Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ephemera 2009 (8) - The Mostly TV Edition

-- Castle has steadily improved since the somewhat cloying pilot. The characters are unfolding in interesting ways -- I totally buy Fillion as a good Dad. The clue paths are smarter than most of the crime shows on air (the elevator video and the Bluetooth for example). Just smart, smart series choices. A little heavy on the pop music openers, but that's me. Special shout-out to the costume designer.

-- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: man, I could watch Jill Scott do that allll day long. I have a particular weakness for localized procedurals, and the fact it's shot in Botswana is amazing. Particularly like Anika Noni Rose.

-- Kings: Dead show walking. Well, shit. It's wildly uneven, but when it's good it's filthily good. One is tempted to blame the folks at NBC, who have literally decided that they will never be the number one network again, so "hey, instead let's become a glorified AM radio station". However, I'm willing to be irresponsible and generalize this fiasco out to indict Hollywood marketing's general cultural cluelessness.

If you watched the promos for Kings, what you saw was either a cryptic "butterfly" campaign, or more recently a series of ads focusing on the soap opera around a king's family -- very Dirty Sexy Money, with red-tinged shots of sexy beautiful people dancing in a club. What you have not seen is Ian McShane and Brian Cox acting a smoking hole through your television. What you have not seen promoted is the fact that this show is based on the biblical story of King David. God and faith are discusses reverently and seriously in every epsiode. And the "sexy" clips taken from the eps for promos are relentlessly cherry-picked. This thing is more sexless than almost every other drama on TV.

After years of the cultural Right bitching and moaning about how Hollywood doesn't provide for them, NBC could have gone to every evangelical church in America and said "We're serializing the story of King David in a modern, very relatable way. Here you go, a multi-million dollar series, in prime time, based on a Bible story. You're frikkin' welcome." But that sort of cultural outreach, guerilla marketing would never have occurred to most of us here in LA. Mock Fireproof all you want, they got the job done.

No, the guys who were probably two doors down from the "SyFy" geniuses came up with a campaign that brilliantly made sure no one who might like the show would even know what it was about. They took the most unique show premise on network television and did their damndest to make it look like every other show on television. Rock on.

-- " ... a bigger gun." Whew. Despite a dip in mid-second season, it now looks like Life becomes my American equivalent of the British Life on Mars. The meta-plot is unfolding beautifully, and you can't watch the last five minutes of the latest episode and tell me that isn't some of the finest TV directing (and DP-ing) being done right now. I mean, don't get me wrong -- the British LoM is 16 eps of perfect TV, as far as I'm concerned. But I'll go back and rewatch Life again, for its own sake.

-- Better Off Ted made a really subversive choice last week. The two female leads are Portia del Rossi's Dick Cheney-like Ice Queen and Andrea Anders as the free-spirited dreamer trapped in the soul-crushing corporate world. Using Ted's daughter as the lens, the show (I assume intentionally) implied that given the choice, an Ice Queen with a belief that a little girl should be empowered is a better role-model than a weak character who feels so trapped in her world that she rebels through childish misbehaviour and fantasies of escape. They took the Butterflies Are Free paradigm out into the alley and double-tapped it. Aces.

-- This poster is currently up on the board in the Leverage writers' room, and in my office at home. (grab it here, h/t Smarterware)

-- Skype is proving to be invaluable in coordinating with the Portland production office, but Google Voice makes me weak in the knees.

-- In the Comments, the book or series of books you think would make a great transition to TV. Miniseries/Brit format (6-8 hours) allowed.


Stagger Lee said...

I would pay real money to see the Brits take a pass at bringing Snow Crash to the screen. (I would kill for a legit Diamond Age, but that strikes me as tough to do even with the scope of a Brit-season.)

Although I am sure everyone will say that. Plus American Gods.

Sean Fagan said...

Castle is lots of fun -- Nathan Fillion does great when he's playing an ass, and once they ran with that, the show got great.

I started watching Kings, but I stopped watching when David mentioned Liszt. And the Internet. It was lazy world-building.

And Better Off Ted is better than I thought it would be. If nothing else, the faux commercials at the beginning are hilarious.

Ian said...

I'd like to see Mike Resnick's myth of the far future Santiago get the full treatment. It would lend itself well to the miniseries format (especially on Sci Fi, whose miniserieseseses have generally been some of the best things on the network e.g. The Lost Room and Dune).

cyberjoek said...

Old Man's War

The story takes place over six (or is it seven?) years and has a gentle intro to the universe at the start so people can come along for the ride easily.


dete said...

K.W. Jeter's The Glass Hammer always struck me as a perfect fit for the screen (big or small). And a damn fine read, to boot.

BTW - Thanks a *TON* for the Translated Man recommendation. Folks, if you haven't grabbed this yet you are seriously missing out. The first two chapters alone are worth the price of admission.

Bardic Lady said...

It's funny because it seems like in live theatre marketing, our goal is to find the best possible play/community marriage and then to push it for all it's worth. Schools for education plays, outdoor/camping groups for plays that suit them. It seems strange (to me anyway) that that wouldn't work in television and film, too.

As for books to screen...
I'd love to see a miniseries of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint or Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon series, but ultimately, my top choice would have to be Pamela Dean's Tam Lin as a four season series.

Sophistacat said...

I'd love someone to take a crack at Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music.

Darkrose said...

The only problem with pitching Kings to the evangelical market would be the whole gay Jonathan part, I'm thinking.

kinesys said...

I'm with Stagger Lee. I love the idea of Snow Crash. Although i think it would excel as an Anime Series.

In fact: Why not do the "real world" sequences as Anime and the virtual world sequences as live action with CGI. Could be interesting.

I've also wished for a treatment of "Stranger in a Strange land".

The news about Kings makes me sad. I've been following it on Hulu and while i appreciate the biblical stuff, I am also fond of the elements of Hamlet that have gotten mixed in. Especially the Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern palace guard characters. I also LOVE the actress who plays the Queen. She's money and it bothers me that i don't know her name off the top of my head.

Rob Pugh said...

I am totally onboard with your Life eval. "I want a peaceful soul... I need a bigger gun" gave me goosebumps, it did. Lewis, Arkin, Union and Logue are just hitting beautiful acting homeruns every week. Lewis in particular. It's awesome to watch. Too bad rewatching it/catching it on the replay or DVD loses the original music, which is a damn, damn shame. [And they wonder why people torrent...]

On Castle, the more Fillion, the better. And it is smarter than the average cop show.

As for Kings, "wildly uneven" is the best way to describe it. I'd watch an hour of nothing but McShane and Cox having a conversation, but the rest of it is "eh."

And I'll continue to mock Fireproof, despite its success, for its cloying after-school-special mentality. And just because its Kirk Cameron. That's reason enough, actually. I sat through Facing the Giants as it was a gift from a friend determined to save my soul, and I've never been closer to taking my own life.

I'm so dysfunctional I think the moral of last week's Better Off Ted is spot on.

At the risk of beating dead horses and ducking thrown objects, I'd go with both Transmetropolitan and Global Frequency as great adaptation possibilities. I can dream, can't I?

Also, Rucka's Queen and Country, Checkmate or Gotham Central would all make great TV.

More literarilly, I always thought Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels would make a good TV/film series. And lately Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series would be interesting.

Tara said...

"Castle" is hitting all my 1980s action-adventure-romcom buttons, and I am enjoying it muchly. And this week the plot actually hooked me too. Tho I cringed slightly at the anvils falling from the sky in Beckett's backstory, LASER TAG MADE UP FOR IT OMG. Also, I thought the "facial recognition" gad was a thing of beauty, and Beckett and Castle in the car outside the gradfather's house discussing fiction vs real life raised the show up a whole notch in my book. That takes balls.

For books I'd love to see made telly, Meg Cabot's "Heather Wells" mysteries would be stupid amounts of fun. I'd kill for an 8 hour adaptation of Guy Gavriel Kay's _Tigana_ made by the BBC. And I continue to pray hourly that the commercial success of "Twilight" movie will lead to Claudia Gray's "Evernight" series being brought to the small screen.

In the so OOP it's not even funny category: Emma Bull's _Bone Dance_, and Ian McDonald's _Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone_ or _King of Morning, Queen of Day_. And I have deep abiding love for the late, great Mike Ford's _The Last Hot Time_. For that matter, the entire Borderland anthology series as a concept would be ripe for television, but _Last Hot Time_ would be EPIC.

Lastly, in my "God, this would be awesome" category would still be Neil Gaiman's _American Gods_. And I continue to think that might happen someday.

Ardaniel Collier said...

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone would be nearly PBS-level to do, all slow and meditative, until all the cyberpunk breaks loose. Not that I wouldn't watch the hell out of it.

They're sort of like Dark Ages Tom Clancy novels, but SM Stirling's Emberverse books-- Dies the Fire, The Protector's War, Meeting at Corvallis, The Sunrise Lands, and The Scourge of God-- might be interesting. You've got folks in armor, a zombie apocalypse scenario, and Arthuriana, all wound up into one series.

Christine said...

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, please. Eight episodes. Though an adaptation seems to be in the works...and I hope it's in good hands.

Second place, of course--THE TRANSLATED MAN. Which I would be happy to help adapt for you, HBO/BBC.

Rebecca said...

tyvm for the Manifesto. Loved/downloaded it.

How, may I ask, did you get Google Voice already? Were you with Grand Central or did you have some special pull? Because I have not yet received the invitation I requested. Am shivering in anticipation.

Should have left the Snippet post up, imhumbleo, because content was fort amusant and it is very interesting to learn about cool tools.

Rebecca said...

Scrippets. I knew that.

Richard Jensen said...

My book choice is more for the film geek in me than the Science Fiction geek. Steven Bach's "Final Cut" about how Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" wound up destroying United Artists.

The six to eight hour format would be great for exploring side stories like the attempts by UA to keep Woody Allen after members of the previous regime left to form Orion Pictures. Francis Coppola's showing of a rough version of "Apocalypse Now" followed by a wild party at a greek restaurant. A meeting with Scorsese and DeNiro about "Raging Bull" that turned tense when an executive calls Jake LaMotta "A cockroach". And of course, there's this great story about how Michael Cimino single handed managed to both take down a studio and close the book on director driven film making of the seventies.

Now that would be eight hours I'd devour like chocolate.

Elisa said...

I am definitely digging Castle and LOVE Nathan Fillion. I also love the witty script. Shows like Leverage, Burn Notice, Bones, Fringe, and Psych have a certain edge to them that make them unique and addicting.

I would love to see some Neil Gaiman. Especially his graphic novels like Sandman.

I know this is more of a theatre thing, but Harold Pinter is an awesome playwright and it would be fan-friggin-tastic if his stuff was adapted into a series.

I also miss the classic adventure stories like Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes [with Basil Rathbone, of course!], and The Librarian... despite my love for the latter, it is an example of pure adventure rather than mass-audience success.

Grant said...

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold. Sci-Fi actioner with the same depth as BSG, would cost a bomb, but sparkling plotting and characterization.

GregM said...

Sandman I always thought of as a film series, but in the right hands (Showtime?) it would be amazing.

I'd like to see Old Man's War as well, and Sewer Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff.

Andy M said...

Don't stick to sci-fi, everybody. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series seem built for TV. Quirky characters, procedural with a twist, and plenty of humor. They already read like episodes and with 14 in the can, season one is done already.

Anonymous Bosch said...

How about Jonathan Carroll's 1980 book "The Land Of Laughs" for a 4 hr miniseries? The unreliable narrator leaves you unsure if the Fantastic elements are literal or psychological, much like "Life On Mars".

Bonus points for being fantasy that's inexpensive to film, and probably also cheap to acquire the rights.

jdcook said...

"Canticle for Leibowitz". But I need 10 hours.

Stephen Graves said...

My book choice: Kim Newman's "The Man from the Diogenes Club" short stories. It's a bit of a swizz, since Newman's stuff is heavily inspired by old films and TV series - but that just means the concept's been tried and tested! The premise is basically "Jason King and Mrs Peel investigate the X-Files." Get a chap who's willing to sport a Zapata 'tache, paisley shirts and a cravat, a bit of posh totty (Gemma Arterton?) and drop them in some iconic 60s and 70s British locations (Portmerion, the concrete brutalism of London's South Bank, etc, etc). Add occultists and aliens to taste.

Alan Scott said...

Thinking about it, I think "I, Robot" would make for some really good episodic TV. Or maybe (as suggested above), Gotham Central.

I guess I've just really got the jones for a mystery procedural set in a fantastic world.

And I'll add Castle and Better off Ted to my list of things that I would watch If ABC's episode player wasn't such a piece of junk. Is it so hard to create video playback software that works competently and doesn't require a plugin? (or failing that, to sign with HULU?)

Stephen Graves said...

Gotham Central's a *fantastic* idea for a TV series. It's The Wire, but every so often the Scarecrow drugs the water supply with Fear Toxin and makes everyone think that arse-eels are coming up out of their toilets.

They'll never do it while Nolan's off doing the Bat-films, though.

Nabakov said...

I second "JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL". done mini series/Brit season style.

Also in the same vein:

The Once And Future King - TH White (all the way through to the bittersweet end that Disney and Lerner and Loewe wimped out on)

American Tabloid - James Ellroy (with a lotta of "found" footage).

Lensmen - E E "Doc" Smith (done straight yet slyly campy a la 'Fifth Element' or 'Starship Troopers?")

Ada, or Ardour - Vladimir N. (Could be a Russkie co-pro deal there taking advantage of all those gorgeous high-maintenance and now abandoned wooden mansions).

JP Martin's "Uncle" series - using the marvelous Quentin Blake illustrations as a starting point.

The 120 Days of Sodom -Donatien Alphonse François de Sade. (Pros: the structure lends itself nicely to segmented storytelling. Cons: May not easily win a PG rating.)

The Algebraist - Iain M. Banks (The trick here is casting the voices of the Dwellers as feral Oxbridge dons).

Gulliver's Travels - on camphone ('Cloverfield' meets 'A Cock And Bull Story'.

The Odyessy - Homer (again like above, done as a Lonely Planet/Rough Guide video-verite series about wine dark sea touring hazards).

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain (Topsy-turvey steampunk and a timely reminder of what youse Yankees can get right at the right time in other times)

And of fucking course, Kim Stanley Robinson's multicoloured Mars books.

Also have you considered rendering Warren Ellis' work on screen? Y'know like 'Global Frequency'?

At this point I'll leave before getting a cuff over the ear.

Jhaer said...

Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead". I'd absolutely love to see someone pull that off on TV, though I'm fairly certain it would have to be on HBO or Showtime or some other pay network.

Joshua James said...

I've been a huge fan of LIFE since day one, and I like how twisty it gets with its mythology and yet never ever loses sight of its overall individual show goal ... I don't know why, I just dig it.

And yeah, those last five, cool.

Books ... there can be only one ... THE MAD SCIENTISTS CLUB ...

Dreadful Rauw said...

The Phantom Tollbooth: The perfect kid's series. Get Mo Willims to write so the puns stay clever.

Y The Last Man: It's just such a perfect premise for an ongoing series, I hate that they're going to waste it by making a movie.

Lamb: The misadventures of a 20 something Jesus and his best friend while they explore the Middle East and Asia.

marc bernardin said...

Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt books. The fucking anti-Twilight. Vampire private dick with big guns and bigger balls.

Mike Cane said...

I'm two episodes behind on Castle. There was too much cute in the first, but taking it *all* out was a mistake. It could have been like the original Cupid (note: I will NOT watch ABC's mutant remake -- god, those promos are TERRIBLE!).

>>>In the Comments, the book or series of books you think would make a great transition to TV. Miniseries/Brit format (6-8 hours) allowed.

Ah, Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May series. Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor books. Hell, Watchmen should have been a miniseries -- on HBO.

And damn you for being the *second* person to bang on Life (and I think you did it before too). That and The Wire people are yelling at me to watch.

For Christ's sake, am I the *only* to have watched and been stunned by EZ Streets?!!?

nobodez said...

I lost my TV this year, and I didn't have the money for LIFE at the start of the season (though I'll pick it up this summer).

KINGS I love, but I know it's dead. I knew it was dead before it started, but loved it anyway.

As for miniseries, well, pick any movie adaptation made in the last, I don't know, hundred years, and it would be made better as a miniseries rather than a movie.

As for one's I'd like to see?

Honor Harrington - good series, lots of explosions, CG would work great for the space parts, just make sure the art director understands inertia.

His Majesty's Dragon - just read it (Free on Kindle) and I'll probably drop the 8 bucks on the sequel in the next week (this thing is going to cost me more than 360 bucks when all is said and done, I just know it). It's got the napoleonic wars, but with dragons, and the same introduction the main character gets to the world is great to get the viewers into the world. Plus, CG dragons.

Someone earlier (Andy M) said to not stick to Sci Fi, well, I read sci fi and fantasy, so it's what I know. Plus, the classics that I've enjoyed either have been done or it's been too damn long since I read them and I'm not sure anymore.

Personal Video Style miniseries (Cloverfield) would work great for any updated adventure story (same plot, updated to modern world).

Rae said...

I agree about Castle. I just hope ABC sees it. Everyone I know -- and I'm talking about the non-online rarely watch TV types here -- is watching and enjoying it.

I second Andy's pick of Evanovich's Plum series. Lisa Lutz's Spellman books are an USA character show waiting to happen. Is it possible to have too many quirky PI shows on one network?

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter novels are romances but I think the supernatural world she's built is fascinating and the consistently recurring characters could make for interesting TV.

This might work better in the Brit format but I'd love to see Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series as TV series. Love the protagonist but it'd also be fun to be jumping in and out of scenes from classic literature every week.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I'm surprised at the bombing of Kings, given what it is: the cultural conservative/ right-wing version of The West Wing. It's a fantasy of “government done right,” and where Our Side Is Just and The Other Side Is Eeeevil, like TWW, but with the polarities reversed.

Take the line, twice used in the opening few minutes of the pilot: “It’s not popular to talk about God these days.” That smug phrase is so very common among the devout in modern America, it was unmistakable. Then the Mighty Ruler of Not-Quite-America, in defiance of his advisers, speaks extemporaneously to the people about God, and the people's great joy was obvious. For the People, they crave Godliness, don't you see!

And let’s not disregard the appeal of having a Mighty King, who can rule with Wisdom and Compassion and Piety, rather than leave us with the irritating and messy responsibility of electoral government.

Yeah, that’s a right-wing fantasy America right there, with just enough fiction to push down the squick factor. If this took place in Actual America, the dissonance between “this is awesome and at last we'd have Godly rule” and “America’s a democracy, dammit!” would overwhelm it. But in a thinly veiled Fantasy America, the dissonance is reduced dramatically, and those sympathetic to the themes can enjoy it. Clever idea.

Plus, yeah, it's the story of David. C'mon, man! Even I, a total heathen, think David's story would make for amazing television.

Given the decimation of the conservatives in politics over the last few years, I'd have expected them to jump on Kings like a group of starving fat kids on the last bag of M&Ms.

Theliel said...

*Sherlock Holmes [with Basil Rathbone, of course!]*

WHen I was twelve I broke my leg, then my grandfather announced a summer trip to Alaska. WE drove there and back, and all i had was every. single. sherlock holmes with basil rathbone and nigel bruce radio show i could get my hands on and 'a night at the opera' by queen to listen too.
It's where my love of pulp started (because then i moved onto the Shadow, lone ranger and otehr radio plays).

As for books to tv I'd love to see - Lamb. As someone said it'd be 100% perfect if done right, you could even subvert it and make it into a hitler channel style special (an interview with Biff Levi and the counter arguments about his revelations).

Rifle Brigade - seriously. short mini-sereis or continuing adventures, this would be balls to the wall awesome.

On Her Majesty's Occult Service (Jennifer Mourge, Atrocity Archive and the shorts) - 4srs, this could be so much win it would break MINDS, and yo've got yoru first series written for you (or, alternately you could take the first book as the pilot and then do variations on a theme for the first series and then end series 2 with the second book)

Phule's Company and/or Another Fine Myth. it could be really fun with the right people.

also the Yurt Series (a bad spell in yurt, magic quest, the wood nymph and the cranky saint) - mystery writer did sword and socrery, works out pretty ok.

Jen said...

Castle is the one show that's airing right now that I actually look forward to every week. There's got to be something to be said about that.

Most of my choices for book-to-TV would be scifi. There isn't really any futuristic/space opera style scifi on right now (unless you count the peppering of Doctor Who specials the UK is gonna get this year) and I find myself really wanting something new. (And I mean new, not the BSG prequel soap opera or the dark and edgy Stargate thing.)

I'd love to see The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold made into a TV series. (Though is TV ready for a main character like Miles?)

There's a YA book called Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes that strikes me as perfect television material. The main characters are young, resourceful, and the framework of the story has room to add depth to the universe without changing the story.

someBrad said...

I wonder if Infinite Jest could be done as a miniseries? It would obviously require a hell of a lot of work, and probably a real ending, but the world, the settings, the plot, and the characters would all translate well I think.

caseyko74 said...

Planetary. I would love to see it adapted as a sequel in some way to the series. Imagine Warren doing a sequel and fucking with pop culture even more with references to the book scattered throughout.

I know my wife has always wanted to see the Stephanie Plum series adapted.

Tara said...

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone would be nearly PBS-level to do, all slow and meditative, until all the cyberpunk breaks loose. Not that I wouldn't watch the hell out of it.

See, I think you could structure it so you'd get Ethan to reveal the "tattoo" on his hand at the end of the first ep--and the world building would be great in a "20 Minuets Into the Future" sort of way.

As for the genres folks are stuck on--in addition to speculative lit (more urban fantasy and Alternate History than any hard SF) I read mysteries and pulps. And most of the ones I love (Raymond Chandler, Margery Allingham, Burroughs' Tarzan, Charteris' The Saint) have already been adapted for film or telly. Ditto my weird Age of Sail period (Crusoe, Hornblower, Aubrey & Maturin, etc.). But the books I read day and and day out right now are either non-fiction (you do not want to know how much I know about life in domestic service between WWI and WWII in the UK, it would scare you), or Chick Lit and YA supernatural romance (due to most of my web design clients writing YA Supernatural Romance, and Urban Fantasy). So those were the first thoughts I had. Tho if we're talking a kid's series along the liens of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" you could never go wrong with Diane Duane's _So You Want To be a Wizard?_ as far as I'm concerned.

And after sleeping on it, tho it would probably not work for the 21st century, I would pay cash money to see a live-action version of Gerry Conway & Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez' "Cinder & Ashe". One of the best DC miniseries of the 1980s that no-one's ever head of (along with "Tailgunner Jo").

As for all the Naomi Novik Alternate History fans, you guys do know it has been optioned by Peter Jackson, y/n?

JoeNotCharles said...

Thirding the Vorkosigan books - somebody REALLY needs to get on that before Peter Dinklage gets too old to play Miles at 18.

Seconding Tigana, except I think The Lions of Al-Rassan would be even better (and more topical!)

And for an original contribution: Planescape: Torment, starring Ron Perlman.

kkisser said...

Yes, Snow Crash would be lovely and awesome but just imagine The Diamond Age, with a post-BSG aesthetic and sensibility. I can almost taste it.

And since I'm reading it right now and it has rocked my world so much, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. The trouble would be casting the main character, since Bod goes from infant to at least age 11 (I still have the last 2 chapters to go). Can you have a mini series where the lead is played by a different child actor every other episode?

Has anyone seen the BBC mini of Gormanghast with Jonathan Rhys Myers as Steerpike? That sort of look and feel could make the Graveyard Book work.

Tara said...

Erm... make that "20 Minutes into the Future". I can spell! I just can't *type* Honest.

(And because now my brain went to the non-fiction place, if I could pick books to get a "Band of Brothers" mini treatment? _This Grim and Savage Game_ about the founding of the OSS, and _Secret Soldiers_ about the US Deception Units during WWII. It's AWESOME stuff, and I'm also fascinated with _The Secret in Building 26_ about the NCR Bombe, but that might not make as cool of an adaptation, because Joe Desch has neither a pet bear, nor an inflatable tank).

Theliel said...

"And for an original contribution: Planescape: Torment, starring Ron Perlman."

Ehhhhh, see, HELLBOy would have made a better mini-series instead of a movie, and planescape would make an awesome movie, or short mini-series.

It is up there with NightWatch (a greyhawk police procedural) as emmenitly filmable, but i don't think as tv series.

Now fallout, that...that could get *GOOD* as a series.

Heronymus said...

Castle is excellent, and Nathan Fillion is great in the part. So of course it's cancelled.

You should have him on Leverage; you've already got Badger, so having a Badger/Mal moment would send us geeks in to near-lethal geek-gasms.

Also, I ran into Aldis Hodge yesterday by Powell's in Portland, but forgot to ask him: you interested in a DnD game up here? If you are, I can run it, and I'm sure there are several players who would be willing to sit in...

Mooney said...

World War Z is custom-made to be adapted into a kick-ass serial cable TV "mini"-series, of the sort that HBO was making huge waves with a few years ago.

I'm still a little annoyed that Plan B is developing it as a feature. Waste of opportunity, IMHO.

Cunningham said...

I'd like to see the PHULE'S COMPANY books by Robert Asprin make their way to the small screen.

Human and alien screw-ups in a future screwed up quasi-military police force legion. Add criminal tendencies and stir = the win.

I'd also like to see someone revive the Dick Francis books ODDS AGAINST and WHIP HAND which back in the 70's had been made in Britain as THE RACING GAME.

Former jockey Sid Halley loses his hand and becomes a private detective who specializes in the arena of horse racing.

and yes, CASTLE is fun. Stana Katic is far better here than she was in THE SPIRIT.

SH said...

"Also, Rucka's Queen and Country"

Queen and Country is basically a reimagining of an utterly brilliant old british tv show called Sandbaggers for a post-cold war world. It's extremely low budget, but the writing is razor sharp. Definitely give it a go if you like Q&C.

Dave T said...

jdcook said...
"Canticle for Leibowitz". But I need 10 hours.

OMG Yes! I love that book. Now that I think about it, I'm wondering if the Babylon 5 episode showing the ranger working as a monk on Earth in the far future was a tip of the hat to Canticle?

That plus it's the only book mentioned that I've even heard of let alone read.

We live for The One, we die for The One.

Stefan Jones said...

Oh . . . to hell with adaptations!

Nine times out of ten, having your favorite book adapted for TV or movies results in an embarrassing, compromised mess. Even if the SyFy channel isn't involved.

I'd like to see good authors teamed with good screenwriters and producers so they can come up with something original, designed especially for TV.

CtRokJ said...

There is one book series that I would to see but by the base of the story it would have to be in movies to be done right. It's called The Belariad series by David Eddings.

Justin Cognito said...

Book to TV: Charles Stross's Laundry series. ITV keeps trying to fill the post-Who slot with something supernatural, and could do worse than this. It's Spooks meets Lovecraft with elements of The Office by way of Kafka.

Tara said...

Stefan: but without adaptations, there'd be no Nick & Nora, Bogie as Phillip Marlowe, or Errol Flynn as Captain Blood, Out of Sight, Die Hard, James Bond, A History of Violence, Hard Core Logo, Wire In The Blood, The Middleman, True Blood, or The Iron Giant.

I'm all for fantastic original teleplays and screenplays. But a world without Die Hard? Would you really want to live there?

Keith R.A. DeCandido said...

Kings is magnificent, particularly whenever the camera's on Ian McShane or Eamonn Walker. Sadly, while those two (and Brian Cox, Susanna Thompson, and the horribly underused and underappreciated Wes Studi) can trip the flowery dialogue off the tongue beautifully, Christopher Egan, Dylan Baker, Sebastian Stan, and Alison Miller often stumble on it like Keanu Reeves failing to wrap his tongue around Shakespeare in Much Ado about Nothing.

But McShane is fucking amazing, and the world will be a poorer place when he once again has a showcase yanked out from under him by morons (first HBO prematurely killing Deadwood, now this).

Zack Snyder proved pretty conclusively that the best way to adapt Watchmen would be as a 12-part miniseries on HBO, since that's what the movie was crying out to be even as it was being sledgehammered into a three-hour film. Just doing issue #8 as a one-hour story with Jackie Earle Haley sitting across a table from, say, Mykelti Williamson as Dr. Malcolm Long would be priceless, with the potential to rival Homicide's seminal "Three Men and Adena" episode.

I'm still waiting for someone to do a proper adaptation of Dumas' The Three Musketeers or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Maybe as a TV show would do it.

I always thought Birds of Prey would make a great TV show. Despite the WB's best efforts to prove me wrong a few years ago, I still believe that.

And the 1980s Power Man & Iron Fist would be a fantastic weekly TV series.

DougBot said...

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge would be a pretty awesome 6-part miniseries. Some of the newsgroup-esque stuff could make for some entertaining act breaks. Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon or Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds also come to mind as good opportunities.

Skyfleur said...

Castle : the pilot annoyed me. to be more precise, Fillion annoyed the hell out of me in it. He reminded me of Captain Hammer on steroids. and it was very irritating but since then it got very good. And I'll let you have the costume designer if i can get my hand on the production designer; damn his daughter's bed is frigging appealing !

Kings : too bad it was developped by the tool and too bad for Ian Mcshane, I really like the show. Chris Egan appears to be a pretty good actor and not just a pretty face.

I'd love to see either the Karen Chance series "Cassandra Palmer", Kim Harrison "Hollows" or Ilona Andrews "Kate Daniels" put on tv. However, after seeing what sci fi managed to do with the Dresden Files or what Alan Ball is doing with Southern Vampires, i'd rather they never get picked for series. Ball has trivialized everything and instead of developing a great universe made it look like a stupid human one with more kinky stuff than charlaine harris ever dreamt of. I think he would have been better off adapting Anita Blake.
And Dresden files was just poor, like 80's tv shows poor.

Sebastian H said...

I'm running away to join the Cult of Done. It is now on the wall in our action team room.

Dave said...

No comment on quite possibly the most hardcore mainstream TV event I've seen in years happening on Terminator last Friday?

The Cuckoo's Egg strikes me as something that would make a relevant mini-series, although I don't know how well it could be translated to TV.

Anonymous Bosch said...


What happened seemed too abrupt and off-hand to 'actually count' for me. I'm expecting the character to reappear later in relation to the 'alternate timeline' discussion earlier in the season.

Season 3 looks unlikely, however.

TheSundayBest said...

And here's another vote for Jonathan Strange.

Gootch said...

I love Kings, and will be sad to see it go. John gets it right... the show's failure is due to horrible marketing. This show should be the successor to BSG and Deadwood... instead, it'll probably end without much resolution and ultimately turn up in DVD bargain bins.

What a waste. The Biblical Book of Kings is one of the great stories of all time, and could easily provide several seasons' worth of compelling storylines. Can't imagine who they'd get to play Bathsheba.

As one of your few conservative readers, I should point out that merely cribbing from the Old Testament (when, as I say, the stories' appeal should be evident even to the non-religious) probably isn't enough to seal the deal for us, but it certainly should've provided at least a hook to rope more of us in than it did. The fact that the marketers missed such an obvious connection confirms, to me, Hollywood's gaping ignorance of all things religious. That more than cancels out, unfortunately, the noble effort made by the show's producers to broaden network tv's horizons.

Finally, Harvey Jerkwater and anyone else who thinks that the scenario portrayed by the show (a ruthless absolute monarch keeping the country in a perpetual state of war) should naturally appeal to conservatives is ignorant indeed. Maybe there's a lunatic fringe out there who thinks we'd all be better off with a totalitarian regime running things, but those fringes are found on both sides of the political spectrum and neither are worth taking seriously. Let's get a grip, yes?

jamesmith3 said...

This is why I'd never get a job in tv. My finger is not on the pulse at all. I like "Kings," though it ain't perfect, but "Life" and "Castle" simply do not work for me. "Ted" is cute; I may watch a couple more.

(An aside: I'm not sure why people think you have to agree with the politics of a show to enjoy watching it. I understand what Rogers is saying about the marketing of "Kings," but I think some others here may be confused about what the show is doing.)

I think most of the comics they're movie-fying these days would work better as cable series. "V for Vendetta" would have been a better tv show, I think. It makes sense people are imagining "Snow Crash" as a show; I believe it was originally conceived as a comic, and still reads like one.

Anonymous said...

Anything by Dennis LeHane. Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River translated to the screen beautifully. There is still a lot of material in LeHane's detective series that would make for powerful TV.

My only complaint with Gone Baby Gone was that Bubba was too believable. Bubba is an engine of comically horrific violence and should be played in an over the top fashion.

Also, I'm still waiting for my Preacher series.

Tara said...

Anonymous Bosch: Really? I thought it was note perfect, and absolutely one of the best eps of that show (or any show), precisely because it was free of the usual tv tropes that surround that sort of thing. He went out with a gun in his hand, faceing down metal, one more casualty of war. That was *perfect*. And putting it in act II? EVEN BETTER. I would deep tongue kiss Josh Friedman the first available opportunity, I love SCC so much.

I keep imaging I live in a perfect dreamworld where Warners moves it to the CW, and the 7 million invisible DVR viewers actually watch it live instead of timeshifted due to the Friday Death Slot (which has taken down everything ever put there since Brisco, and the only reason X-Files emerged unscathed was because they moved it to Sundays) and it runs for 4 years a la BSG. It's literally the best show (except, you know, for 7 million timeshifted viewers. But they won't count) no-one's watching.

(other than The Middleman.)

Matt Bird said...

I surprised no one has adapted the comic book "Noble Causes" for TV. This would make a great TV show! It's "Heroes" meets "Dynasty"!

Lillian said...

I'd love to see Astro City or Top 10 (comics) made into series TV. I second(third?fourth) the idea of Stross's Atrocity Archives series. Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mysteries, set in rural Alaska, would be great for TV. I'd love to see Robert Crais's Elvis Cole novels adapted, but since he writes TV he's said it will never happen. And there was this comic called Global Frequency that I'd love to see....

Anonymous Bosch said...


But don't you think there's too much more to be explored with the character and his relationship with Jessie, (considering her fate was off-screen), to cut it all off so abruptly, unless they're convinced they're not coming back for Season 3, so you can pull a 'Xander Loses His Eye' no-longterm consequences stunt.

As for the other death, during the "Previously on.." montage, I said to my flatmate that they were obviously bringing that character back to kill him off.

I love the show too, but the public has always been too obsessed with doctors!lawyers!cops! for it to survive. Ditto with Middleman. How did that not find an audience?

Jeff's Buddy said...

"If you have an idea and publish it on the Internet, that counts as a ghost of done."

To which I'd add, if you pour most of your nearly infinite amounts of creative energy into something like creating and game mastering the most brilliant goddam fantasy roleplaying campaign for going on 25 years, that counts as almost half of a ghost of done."

Which makes me sad, but, you know, ultimately, when we can't get rewarded for our efforts anywhere else, we go where we'll be appreciated, even if it is only by five fellow geeks on a bi weekly basis.

Julian said...

I love Life, which is, in my opinion, the most stylish show on Television (just think of the whole bit where they serve the warrant on the drug dealer in Badge Bunny). I'm glad other people are enjoying it as much as I am.

Robert said...

Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time".

No, not really. But I bet Ender's Game/Shadow would work really well, much better in that format than a movie.

What I found amazing about Kings is every so often, Ian McShane will start giving a monologue, and I find myself just enraptured.

A couple episodes ago, I was listening, and it felt Shakespearean for some reason, but couldn't put my finger on why.

And then I realized it was because he was speaking in iambic pentameter. Fucking iambic pentameter. In a prime time, major network show.

Of course it will be canceled.

Tara said...

Anonymous Bosch: I think the ratigns for Lost, Medium, The Ghost Whisperer, and Heroes show that it's possible to be a hit without being a procedural. As for The Middleman, I think it's a combo of small cable station, and lack of advertising, combined with the move to a later timeslot. Also, had Secret Life not become a hit, I don't think MM would have suffer as much, without the comparison. My hope is it DVD sales will rock hardcore, and there might be more MM in the future.

Liz said...

"The Postman" by David Brin. What Kevin Costner did does NOT count.

Dave said...

But I bet Ender's Game/Shadow would work really well, much better in that format than a movie.

My personal opinion is that anyone who tries to figure out how to convert Ender's Game into a visual medium gets to the point where the 6 year old protagonist beats his classmate to death, throws their hands up in frustration, and runs screaming from the room as visions of millions of studio notes begin cascading through their psyche.

Tara said...

Dave: that's when you do what the SFC adaptation of "Children of Dune" did, and age 'em up. I figure to at least "Lord of the Flies" age.

I actually dislike "Ender's Shadow" because it does to Bean with "Vampire Lestat" did to Lestat--namely, completely re-writes a character and recontextualises the first novel in a way that makes it less, for me, instead of more.

Cunningham said...

The INHERIT THE STARS books by Hogan.

Inherit the Stars, Gentle Giants of Ganymede and Giant's Star.

Big, fat, honkin' mini series on TV that lasts a whole summer long...then ends.

"An epic trilogy for TV"

and a big, fat DVD set with all sorts of extras and who-jangles and fizzly-whizzlers.

Dave said...

Tara: The thing about aging them up is that it kinda messes with the tone of the piece. The whole single dormitory arrangement gets more complex with every year you add. Or, at what age bracket does there become pressure for, say, Petra to become Ender's girlfriend instead of just his trainer?

Ultimately, the problem with Ender's Game is that, once you excise all the psychology, brutality and children actually being mean to each other that will get a lynch mob at your door, what you have left is Starfleet Academy and a twist worthy of an Outer Limits episode.

Jado said...

Glen Cook's Shadowline would rock as a space opera series. You've got it all - cool science and mining, war, genocidal enemies, brains in jars, the whole enchilada. All because some dumb wildcatter wanted to leave his adopted daughter an inheritance...

Robert N. Emerson said...

Charlie Cruise in Life earns my viewership loyalty for the same reason that the Doctor in Doctor Who does, which, as sappy as it sounds, makes you contemplate how to be a better human since they do not tell you to be some unreachable paragon, but to just understand the choices you make and why.

For me, Life always looks good, is mostly always paced good, and I've yet to see an episode that didn't drag me various directions in emotional content, nor choke me up, a little bit, and I love it for that reason. In many ways, it is why I enjoyed both versions of Life on Mars, British and American, even though the later had my unrequited crush, Gretchen Mol.

Speaking of crushes, Nathan Fillion is the man-crush that is Castle and I've a good hope and feeling that the show will get some solid play for awhile. Heck, it's not on Fox, so I doubt it'll get cut because an exec doesn't wanna think that hard and there ain't enough splodin' stuffs.


Lillian DP said...

I second "His Majesty's Dragon" and "A Canticle for Leibowitz" above, and add in "The Stars My Destination" by Alfred Bester. The Count of Monte Cristo in space? Yes, please.

Matt said...

" ... a bigger gun."

Much love for that scene. Lewis and Arkin play well off each other. Although, hell, thinking about it, Lewis plays well off of everybody on that show. Also, as somebody else alluded to above, much love for the music supervisor. Roughly once an episode I decide I must know what song is playing so I can put it on my to-acquire list.

Re: TVization: Stephenson was the first thing that popped to mind, but it deserves big-screen blockbuster treatment. Also, I don't know if they'll be allowed to do the YT/Raven scene. Stross's Singularity books followed shortly, but I think they might be too hard to follow.

How about Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard novels? A street-urchin-turned-grifter and his accomplices run long cons in a medium-fantasy city. The more I think about it the more I like this idea. There's the con part, which we all know is fun, but there are also some great dark and violent parts, and the Gentlemen Bastards' games intersect with the plans of the power players of the world.

Jason said...

I'm a little late to the party, but:

Caught up on Castle thanks to this post, and I'm re-hooked.

I'm going to have to sit down this summer and watch all of this season of Life (and possible just rewatch Season 1 to get refreshed), but now I'm looking forward to it a lot more.

As for book to series adaptations, mark me down for Doc Savage. Two-fisted science adventures? I'm there.

Anonymous said...

The Trixie Belden Series, because sometimes you just need a good fun family drama.
Sherlock Holmes would be fun, but they would have to be the correct age for it to really work again.
How about Patton's Panthers (Band of Brothers with black guys).
Daddy Long-Legs? Could be fun.
Or another mini-series of the founding fathers or the story of Henry O. Flipper, the fist black graduate of West Point.

Jean-Paul said...

I love a huuuuuge amount of the books discussed above.

One of my favorite books that *might* possibly be able to be adapted:

Death of the Necromancer,
By Martha Wells.

An amazing book, both well plotted and tremendous characters. A Count of Monte Cristo Character is pretending to be a Moriarty, being chased by a Sherlock character, all in Victorian England with Sorcery. And all of that is just *backstory*, not even the main plot.

A set of novels that I do not think could be adapted well:

Master Li Novels (Bridge of Birds, Story of the Stone, Eight Skilled Gentlemen)
By Barry Hughart

Perhaps some of my favorite books of all time, but so much of the magic in these books is in the language that I think it would turn into the NBC "Journey to the West" Miniseries: Not Bad, But Not Monkey.

Sonja said...

The pilot of Castle was cringeworthy in some parts, but the show really has gotten better by now.

As for books that should be made in to TV shows - if plays count (hey, it's in my bookshelf ;-)), my vote goes to make a miniseries out of Joanna Glass' 'Palmer Park'. I saw the play at the Stratford Festival in Canada last year. Being Austrian, I had never heard of the Detroit riots but found the topics in the play really interesting.
The characters are nutshelling the events of weeks, months and sometimes even years for the audience instead of acting them all out and rivaling Hamlet's length, so there's still room for writing out a lot of material.
Plus, providing getting the rights for the music relevant in that time, there'd be one hell of a soundtrack ;-)

Mike Cane said...

I do my pimpage posts for three.

The Unusuals Season 1 Episode 1
Lie To Me Season 1 Episode 9
Castle Season 1 Episode 4

Grrr... waiting for LEVERAGE The Second Season Job!!

Anonymous Bosch said...

RE: Sarah Connor

See? His 'death' didn't even stick 'til the next episode!

Your Obedient Serpent said...

I shared your comment that the "cultural "Right" is the natural target audience for KINGS with my wife -- we're both watching the show and enjoying it thoroughly. Her reaction? "Oh, no. No way. The LAST thing the Right wants to see is something that portrays these Biblical figures as fallible and outright EVIL human beings."

I can't wait to see your review of the LIFE season finale. I think it ends with Charlie getting one of the all-time definitive Crowning Moments of Awesome.

Jack Brabble said...

Nathan Fillion is fantastic, but the giant-headed, eyes-too-far-apart, she-looks-like-an-insect police partner or his is just plainly unwatchable. I can't watch the show because every time she is on-screen, I blurt out to my wife, "My GOD, it's insect head! I can't watch her-- her head is GINORMOUS!" God, my wife loves me to put up with that. :)

Book to be made into Brit-format series:

John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row"
One of my favorite books, ever. I re-read it every couple of years, just when I can come back to it fresh and relive the experience.
The movie is not good. The series could be amazing.

Michael Bernstein said...

How about remakes of TV shows? I'd love to see Nathan Fillion opposite Lauren Graham in a remake of "Scarercrow and Mrs. King.", for example.

OK, that's not really going to happen (and if it did, it would be completely crapped up by the studios), But I think BSG proved that it is possible for eextremely cheesy properties to be given new life and far exceed the original material.

All that said, an interesting book with a (pre)biblical theme to adapt would be "The 22 Letters", about the invention of the alphabet. Could easily be given the kind of treatment HBO gave "Rome".

Several novels from David Brin's 'Uplift' universe ("Startide Rising" & "The Uplift War", especially) could use miniseries treatment.

Warren Hammond's "KOP" would make a pretty awesome SF procedural with the book's main plot a longer term arc. Imagine "The Shield" in a "Slumdog Millionaire"-like setting, with a few chunks of "Firefly" scattered about. If "Ex-KOP" is as good (haven't read it yet), we have season two.

"Sorcery and Cecilia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot" and "The Grand Tour" by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer are two books that would make a truly excellent crossover series between Jane Austen costume dramas and a good mystery series, with a large dash of fantasy. Along the same lines I would also suggest Emma Bull's and Steven Brust's "Freedom and Necessity".

For that matter, I'd love to see Brust's "Jhereg" novels done.

For a straight-up historical mystery mini-series, I'd like to see Barbara Hambly's "Benjamin January" novels adapted.

Eric Lichtenfeld said...

James Michner's "The Source."

(See also John's comment about what might have been done with "Kings.")

Michael Bernstein said...

Hmm. Michener's "The Source' is sort of a biblical/archeological "Roots". Could be good.

How about a Biblical "Pelican Brief" based on Irving Wallace's "The Word"?

Cargosquid said...

+1 to Doc Savage! Didn't know there were still any fans!

Simon R. Green's NightSide novels.
It's always 3am in the Nightside. Detective Noir with angels, demons, and very surreal characters...

REMAKE the Dresden Files. Play it straight. Put it on cable for adults. NO HOCKEY STICKS!

Nora Robert's Eve Dallas series. Use the cop from Castle. Perfect. Oh, and she's not an insect head. She is hot! Beautiful eyes.

John Ringo's Ghost series. Retired Navy SEAL. Personal issues. Nekkid wimmen. Firearms. Nuclear weapons. HIND helicopter combat to the music of Dragonforce.
What's not to like?

Starship Troopers DONE RIGHT!

And the Anita Blake series would BENEFIT from an adaptation. Take out the extraneous sex and melodrama and get it back to what it was in the first few books. Who would you want for Ted Forester?

Honor Harrington series? Heck yeah!

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