Bleats

The Best Book-To-TV Adaptations For When You Just Can't Be Bothered Reading

Binge-worthy page-turners.

You may not be so keen on reading a classic novel, but how about watching George Clooney act it out?

Clooney has returned to the small screen in Catch-22, the latest adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel set during World War II, now screening on Stan. It’s worlds away from his breakthrough ER role.

So why is TV the perfect medium for adapting page-busting novels? The biggest plus: TV isn’t restricted by time like cinema (although that didn’t stop Peter Jackson testing audience’s patience and bladders with his bum-numbingly epic Lord Of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).

With hours available to slowly unfold a multi-character driven storyline peppered with sub-plots, prestige TV, now laden with bigger budgets and less restrictions, has become the modern day page-turner.

Take Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace, now given the mini-series treatment with an eclectic cast including Paul Dano (Escape At Dannemora), Lily James (Yesterday), Aussie Greta Scacchi and The Young Ones star Adrian Edmondson.

They combine to tell the story of five aristocratic families trying to survive Russia’s war with Napoleon. Only takes 6 hours and 19 minutes in total.

The BBC’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice made the career of Colin Firth, forever linking him to Mr Darcy. And it gave viewers “one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history” when Darcy was seen in a wet shirt.

Given that the lastest version integrated the undead and bloody bonnets into the mix in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Firth incarnation of Mr Darcy showed all how it should be done.

It’s not just period dramas – just ask anyone who’s seen director Tobe Hooper’s mini-series adaptation of the classic Stephen King tome Salem’s Lot. The image of a young boy awoken by the sound of his now undead brother scraping on his bedroom window is scorched into their retinas.

It’s unnerving and terrifying in equal measure. Back in the late ’70s, TV may have had to pull punches when it came to graphic imagery but it still had the power to send a shiver down the spine.

That is the power of TV. To bring transgressive imagery into the lounge rooms of unsuspecting audiences.

When Richard Chamberlain starred in the 1980 adaptation of Shogun, it included a graphic and bloody beheading, the first ever shown on network television.

And now, as the goriest TV show in history, Game Of Thrones, has ended, the hunt is on for the next literary adaptation.

From Scrubs To M*A*S*H, The Medical Sitcom Helps Us Laugh In The Face Of Death

Yes, binge-watching counts as self-care.

The emergency room is a place that no one wants to find themselves in, yet it has become a gag-filled location for some all-time great comedies. From M*A*S*H to Scrubs and every operating table in between, the irreverent medical dramedy has become a mainstay of the television comedy world.

Scrubs, which you can now binge every episode of on Stan, is a perfect example of why they succeed.

Set in the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital, Scrubs has been praised for its fast-paced slapstick and often surreal forays into the bizarre – mainly due to the over-active imagination of its protagonist, the newly minted Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian, played by Zach Braff.

Scrubs shows how a disparate bunch of trainee doctors and surgeons unwind and keep it light, no matter how tough their average day interning at the hospital is. And the pressures of saving lives means they unwind big time, so the show wrings out the emotions while cranking up the gag rate. The characters laugh in the face of death, and the audience can’t help but join them.

Greatly aided by Braff’s supporting cast including Roseanne star Sarah Chalke as fellow intern Elliot Reid, and Donald Faison (Clueless) as J.D.’s best friend Chris Turk. Ken Jenkins, Scrubs MVP John C. McGinley, and Judy Reyes make up the doctors and nurse who have the tough task of reining in the cocky newbies.

There’s plenty of precedent for the medical comedy, and there have been imitators since. The Good Place star Ted Danson followed Cheers with Becker, a sitcom about a gruff doctor who hated his patients; the recent, ill-fated Dr. Ken starred real-life doctor turned comedian Ken Jeong, who plays a doctor with a questionable bedside manner.

Even House, starring Hugh Laurie threw in a snarky gag or two in between saving lives.

But before all those, M*A*S*H was the show that took the sitcom formula and gave it a political conscience. Set during the Korean War in the 50s, M*A*S*H follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea.

With a stellar cast led by Alan Alda as wise-cracking pacifist Hawkeye Pierce, the show was dripping with pathos as the medics tried to put on a brave face while they picked up the pieces, quite literally, of man’s brutality against man.

A sitcom but also a stealthy anti-war diatribe, taking its stance from Robert Altman’s film M.A.S.H., the show stood out amongst other TV shows of the time.

Through the upheaval surrounding the Vietnam War, the world – and especially the Americans – needed a laugh, but also needed to be reminded of the horrors of war. Critical of US war policy, Hawkeye, BJ and Trapper stuck it to the man, martinis in hand.

This anti-authoritarian attitude, albeit in a more flippant tone, paved the way for Scrubs’ interns as they… erm, scrubbed up.

And they proved that when we can laugh at ourselves when we are at our most vulnerable, and at the reality of death and grief, it helps the medicine go down a little easier.

Patty Jenkins Is A Real Life Wonder Woman And Hollywood Needs More Directors Like Her, So Does TV

She's a total boss director of film and TV.

As the Hollywood establishment ducks for cover under a cloud of #MeToo accusations and calls for gender equality in front and behind the camera, one director has been at the forefront of this tidal wave of equal opportunity.

Patty Jenkins is not only the first woman to direct a big-budget superhero film and, shamefully, the only female director to ever work with a $150 million budget. She also happens to be a female director who has long stood proud in a male-dominated industry.

Now, as 2019 sees her return to television with I Am The Night (currently streaming on Stan) and a sequel trip to Themyscira for Wonder Woman 1984 promised in 2020, Jenkins is becoming a force to be reckoned with on all screens.

There are plenty of outstanding female directors working today – just look at the success of Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Susanne Bier (Bird Box) and Julia Ducournau (Raw). But with Wonder Woman, Jenkins has landed herself in the big leagues.

In fact, Wonder Woman gave Jenkins the biggest domestic opening of all time for a female director (surpassing previous record-holder Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed Fifty Shades of Grey).

Patty Jenkins started her career on a high, handing a near-unrecognisable Charlize Theron an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her stunning performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. The film also starred Christina Ricci as Wuornos’s lover, and saw the writer director tackle an ugly subject matter with a feminine skew that wasn’t afraid to go for the sucker punch.

After her big success she was approached by record-setting test pilot Chuck Yeager to make a film about his life, although that project failed to take off. Ryan Gosling was lined up for (the non-DC Comics related) I Am Superman but the film was delayed when Jenkins became pregnant. Described as the strange and unexpected journey of a fighting pit bull, the movie is still on the director’s radar and may see the light of day after the Wonder Woman sequel.

In the meantime, Jenkins has focused on television, directing episodes of Arrested Development, Entourage and the US remake of Scandi-noir smash The Killing.

And then came Jenkins’ return to the silver screen with Wonder Woman – that is, after a short sojourn at Marvel that saw Jenkins hired as director of Thor: The Dark World for two months before she left due to creative differences.

Luckily DC was in need of a hit. From Man Of Steel in 2013 to Suicide Squad in 2017, a run of humourless, glum comic book adaptations had left DC’s stock at a low ebb against the shiny spandex of Marvel. The studio needed a new injection of excitement – and that came from the Amazon.

Wonder Woman made her first big screen appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice in 2016, directed by DC regular Zack Snyder – but it was Jenkins who gave the world’s most beloved female superhero life.

Now she’s back in television land with I Am the Night. Reunited with her Wonder Woman leading man (and GOAT’s favourite Chris) Chris Pine, the show is a murder mystery of sorts.

It follows Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a young girl who was given up by her birth mother. While delving into her past she ends up investigating a sinister trail that draws her closer to a gynaecologist involved in the legendary Black Dahlia slaying.

A dark ominous drama about the infamous Hollywood murder – already tackled without much success by director Brian DePalma with Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johansson – is not an obvious move for Jenkins, but then she has never gone for the expected. Who would ever predict the director of Monster would go on to helm an episode of Entourage?

And that leads us to Wonder Wonder 1984, already one of the most anticipated films of 2020. With only a few images to glimpse, how Gal Gadot, a mysteriously returning Pine and new arch nemesis Cheetah, played by Kristen Wiig, will factor into an 80s-set story remains to be seen. But the superhero universe is all the better for having these kick-ass women involved – especially Jenkins herself.

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