Television and Novels: A Love Story

I came across this fascinating article in The Chronicle of Higher Education and simply had to share it. It  accounts for the evolution of arc television (ex. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones) and highlights the similarities between these types of shows and other creative media. I have to admit, the title, “Storied TV: Cable Is the New Novel,” threw me for a loop at first. I thought this piece was going to propose that these wildly popular and critically acclaimed series are on the road to replacing novels, but after reading it, I don’t think this is what the author intends to suggest (even if some of the people who commented disagree). In fact, it seems that the author is comparing the television vs. motion picture dispute (until now, films have undoubtedly beat television in terms of status, merit, and praise) to that of the new journalism vs. novel debate from the 70s.

In fact, the author of the piece, Thomas Doherty (a writer, among other things) points out what makes these television shows as enthralling as a great novel: “Like the bulky tomes of Dickens and Dreiser, Trollope and Wharton, the series are thick on character and dense in plot line, spanning generations and tribal networks and crisscrossing the currents of personal life and professional duty.” In the comments, someone even points out that several of these shows were actually based on novels. This brings me to my question for you, the readers: Think about your favorite novel. Would you rather see it as a television show following the format described above or as a big screen debut?

4 Responses to Television and Novels: A Love Story

  1. Over the last several years, I’ve come to appreciate these types of TV shows more than movies, if for no other reason than they take longer to enjoy than a 2- or 3-hour movie version. This often allows time for better world-building, deeper digging into the characters’ psyches, less-rushed plot development, and an opportunity to delve more into whatever makes the story unique or interesting.

    Some of my favorite novels can or have been adapted into movies, and the ones that did felt shallow and rushed compared to their novel counterparts. I’d much rather see any future adaptations in series form. Not only would the adaptation likely be better, but I would get more of it to enjoy!

  2. I think I’d prefer my favorite novel (if not part of a series to begin with), be shown as a mini-series on television, rather than a regular series or a motion picture. I think you can get more of the book shown that way.

    Movie adaptations always seem to disappoint me (but doesn’t stop me from watching).

  3. Cassandra says:

    Mini-series, minimally. Editors and agents who automatically reject any work over 100,000 words — or even 85,000 — might think about this.

  4. Abbe Hoggan says:

    I agree with Stacy — the mini-series is the perfect format for novel adaptations. Movies always have to leave out so much, but if a tv series is successful and long-running, they eventually run out of “real” material and have to start making up their own stories. (Turning the show into sanctioned fanfic.) My favorite adaptations have all been mini-series. Okay, they’ve all been Masterpiece Theatre versions of Jane Austen — Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Every other adaptation has been a disappointment, whether slight or grave.

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