Book to Small Screen Failures

I just finished watching the end of Legend of the Seeker, one of my favorite shows, and it made me wonder about why people that read book versions of t.v. shows seem to hate the shows so much when they come to the small screen (or big screen, for that matter). Sure, there are a number of reasons why we don’t like them, but as fans of the written version, do we go in to the television show without an open mind?

I think that in Legend of the Seeker’s case, Terry Goodkind fans had a lot of expectations. From some of the comments that I had read on Hulu at the time, people really wished that it could have gone the route of True Blood (HBO’s popular Vampire saga based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries series). True Blood’s first season was so much like the book that it was literally like watching the book unfold on the screen right before your eyes. It was able to capture all of the fans of the book series and not alienate them as they slowly plotted off course in the second season and added things that didn’t really happen exactly in the book (ex. the Maenad).

For Legend of the Seeker, the first season was a mishmash of other multiple books and story arcs to fill in the gaps of the “main quest” of the season. I think this is the problem with a tv series that has 20+ episodes; you have to fill those episodes and where else to get the ideas other than from the actual books themselves? Yeah, those things don’t happen for years in the timeline of the story, but chances are that you aren’t going to use all the material from an 11 book series in a television show anyway.

I have read 9 out of the 11 Sword of Truth books of which Seeker is based on and while I was disappointed at times to see a bit of twisting of good story that had already been told (i.e. Kahlan’s relationship with her father was changed, Darken Rahl’s relation to Richard), there were many good times in the series that seemed to outweigh the bad. It was a new twist on a series I generally like, but have been slow at reading as it dwindles down until the last couple of books. It is a series that started out very well, but has slowed since the middle. The tv show was a fresh take and every time that I watched it, I really wanted to sit down and read more about Richard and Kahlan…and especially Cara.

That’s what that show did for me – made me want to continue reading Terry Goodkind’s books. I’m sad that the show was canceled and I hope that another network might pick it up, but I am definitely not holding my breath on that one. Regardless, I shall miss it.

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2 responses to “Book to Small Screen Failures

  • justinmchase

    I’ve read all of the books including the new one that takes place in modern day. I went into the series with very low expectations and as a result was moderately surprised. I thought it was cheesy, campy, overly erotic yet somehow parts of it were not that bad at all. To be specific the costumes were fantastic. The Mord-Sith were exactly as I pictured them in my mind and those were not easy costumes to make. Also the casting of Kahlan was perfect, it’s like the actress was bread for that role.

    Overall it was entertaining but not fantastic. On one hand it would have been nice to just stick to the books verbatim but on the other hand some of the books were long and annoying (1-3 and Faith of the Fallen were excellent though). The last book puts a nice sense of closure on an elongated series but the story overall was not that great. If you want to make a mini-series you really have to base it on something that you can spread out indefinitely in the case that you achieve success and end up with 10+ seasons.

    Anyway, I think the reason why books tend to be better than TV shows is because they usually have less detail. In a book you can give just a few words to illustrate a giant structure and your mind fills in the rest. Somehow it’s usually richer when you imagine things and aren’t constrained by the limits of shitty CG or budget. That’s the problem with book-to-movie translations usually, they try to fill in too many details with things that end up looking different than you had imagined it and I think the cognitive dissonance is enough to distract you from really entering the movie. It’s rare to see that translation be successful.

    I think a great example of book-to-movie is the sci-fi channel Dune series. It’s nearly word for word the same as the books and the budget is low enough where they didn’t overdo it and it really works. I am very interested to see how the Game of Thrones will be done. It looks amazing.

  • koshermuffin

    ITA. Since writing this post, I have gone and finished the Sword of Truth Series. I reaallly enjoyed the first few books, but felt the rest of the series never really stood up to them. I did like the ending though, I know it wasn’t very popular.

    I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet, but intend to see how it plays out on TV. I like that fantasy shows are getting a bit of a comeback! Starz even has Camelot in the works.

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