to immediately come to mind.

However, in recent years, I became a fervent admirer of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Despite its classification as a young-adult book, the intricately crafted world and vibrant characters transformed it into a cross-generational success when it was first released in 2011. Virtually any network could adapt the story to suit their audience.

They could choose to retain the story’s violence and target a more mature audience explicitly, or delve into the intricate relationships among the children in a more comprehensive manner.

An ongoing series or a summer event series could prove highly popular.

The entertainment industry currently boasts a wealth of talented child actors, excluding Leo from Smash or Henry from Once Upon a Time, of course.

This would offer the casting agency ample opportunities to introduce rising stars into each of the children’s roles. Could you envision Kiernan Shipka as Kriti?

Additionally, the story partly unfolds as a period piece, a characteristic that tends to be well-received.

Furthermore, the first book concluded with a cliffhanger, and the author had initially expressed a reluctance to pen a sequel.

This opens up multiple avenues for a TV series – one could take the story’s core elements and shape it into a television narrative that follows their vision or adhere closely to the newly announced sequel, which would undoubtedly delight book enthusiasts.

The stage is yours, ABC!

Reesav: One of the most captivating books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent years is Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, a novel that weaves the tale of an English-language newspaper in Rome as it navigates the twilight of the print media era.

Tom Rachman, the author, was a journalist before becoming a novelist.
Tom Rachman, the author, was a journalist before becoming a novelist.

The story paints a perfect portrait of the quirky and flawed individuals comprising the newsroom staff, almost like twelve distinct short stories woven around the unnamed publication, known as ‘the daily report on the idiocy and brilliance of the species,’ that binds them all together.

Considering the scarcity of journalism-themed TV shows (let’s not even get started on The Newsroom or the newspaper subplots in House of Cards), I would be thrilled to see this book adapted into a twelve-part miniseries by networks such as HBO, AMC, or Sundance.

Each episode could adapt one of the book’s chapters.

The series would greatly benefit from filming in the authentic, non-touristy parts of Rome. For the stringer characters, they could introduce variety by filming their respective episodes in locations like Paris and Cairo.

This would be a project that actors would eagerly embrace, particularly roles like the meticulous copy chief Herman Cohen and the personally frazzled business reporter Hardy Benjamin.

I believe it could be a fantastic endeavor in the hands of a more auteur-centric cable channel, backed by a roster of independent directors.

On another note, I understand that discussions about zombies in pop culture and on television might have grown tiresome, but considering the underwhelming disappointment of the World War Z film, I’ve engaged in numerous conversations about how the story could have been told more effectively.

Max Brooks’ original novel is one of my favorite books from the past decade, offering a genuinely gripping narrative of the zombie apocalypse, ingeniously using an oral history approach to provide a fresh perspective on the tale.

The film, however, missed the mark by transforming it into a Brad Pitt vs. Zombies narrative.

I firmly believe that if the material were entrusted to the creative teams behind Band of Brothers or Battlestar Galactica, it could easily be resurrected as an ongoing series.

The story would encompass elements of survival horror, political thriller, and action as it delves into the experiences of characters like the Japanese hacker and the Louisiana survival pilot.

It could be an international, nuanced, and high-quality series that could potentially surpass The Walking Dead in terms of excellence.

Krisnaa: Many of the concepts I wish to witness on television have already been explored on film, yielding varied results (I’m a supporter of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film, though I can appreciate why it received mixed reactions).

I’ve also made headway through a few contemporary books that I can’t help but envision as long-form television series (hello, The Passage – I promise I’ll finish reading you one day).

However, I’d like to focus on a book that left a lasting impact on me as a young reader and is oddly absent from both film and television adaptations, despite numerous attempts: The Giver.

Lois Lowry’s dystopian children’s novel spans a mere 180 pages, yet I’ve always believed that there are countless more stories to be told within a society governed by the principle of Sameness.

While the story’s depth may not appear as profound to me now as it did when I was a 10-year-old, there’s an undeniable charm in exploring these intricate, albeit relatively straightforward, moral dilemmas through the eyes of a young child.

At the very least, I can’t fathom why The Giver couldn’t be translated into a short summer series.

Also Read: This Was Television Asked & Answered: What Old Show is at the Top of Your Summer Catch-Up List?

Sadhana Giri
Sadhana Giri
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