I don’t actually watch TV anymore, but I’m quite excited about the news that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy is going to be a BBC series.
I think books lose less when translated into telly series because the writers have more time to develop the plots and characters and are less likely to have to remove key scenes.
To keep this meme book-related, I’m choosing six book-to-TV series I’ve enjoyed in the past, and four books/book series I’d love to see made into TV series.
Book-to-TV series I enjoyed in the past:
Flambards, 1979, Yorkshire TV
Based on Flambards, The Edge of the Cloud, Flambards in Summer and Flambards Divided by K.M. Peyton.
Starring Christine McKenna as Christina; Steven Grives as Mark; Alan Parnaby as Will; and Sebastian Abineri as Dick.
I loved this series so much and I was deeply in love with Will – both the character in the books and the actor who played him.
I recently watched a few episodes and, like much of what was produced in the 70s and before, the pacing is super slow. Still love it though.
Here’s the scene in which Christina and Will declare their love …
Anna Karenina, 1977, BBC
Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Starring Nicola Pagett as Anna; Stuart Wilson as Vronsky; Caroline Langrishe as Kitty; and Robert Swann as Levin.
Those were the days when RTM screened BBC series. I used to watch this one with my mother who introduced the book to me. I would rewrite various scenes from Volume one, especially the one in which Anna goes to the ball and Kitty laments the facts that she (Anna) isn’t dressed in a lilac dress, giving the characters different names and changing details like hair colour and dialogue.
Here’s the series trailer …
Pride and Prejudice, 1980, BBC
Based on the novel by Jane Austen.
Starring Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth and David Rintoul as Darcy.
This series was shown on Singapore television, SBC Channel 5, and my friend Wan Hui who could get clearer reception at her house, videotaped all five episodes so we could watch and re-watch it. This is my favourite dramatisation of the novel. Much prefer Rintoul’s portrayal of Darcy to Colin Firth, whom I think looks like a bull mastiff, but not half as cute.
Here’s the scene in which Darcy lets it be known that Elizabeth is merely ‘tolerable’.
Thursday’s Child, 1973, BBC
Based on the book by Noel Streatfeild
Starring Clare Walker as Margaret Thursday.
I like this series much better than the 1975 Ballet Shoes one, but that might have something to do with the fact that I watched it just a year or two after it was made, whereas I watched Ballet Shoes more than twenty years after it was first released. Having said that, the Ballet Shoes movie starring Emma Watson was rubbish too.
It’s one of my favourite Streafeild novels and watching the trailer makes me want to re-read the book.
Little House on the Prairie, 1974-1982, NBC
Based on the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Starring Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as Pa.
This series is not at all a faithful dramatisation of the books on which they were based, but they were quite entertaining nevertheless, although, watching episodes now, I can’t help cringe at some of the too-corny, icky scenes.
I remember my father buying me a copy of the second book in the series (because it is the one the TV show takes its name from) and I was surprised at how different it was from the telly. I still re-read the books, but don’t think I would re-watch the series.
I thought I’d share this brilliantly edited ‘trailer’ that makes the series look like an action-horror movie …
Roots, 1977, ABC
Based on the book by Alex Haley
Starring LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte
I enjoyed this when it first aired, but I’m not sure I could watch it now as my threshold for violence is lower, more so if the violence is historical, i.e. based on fact.
The series has been remade, and looks pretty good, but I think I would cry all the way through.
Here is the trailer – I am not using the trailer for the 1977 show because the voice-over going on about ‘primitive Africa’ is just annoying.
Now for books/book series I’d like to see adapted for TV …
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Because the movie was pretty rubbish. And I think Thandie Newton was majorly miscast.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
How cool would it be to see a dramatisation of a coming-of-age fantasy series featuring African (specifically Igbo-Nigerian) cultural practices!
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
I’m not going to apologise for choosing another book by this author! This is one of my favourite scifi/fantasy/spec fic books (I am always hazy about these genres, and I dislike genre labels anyway) and the story is just so fresh and refreshing. Who’s tired of extraterrestrials choosing to land in the USA? I know I am. Plus, I’m moving to Lagos, the setting for this novel.
Another book series I’d love to see filmed is Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch Trilogy, and I hear it is going to be dramatised. However, I’m not sure how they would retain the gender ambiguity caused by the use of the female pronoun for everyone, and which makes reading the books such an unsettling and wonderfully challenging experience.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Series by Joan Aiken
Just imagine if all eleven novels (I’m not counting the prequel) were dramatised! I would be very nervous about who they would cast as Dido, as it would be so easy to misunderstand the role and play the character as a precocious brat.