Sex, drugs, and gobs of gore! – the books that make you love TV

Sex and the City, Dexter or True Blood?  When TV turns to modern fiction, every one’s a winner – so says Hattie French

Last week, writing up the best of the Big Read, I was struck by how many popular books are made into films.  Maybe it started with the blistering success of Gone with the Wind in the thirties.   Today, books are getting optioned for film before they go into print.

There are varying degrees of success for these adaptations.  Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings had more money thrown at it than the London Olympics, and yet only really scratched the surface of Tolkien‘s original.   And as I’ve expressed previously, the great advantage of the Harry Potter books over the films is that you don’t have to look at the smug, grinning face of the multimillionaire Daniel Radcliffe while you’re reading.

You do get films which match the depth and quality of the original book – or even surpass it.   The English Patient, for example, is a miserably difficult book to read and impossible to enjoy.  I would characterize it as a chore.   But the film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, is completely the opposite – suspenseful, emotional, memorable.

Where movies try, TV triumphs…

Nowadays a new trend is growing, and I have to say it’s one that I fully support.  Films aren’t where the big money is any more – it’s all about television.

The first big success story – that I remember, anyway – was Sex and the City. Does the name Candace Bushnell mean anything to you?  Well, she was the original Carrie – a journalist writing a column on relationships in New York City.  The columns became a book, the book became a TV series, and in 2008 the circle was complete when the film of the same name arrived in cinemas.

In fact, this is one case where the book is the least popular and profitable aspect of the franchise.  I’ve read the book and it’s easy to see why – although it’s engagingly written, the characters and the stories are just made for TV.  It was all froth.  Froth and fashion.  And sex, obviously.  A visual medium was clearly called for.

Answering the call for gore

The same goes for Dexter, based on Jeff Lindsay‘s series about the serial killer cum homicide forensic scientist with a vigilante streak and an inevitably complicated life.  In this case it’s the blood, not the Jimmy Choos, which we want to see, and once again, in my view, the series outshines the books.

Lindsay‘s a fairly average talent – he can tell a story but he can’t turn a sentence.  Michael C. Hall, on the other hand, inhabits the lead character so fully that when I discovered he was married to the actress that played his sister, I was quite nauseated.

Although the first series sticks relatively closely to the plot of Lindsay‘s first Dexter novel, the same characters and setup have developed in parallel universes.  Lindsay has Dexter battling cults and coaching his girlfriend’s traumatized kiddies in the fine art of righteous bloody murder, while HBO‘s writers, working in a radically different format, have to produce action every episode and have introduced intricate rollercoasters of storylines peopled with every recognizable face they could get their hands on.

and fantastical fornication

Last up tonight is perhaps my favourite of all and certainly the show that I’m most looking forward to seeing again. Unfortunately I haven’t read Charlaine Harris‘s original novels (yet), but they are possibly the best thing to come out of the recent pandering to every adolescent’s inner GothTrue Blood.

Friends have recommended Charlaine Harris‘s works to me, but to be honest, after seeing Viking vampires, villainous Christians, Maenads, and a short-order gigolo named Lafayette, I can’t see the books being anything better than a slight disappointment.  The visual format, I feel, brings it truly to life.

In fact, thinking about it, True Blood combines the salient features of both Sex and the City and Dextergore and fornication.  Blood is drunk from bottles, injected as an hallucinogenic, sprayed over walls, and of course, slurped from the necks of luckless humans.  A staked vampire practically explodes in a fountain of guts and slime.  And then there’s the frankly inhuman quantities of sex being had.  I was unsurprised to learn that the two central characters are engaged in real life.  They spent so much time having simulated sex on screen that it was bound to have an effect.  Series two is practically one long orgy.

If you think I’m exaggerating, you haven’t seen it.  But you should.

Not that we’re complaining!

So I fully support the growing trend to film books for the silver or small screen. Yes, you’ll have to endure the occasional dud. I hear The Lovely Bones, for example, is worth neither your money or your time, although the book was enjoyable enough. But sometimes a mediocre book will become a fantastic film, like Steven King‘s brief novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption which became an Oscar-nominated blockbuster.

But best of all is the benefit to television.  So many channels and so much time to fill means that TV is, nine times out of ten, unwatchable dreck.  The more the executives borrow from the world of modern literature, the more likely it is that we’ll see some real quality being produced. Is it a coincidence that writer David Simon describes his series The Wire (one of the best things ever made) as a “visual novel“?  I doubt it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


7 responses to “Sex, drugs, and gobs of gore! – the books that make you love TV

  1. Some valid points in this article i must say……

    But you don’t explain why books/movies are turning to TV or that in the near future nearly all TV shows will disappear & only leave behind the turd stains of Reality TV.

    You get Stories. They can come in many mediums, be it book or movie etc. The Story can be told through any medium so its not so much to do with a supposed magical trend to adapt books to movie or TV but to adapt a good story to a more accessible medium (arguably because the creator cannot write his/her own decent story, so bad that Uwe Boll for example only seems to adapt Computer Games to Movies).

    The reason in recent years these stories (accompanied by a used to be famous Movie Actor) have shifted from Movies to TV is mainly because of piracy.

    Movies that aren’t heavy in special effects won’t make much in Cinemas & good movies without special effects can be enjoyed just as well if not better from the comfort of your own home for free, sometimes before the Movie has even come out in your country.

    It’s basically all about money (surprise surprise)

    Out of TV, Movies & Music – TV is the only one that isn’t damaged too badly from piracy as their shows are already paid for by the Advertisement companies who happily through millions into getting their advert in the right time-slot on the hopes it might influence your shopping (& if you ever bought Colgate over Asda Toothpaste then it appears to be working).

    The problem is TV’s days are numbered for quality TV shows all thanks to the Internet. Well it’s really cos everyone wants TV on demand, on the Internet. Over the next few years all the TV shows will have their TV on the internet ala bbc iplayer & at some point be purely on the net & everyone will have internet TVs.

    For the consumer (you & me) this is a great & much better system for viewing shows than the old show up the same time each week for 5 – 6 months & pray you don’t miss an episode.

    But the problem is that in this model theres not enough time-slots for the same (or similar) volume of adverts that you get on TV (& if there was a similar volume of adverts then the appeal of this new system quickly diminishes, would you be willing to watch 8 mins of adverts before your show started & then another 2 8 min breaks during the show? )

    So unless they find some way of stuffing loads of adverts into Internet broadcast TV on demand, there won’t be nearly enough cash to fund any of the types of shows you love, leaving behind only cheap TV like reality & Game shows….. 😦 oh and crap like Eastenders & corrie will survive 😦

    Welcome to Capitalism!

    What used to be frowned apon in society & seen as a geeks club & anti social is now the biggest entertainment industry earner. Games, far surpass anything Movies, Music or TV can rake in. (mainly cos if you want to play a game online (most of the time) you need to buy the game.(except Xbox Players :P))

    A lot of games over the past decade are bridging the gap between Movies & games to offer an actual story, although generally pretty simple & filled with extreme stereotypes (think 80s movies) & the movie experience excpet to get to the next part of the story you have to progress through the missions.


    You point out that the benefit to the potter books is the ability to enjoy the story without having to look at potter’s smug grinning face. Something that cannot be said about your article (although probably due to Alice adding pictures to these articles so I’m guessing shes to blame :P)

    I still stand by my theory not to be tricked into reading the potter books since I can tell Joke Rolling is a hack writer when she rips off most ideas from others, rips off Pokemon for Character names (voldimor, dumbledore & Bulbasaur). The ideas that wizards would travel by a magical bus or train or go upstairs using pointless moving staircases (basically hack writer is writing a book on magic so she racks her hack brain to make everything magical to differentiate a wizards school from a boarding school.)

    Not to mention the 1986 Movie Troll starring the character Harry Potter Jr about a young wizard or the Real Hogwarts School of wizardry in Aberdeen (so says google maps lol)


    I have never read the English Patient but if that shite ass boring pile of poop of a movie is better than the book then maybe it’s a story that should never have been told…

  2. Yes, I am responsible for the Potter smugness. It illustrates Hattie’s point beautifully, I feel! 🙂

    Watching TV on the internet, or even on some on-demand satellite or digital TV provider, is blatantly the future of entertainment for a lot of people. For me, however, it’s TOO reliant on personal choice. I don’t believe there are enough people willing to make that extra effort for the internet to signal the death of TV. By that logic spotify/xtorrent/whatever would be the death of radio. It isn’t. People want choice, but they are lazy as well!

    The pick-up of new tech is super-fast to begin with but takes a long time to reach a majority. We net-savvy young’uns might download shows, but parents with young kids still need CBeebies, oldies still want repeats of Bargain Hunt or Gardeners’ World. They will continue paying a license fee, tuning in at 8pm, after putting the kids to bed/finishing the washing up, watch whatever is on the beeb, then shuffle off to bed. I don’t see this range of the population changing their ways soon.

    So, to conclude, you may well be right, but it isn’t going to happen soon. With any luck some production giant will manage to make some variant of internet TV profitable and popular by then. So we can look forward to 9/10ths dross and 1/10th decent content, just like now, for the rest of time 😀

    Hope that made any sense…

  3. U missed the bit where i mentioned Internet TVs (I didn’t explain it properly tho) that act the same mostly as TVs do atm but they will recieve their feed from the internet rather than satelite or radiowaves.

    Spotify & streaming internet radio could easily be the death of radio, as soon as car radio’s & phones/mp3 players etc become internet ready (couldnt think a better term lol, i heard theres some long term ideas to give cities wifi acess city wide, one idea they have is to put wifi antennas in each of the street lamps to give constant access along motorways & streets.)

    Old duffers will still get all that crap through their TV like they do now only it will be on demand & they can choose which series of Last of the summer wine to watch rather than being stuck with the same first 4 series of The Simpsons for 10 years.

    oh and kids don’t need CBeebees, people wonder why the youth of today is running around stabbing everyone they see & appear mentally handicapped when isn’t that the generation that grew up watching the TellyTubbies?

    All kids need is Sesame Street.

    So, to conlude, like I said before either the quality of TV shows will drop dramatically from lack of funds or they will pimp out the Internet & fill it with lots mandatory adverts & ruin the very thing that appealed people to using the Internet for TV in the first place.

    Todays post was brought to you in association with the Letter J & the Number 9.

  4. My point still stands – that any change is going to take tiiiiime and some people like the simplicity of TV listings. However I totally agree with you. Especially about Sesame Street. Win 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s