They say the book is always better than the movie, and we really can’t dispute that. The written word can achieve so much more in the pages of a novel, than can be done in a mere few hours on the big screen; but what about a television series? With multiple episodes and sometimes several seasons, many book-to-TV shows are actually quite impressive. A television series can portray emotions and characters at a deep level, similar to that achieved in a novel. As time is on their side, TV shows can build suspense, pull plot twists on the audience, create cliff-hangers like no other and generally awe us with the characters they bring to life. While the book still might always be better (at least a little) than their movie or television counterparts, we bring you eight television shows that honour their original form well, and that you might not have known were books first.
Sex and the City
This six-season HBO-hit about four best friends living in New York City was primarily a collection of essays written by Candace Bushnell. As a young freelance writer in New York City, Bushnell herself, began writing for the New York Observer in 1993. Her column, which dealt with the dating and relationship experiences of her and her friends, was entitled Sex and the City. Four years later, her New York Observer columns were turned into an anthology with the same name, and soon after, it would become the backbone to one of the most successful TV shows ever. Much like Bushnell’s own life, the hit television series is centered on Carrie Bradshaw (whose initials are the same as Candace Bushnell’s), a fashion-loving, relationship-writing New Yorker and her three friends. The group deals with the ups and downs of their career, love, sex, family, friendship and of course, fashion. The series ran for six seasons, between 1998 and 2004 with a huge female following. Since the television show has been wrapped up, two subsequent movies were made in 2008 and 2010 wrapping up the characters lives; now, there’s even rumors that a third Sex and the City movie might just happen. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
It’s author, Jeff Lindsay who we have to thank for Dexter, as he wrote the 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the basis of the hit Showtime series. While the television show swayed from the novel’s plot line the deeper it got, its first season was very true to the book. Of course all seasons remained focused on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. The dark, psychological thriller is filled with suspense, horror and murder, just like the novel. While the show has since ended, its eight seasons ran for seven years, ending in 2013. But for those who are missing a little Dexter in their lives, the book version is always available.
Friday Night Lights
This NBC television show about a high school football in a small Texas town took its inspiration from the 1990 novel Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. The non-fictional novel is centered around the Permian High School Panthers and their 1988 run towards the Texas state championship. More than anything, though, the novel depicted the life, people and culture of a football town. The book’s success was paramount as Friday Night Lights was made into a 2004 movie with the same name, starring Billy Bob Thorton and went on to win a Best Sports Movie ESPY. It was in October 2006 that Friday Night Lights first aired on NBC, with the novel and movie serving as its main inspiration. Though the television series did not follow the novel’s exact events or characters, the TV adaptation had passionate fans, but never garnered a huge audience. The show wrapped up its fifth and final season back in 2011.
Gossip Girl was first brought to life on paper by Cecily con Ziegesar, the American author who wrote the highly popular teen-drama series of novels. The 13-book series (eight were written by Ziegesar while the remaining five were written by a ghost writer) made it to the top of the New York Times best-seller list in 2002 and became adapted for television in 2007. The series enabled stars such as, Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley and Chace Crawford to depict the wealth and drama surrounding a group of upper-class teens living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The book series was a hit and it’s no wonder the television series was, too. Running on The CW for six seasons, its popularity was paramount with teens that couldn’t get enough of the gossip-induced drama surrounding these fictional, rich New York kids.
This 2008 HBO series starring Anna Paquin started airing the same year as Twilight, when vampire-everything was beginning to boom. Although, the Twilight books and films didn’t inspire the super successful television show; instead, this drama series is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by author Charlaine Harris. The novels depict a world where humans, vampires and other supernatural beings co-exist in a small Louisiana town. The story is narrated by the series’ main character, Sooki Stackhouse, who is played by Anna Paquin in the televised reworking. There are 13 books in the novel series, published once a year since 2001, which served as the backbone and inspiration to True Blood. The series will be finalizing its seventh and last season in June 2014. The drama has already won a Golden Globe and an Emmy, proving it may be just as good, if not better, than the book.
The Vampire Diaries
With the huge success of vampire fiction, it is no wonder True Blood needed a competitor. In 2009, The Vampire Diaries aired on The CW. Its main plot line? A fictional small town haunted by the supernatural, with a dash of young love and drama. The television show’s main stars are Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley to name a few; but these actors are portraying characters that were first made to life in novels. The Vampire Diaries was first a novel written by author L.J. Smith and the series spans 13 books whose characters and plots are all depicted on the small screen. While the television show first received mixed reviews, it’s proven to be one of the most popular vampire-teen-drama shows out there, with its first season averaging 3.6 million viewers. It is still the most watched series on The CW and was picked up for its sixth season earlier this year.
The Walking Dead
While The Walking Dead wasn’t a typical novel before it hit the small screen, it was a comic book, which shares the same name as the now popular television series. First published in 2003, the graphic novel is created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Issues of this comic have now become collector’s pieces, with original, first-edition copies of earlier volumes worth several hundred dollars. Seven years after the release of this zombie-laden comic, AMC picked it up for a television series. The season four finale brought in a whopping 15 million viewers. But the best thing about The Walking Dead, besides the zombies, of course, is that the story-line of the television version and the comic books differ just enough so that both can be enjoyed. Sure, reading the comic book will spoil the television show and vice-versa, but there is enough difference between the two to make tuning in every Sunday and picking up the latest edition of the graphic novel totally worth it. Season five is set to air in October 2014 with 16 zombie-filled episodes.
Game of Thrones
The 1996 book A Game of Thrones, the first installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series written by George R.R. Martin, is probably one of the most successful book-to-small-screen renditions ever, with the HBO show having a cult-like following. The mystical, magical setting of the book has captured many audiences watching at home, as the third season brought in 14.2 million viewers. Currently in its fourth season, the book-turned-television-show has already been renewed by HBO for a fifth and sixth, so Game of Thrones fans can sit back and relax while they watch the drama unfold. Or if they can’t wait to find out what plot twist is going to happen next, they can always take to the books.