Anne here, and today I'm talking about the books-to-TV process. In recent times I've picked up a few books that sparked TV series — ones I really enjoy, naturally.
When you read the book(s) first, you form a clear impression of the characters, the setting and the tone of the story-world. It can then make watching the TV version problematic — especially if it's not how you envisaged the people, or the tone is wrong —or you can't put your finger on it, but it's just not right! That's if you loved the book version, of course.
Occasionally there will be a few differences in the TV version, but in all other respects it's excellent — and sometimes it adds to and enriches your original experience of the books. Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series was that for me. I had a clear image of the book-version-Sharpe in my mind —until I saw Sean Bean's screen portrayal of Sharpe which in my opinion eclipsed the original written character, and in subsequent readings of the books I substituted Sean Bean's Sharpe in my imagination.
The TV version of the HORNBLOWER series was the opposite experience for me. I'd never really been keen on the books, had tried them a few times in my youth, and wasn't initially interested in watching the TV series, but Ioan Gruffudd caused me to give it a try—and I loved it. I still haven't picked up the books, though.
Years ago I read Minette Walters's books, and when they were made into TV mini series, I was doubtful as to how faithful they'd be to the original — but they blew me away. I remember seeing a young Daniel Craig in one of them — The Icehouse— as an intense young police sergeant, and he made such an impression I never forgot him, even though he wasn't in a major role. There's a short clip here (Warning — some people might find the language offensive.)
Recently I've been enjoying the British crime drama VERA, and after talking about it with a friend who was a big fan of the books, I was prompted to buy some of the Ann Cleeves books that inspired the TV show. Again, there were a few differences, but nothing that prevented me enjoying both the books and the TV series. Brenda Blethyn's wonderful TV portrayal of Vera now influences how I read and interpret the book character.
I think if the production is good enough, some small variations from the original don't matter. One TV series I absolutely loved was the HAMISH MACBETH series, a village crime series set in the far north-west of Scotland. However when I went to read the books that sparked the series, they were very different — to the extent that I wondered how people who'd read and loved the books first had reacted to the TV series. For me, the books were disappointing — not because of their intrinsic content, but because I wanted them to be about the cast of characters I'd met and fallen in love with in the TV series.
Of course, many book series are written after a TV series has proved popular. I love the TV show CASTLE, but I've never read the books written to go with the show, supposedly by the Castle character himself, which I think is a fun conceit.
I haven't yet seen the OUTLANDER TV series — (I know, shocking isn't it?) I was keeping it for a treat after I'd finished a book, and then one thing led to another and I still haven't watched it. People tell me it's as good, or even better than the books.
And of course no discussion of books-to TV would be complete without a mention of the many versions of Pride and Prejudice — for my money the Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle version is still the best, though I have enjoyed the various others.
So what about you — what are your favorite book-to-TV adaptations? Are there any you think don't work at all? Have you seen or read any of the ones I've mentioned? What did you think of them?