Thursday Thoughts – Is it time novel adaptations moved solely to television?

At the beginning of the last week, quite possibly the greatest TV show to grace our screens this year came to a knockout ending. Sharp Objects could very well seize the title of THE show of 2018 following HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s debut novel. The scintillating performances from the show’s three female leads especially, plus Flynn’s usual spot-on writing makes for a whole eight hours where the viewer is barely allowed chance to breathe.

The show was directed by Jean Marc Vallée too, who we know has previous form with these TV novel adaptations following the Emmy success experienced by the last project he worked on before this, which was Big Little Lies.

That’s two major television series lining up consecutively in his filmography. One won pretty much all the Emmys. The other one will surely do the same?

Now, the success of both of these series are phenomenal, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.

What occurred to me whilst watching Sharp Objects was that it is just one show in quite a long line-up of high profile television programmes to have been inspired by a novel. From HBO alone we have this, the also aforementioned Big Little Lies, plus Game Of Thrones that I know of. Across so many other networks there’s also the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale, Mindhunter, House Of Cards, Bosch, War And Peace, Hannibal, plus Lucifer and The Walking Dead (it was good once) if we throw graphic novels into the mix as well.

There’s definitely a trend for taking narratives from page to screens of a smaller kind of late. And personally I can’t fault that. From pretty much everything that I’ve seen up to now, books of any kind translate far better when not confined to a run time of 3 hours or less. That’s not to say books can’t be adapted for the big screen – there have definitely been some fine films harvested from books. It just seems to me that a higher proportion of TV shows are hits compared to the mountains of films that have managed to turn out just average despite having some of the finest page turners ever written. And following shows such as Sharp Objects, I can’t help but think on how much even some of the best film adaptations could’ve been improved if they’d have been made for TV instead.

A prime example of this would be Gone Girl. Another adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel, this film was met with great critical applause back in 2014. I was a big fan of the film, and my viewing of it prompted me to read the book, which further blew me away. The hindsight that shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies have given me suggests that Gone Girl could’ve been even better as a TV series. The detail that the book boasted, but that unfortunately had to be cut from the film for the sake of the run time really would’ve been something else if made as a four or six-part TV show. You got more of a feel of how much of an evil woman Amy really was in the book, and I just know that Rosamund Pike’s performance would only have been even greater is more of this material had’ve been put to use.

Of course, it’s very easy to say this for good adaptations of good stories. If we were to be talking about some of the novels that would struggle to be defined as high art (Fifty Shades does come to mind, thanks to a friend on Twitter). I’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing any of the full versions of either forms in which this franchise was brought to audiences, however from what I’ve heard, none of it was great. Would we really want 6+ hours fo that delightful tale? Most likely not.

So, really, the question is, should we just save the good adaptations for TV? Because let’s face it, the bad books will still get made into something if enough people read them. How about we banish those to the movies where they can be limited to two hours or less, and then allow ourselves to savour the good stuff during a run on TV? They don’t have to be long series – some might only need to be four episodes in some cases. But with those stories where every minute detail adds quality, I think we should be allowed to enjoy it all.

Thursday Thoughts – How much power do TV audiences have?

Fox has been on something of a killing spree of late. After cancelling 5 shows in as little as 2 days, you have to question whether channel bosses will still have anything to run by the time they’re finished.

Amongst the massacred was Brooklyn Nine Nine. The decision to call time on this much-loved cop show was met with shock and outrage from fans (myself included). Cries of disbelief rang out across social media and soon these turned into campaigns to get the show back. In the space of just 36 hours, the show has died, been buried, and then was resurrected by Fox rival, NBC.

This reinstatement of the Nine Nine raises the question of how much power audiences actually possess, especially when it comes to TV shows. With films, it’s all fairly clear cut – if the film makes enough money, you tend to get a sequel, whether you asked for it or not. With TV, it’s not quite the same kettle of fish, however there is obviously a correlation between audience numbers and show survival rates as one of the most common reasons for cancelling a show is low ratings. Quality doesn’t seem to be a real deciding factor here either, which means this selection process is quite unfair. Shows that are actual works of art are take from us far too soon, while others that are tripe at best go on forever purely because there’s a larger audience watching it.

However, it would seem that there is hope for those good shows that come to an untimely end. Resurrections do happen – they have now saved two shows that I hold very close to my heart (one being B99, the other being Ripper Street). And on both occasions, these decisions have been brought about by the actions their audiences have taken, mainly in the form of kicking up one hell of a fuss about some idiot’s momentary (but HUGE) lapse in judgement.

So, TV audiences have power, but exactly how much do they have? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but we definitely have a decent say in what makes the cut and what doesn’t. I don’t have the statistics for the Brooklyn Nine Nine revival handy, but I know that in the case of Ripper Street it took only 12,000 signatures on a petition to get Amazon to take the show on. In the grand scheme of things, 12,000 really isn’t a massive number either when you think about the 3.38million people that watched the show on average.

But here’s the thing – we are very spoilt for choice when it comes to what we watch on TV now. More so than ever before. There’s a lot of things to watch, but the actual audience size hasn’t increased as quickly, which in theory means that each new show and channel added stretches that audience thinner. Suddenly, 12,000 is a significant number of viewers for a channel to lose if it displeases them, and it’s also a significant number of viewers for a newer kid on the block to think about winning over. These two things coming together were ultimately what saved Ripper Street’s ass, and they will create similar dynamics in future that will save other shows. Why? Because in this world where everyone’s attention is being fought for constantly by at least 10 different entities, it’ll be the ones that give audiences what they want that come out on top. We as an audience must remember that we are the most important people to these TV stations, and also streaming platforms too. Without us, they have no purpose and therefore would cease to exist. NBC are giving the people what they want by saving Brooklyn Nine Nine, just as Amazon did when they saved Ripper Street. I do not doubt for a second that they will benefit from their decision, but regardless of however it turns out, they will be known to millions as the people who saved B99, and that kind of testimony packs a punch. And the only people who can provide that testimony are the audience, which is why they wield so much power.

Thursday Thoughts – Are westerns making a comeback?

Now, dear reader chums, you’ve put up with me for over a year now, so I think maybe it’s time I came up with something else for you to sink your teeth into other than my reviews and occasional Top Tens. The idea I had was Film & TV Curiosities, and the general gist is that maybe once a month or so I put to you guys something that has crossed my mind regarding just about anything on the box. Have a read of issue no. 1, which starts with a question that I strongly believe to be worth mulling over, and let us know what you think 🙂
Something occurred to me the other day when the best bitch sent me a link for the teaser trailer of the reboot/remake of The Magnificent Seven which is to be released later on this year. During the past year alone, there have been four westerns released that have all been very well received, and it would seem that there are a handful more planned for release throughout the course of 2016-2017 – not too bad for a genre that was deemed to be down and out a few years back. 

There is no doubt that it is a genre that has dwindled in success and popularity in recent times. IMDB’s Top 100 Most Popular Westerns date back all the way to 1939 – somehow I don’t think that. If we were to do the same search for dramas or thrillers we’d quite achieve a 76 year backlog. This could be down to a multitude of reasons, but the fact cannot be ignored that as the dates pass the millennium, westerns get fewer and farther between.

However, in the last five or six years, the production of westerns have slowly but surely been on the rise, despite films such as The Lone Ranger causing critics to declare that the genre had died a death. In 2010, the Coen brothers released a reboot of True Grit which I hugely enjoyed, and how could anyone possibly forget the way Quentin Tarantino marked twenty years of directing with the smash Django Unchained in 2012. During the previous twelve months there has been Slow West, The Salvation, Bone Tomahawk and, of course, Tarantino’s latest release, The Hateful Eight. It would seem that the critics were wrong, and that a resurgence is taking place.

I’d put this down to two films that I have just mentioned, and as much as I enjoyed it, True Grit isn’t one of them – I love the work of the Coen brothers, but I don’t think their work is as widely recognised as that of Tarantino amongst younger audiences who had a very positive response to the stylised masterpiece that was Django Unchained. It had tremendous performances and was a marvellous bit of fun that reminded us all of just how wonderful a good western can be. Above all though, it was original. Yes, it took inspiration from 1966’s Django, but it breathed new life into what many would dismiss as a tired genre.

The other film for me would be last year’s Slow West. It was director John Maclean’s first film for cinema release and I think it’s fair to say it was a success. Throughout the whole piece there was the constant threat of violence, culminating beautifully in a full-on end sequence, and there was an undertone of very dark, but very funny humour that I think went down well with all who have seen it. The film was Coen-esque and breath-takingly shot – a real treat for whoever takes the time to see it.

So there you have it, and with the handful of westerns billed for release over the next twelve months, it is really just time to answer the question of whether westerns have earned themselves a well-deserves rebirth. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the resurrection of the genre, so tell me, what do you think?