Right now is the best time for fans hoping to have their favorite books adapted, but not on the big screen. Television allows for books to truly breathe and tell their tales without sacrificing character and atmosphere for the sake of plot and pacing. Television is in a golden era and the prestige formats (BBC’s mini-series format for shows like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell or HBO’s limited season format for shows like Game Of Thrones or the upcoming Westworld) present filmmakers with numerous possibilities. Here are five classic books that are getting the small screen treatment that promise to delight in their full, unabridged glory.
Art by Blair Z
A collaboration for the ages between the late, great Terry Pratchett and the maestro of dark whimsy himself, Neil Gaiman, Good Omens follows an uptight Angel named Aziraphale and a slick demon named Crowley who have gotten a tad too comfortable with their lives on earth. When the End of Times is announced, they naturally have misgivings. Plus there’s the whole business with the anti-Christ being misplaced as a baby and growing up in a small English town out in the countryside, completely unaware that he is the spawn of Satan. This absurd tale of Revelations was going to be adapted to the silver screen in 2002 by Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil), but funding faltered. Flash forward to 2016 and Neil Gaiman himself is set to adapt the book into a six-part miniseries. No word yet on a network or release date, but casting the perfect actors for Aziraphale and Crowley is essential. Trust in Gaiman.
His Dark Materials
Art by Angela Rizza
Phillip Pullman’s atheist fantasy, His Dark Materials, explores the adventures of young Oxford girl battling for her sentience and her soul across various dimensions. The first book, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the US), got the Lord Of The Rings-esque treatment in 2007. It seemed rather shortsighted in retrospect, but totally understandable considering everyone wanted to copy the colorful fantasy template. However, the other two adventures in the trilogy (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) proved a little too anti-religious for the likes of Hollywood and the sequels languished faster than Eragon. It was announced late last year that the BBC has commissioned writer Jack Thorne (Skins) to adapt His Dark Materials for television. Filming is set to begin this year. Here’s hoping Thorne can capture the myriad of tones and worlds that Phillip Pullman so brilliantly brought to life in those books. Hallelujah!
Art by Delaney Mamer
Douglas Adams, author of the seminal Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, also wrote a couple of wild detective novels following a man named Dirk Gently and his transcendental adventures in true Adams fashion. There was a television series on BBC a few years ago, but BBC America tapped Max Landis (Chronicle) to adapt the first book, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, into eight episodes. Samuel Barnett (The History Boys) will play the titular Dirk Gently while Elijah Wood (Lord Of The Rings) will play a new character invented by Landis, Gently’s assistant going by the name of Todd. Perhaps Wood’s character will help give the narrator’s voice a physical presence or maybe he’ll provide a foil for the slippery Dirk Gently. We will find out soon enough when the series premieres this fall.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Art by Megan Fisher
Fans of A Series Of Unfortunate Events were stoked when this trailer popped online last year. Netflix has claimed no affiliation with the teaser, but they are indeed adapting the suburban gothic series for the small screen this year in the form of eight episodes. The books follow the misadventures of three orphans (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) as they try and survive the evil machinations of their nefarious relative, Count Olaf, and his attempts to steal their inheritance money. Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) is set to play Count Olaf and Patrick Warburton (The Venture Bros) will play the narrator/author of the books, Lemony Snicket. Director Barry Sonnefeld (Men In Black) is taking the reigns of the series. There’s no confirmation on how A Series Of Unfortunate Events will be adapted, but with the long form nature of television I doubt they’ll be melding the first three books into one like they did in the 2004 film starring Jim Carrey.
Art by B Regul
Neil Gaiman recently shared a photo from the set of the Starz adaptation of his novel American Gods. Shadow Moon, an ex-convict, is released from prison after his wife and best friend die in a horrible car crash and finds himself on the front lines of a battle between the Old Gods and the New Gods. Of course everything is not as it seems. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green (Heroes, Smallville) are show-running this dark carnival of a novel for release in 2017. With Neil Gaiman keeping a close eye on the filming I’m sure his trippy, murky look at Americana will make it to television intact, gods and all.
Are you excited to see these books translated to television? Are there any books you’re clamoring for the small screen treatment? What favorite books that already have movies would you want to see reimagined for television? let us know in the comments below!