With companies like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix producing independent, highly rated T.V. series, not only has television entered something of a Renaissance age, but it is also forcing the more traditional sources of television viewership, cable networks, to rise to the same level of excellence. Mining popular books for television and the silver screen is certainly not a new practice, but 2017 appears full of superb works of fiction slated to appear on the more accessible and ubiquitous small screen than ever before.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler
The first four novels of this children’s favorite penned by Handler are set to air in early January on Netflix. The eight-episode adaptation captures the spooky Gothic air of the novels and has succeeded in casting top-notch actors to fill the roles. True to its source material, the often dark themes are balanced by dry, witty humor and imaginative storytelling.
The Cormoran Strike by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith
HBO will air this detective series by J.K. Rowling. Originally produced by the BBC, it will follow the investigations of Cormoran Strike, a brilliant but haunted private detective. A highlight of the book series that makes it perfect for television are the astute character sketches that bring the novels to life. Rowling’s trenchant survey of human nature should translate well to the television format.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Long regarded as a cult favorite, Gaiman’s book adaptation will debut on the Starz network. Shadow Moon, the main character, makes a Faustian deal with a mysterious figure after finding his former life in ruins when he is released from prison.
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
The blockbuster time-travel series Outlander has already garnered acclaim on the Starz network for its past two seasons. This year’s installment returns viewers to the 18th century tales of high adventure that retell the famous Scottish Battle of Culloden. Judging by past performances, this series will continue to remain a fan favorite.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The terrifying dystopia of Atwood’s Gilead had a movie adaptation, but its series treatment on television promises a deeper look into the novel’s darkest themes. Headed by Elizabeth Moss as Offred, the tale’s main character, the Hulu original production promises a visceral and haunting examination of the book’s plot.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
The second of Atwood’s contributions to 2017, the series follows the fictionalized true story of Grace Marks, convicted of murdering her employer and a fellow employee in 1843. The atmospheric tale should translate well to the screen, particularly as it will be helped by veteran actress Anna Paquin in the lead role.
While movies have enthralled audiences in theaters for more than 100 years, the fairly short format of a few hours often does not lend itself well to the telling of broad, sweeping stories playing out over the course of several novels. Television has proven itself the ideal medium to explore characters or plots in a more in-depth and accessible format. With the success of past book-to-television adaptations and the indication that nothing is slowing down the viewing audience’s insatiable hunger for more, television’s future as a medium for bringing popular books to the screen looks very bright indeed.