TV Pilot Season 2015: Hollywood Adapts! Publishers Rejoice As Original Scripts Take Back Seat To Adaptations


Santa Monica, CA — At last count, 43 of this year’s crop of television pilots are adaptations of popular works, and not just books. Comics, documentaries, song catalogs, telenovelas, video games, magazine articles and digital novels are getting some network love, as well.

Clearly, someone other than me in Hollywood still has the time and the desire to read something other than less-than-nutritious scripts.

Most likely, a showrunner/writer has brought a pet-project to the attention of a studio executive.  Perhaps, an actor with a development deal pulls out a favorite book during pitch meeting.  In reality, though, a producer has probably stumbled upon a good book and sought a writer to adapt that book, which gets the train moving.

A good book has many routes to getting made in Hollywood, however, the last person to actually read it, in its entirety, is the writer adapting it.  Not the studio optioning it or the network buying it.  There’s simply no time to read anything other than the countless writing samples on your desk when you occupy one of those coveted development chairs.

Here’s the rundown of this year’s adaptations which cover the spectrum of distribution outlets:

  • Dr. Del is inspired by Peter Hessler’s New Yorker article, “Dr. Don,”  a doctor who returns to his rural hometown and reluctantly becomes the local healer.  John Sayles adapts this independent (!) production starring John Hawkes.
  • The Catch on ABC is based on Kate Atkinson’s thriller about two con artists about to marry one another.  Hit-mistress Shonda Rhimes produces.  Mireille Enos stars.
  • The Brainy Bunch at ABC is based on a book by Kip & Mona Lisa Handy, which describes in comic detail a set of parents with kids who have genius IQs but absolutely no life skills.
  • Bernie Madoff Proj at ABC is a 4-hour miniseries adaptation “inspired by” ABC News reporter Brian Ross’ book, “The Madoff Chronicles:  Inside the Secret World of Bernie & Ruth.”  Richard Drefuss stars.
  • Recovery Road at ABC Family is based on a YA novel by Blake Nelson that’s set in a teenage rehab facility.
  • Valentina at ABC Family is an adaptation of the Venezualean telenovela, Mi Gorda Bella Valentina (My Sweet Fat Valentina), which is described as “Revenge” meets “Ugly Betty.”  Uber-salesman Aaron Kaplan produces.
  • Sketchy at ABC Family is a drama adaptation of Olivia Samms’ YA novels, The Bea Catcher Chronicles,”  a crime procedural for teens.
  • The Man in the High Castle at Amazon is an adaptation of a 1962 Philip K. Dick novel set in an alternate post-WWII world after the Allied Powers lost.  Ordered to series.  X-Files alumnus Frank Spotnitz scores!  Rufus Sewell stars.  David Semel directs.  Ridley Scott produces.  Top-rated pilot in Amazon voting this year.
  • Bosch at Amazon already has a series order and is based on the Michael Connelly book.  All episodes already available online.
  • The New Yorker Presents has been ordered to series by Amazon and stars Alan Cumming and Bret Gelman in a docu-series based on stories in the magazine.  Former CW chief Dawn Ostroff produces for Conde Nast.
  • Preacher at AMC is an adaptation of the Comic about a preacher in a Texas town who merges with a creature that escapes from Heaven.
  • The Night Manager at AMC is a miniseries based on a novel by John Le Carre about a soldier-turned-weapons dealer.  Stars Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling at The BBC centers on a war veteran-turned-private eye after losing a leg in Afghanistan; based on J.K. Rowling’s book which she wrote as Robert Galbraith.
  • Love, Nina at The BBC is an adaptation by Nick Hornby of Nina Stibbe’s non-fiction culture-class comedic book.  Five episodes have been ordered.
  • War & Peace at The BBC is a 6-part miniseries adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel you didn’t read in high school.  Produced by The Weinstein Co., production stars Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent, Paul Dano, and Lily James.
  • Zoo at CBS is an adaptation of James Patterson’s global thriller about a wave of violent animal attacks.  Thanks a lot, Sharknado!



  • Code Black at CBS is based on Ryan McGarry’s documentary that dramatizes life in an Emergency Room.  (Wasn’t there a series that lasted 10 years+ called E.R.?  John Wells can’t be too happy.  Or Warner Bros. Television).
  • For Justice at CBS is based on James Patterson’s novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, and centers on a female FBI agent working in the Dept. of Civil Rights.  Sounds like CBS’ answer to the question:  “Where’s our Scandal?”
  • Quarry at Cinemax (yes, Cinemax, dammit!) has an 8-episode order and is based on Max Allen Collins’ novels about a marine who returns to Memphis from Vietnam in 1972.
  • Outcast at Cinemax is based on Robert Kirkman’s comic about a young man who sets out to discover why he’s been possessed by demons since he was a child.  Ten episodes have been ordered.  Patrick Fugit stars.  Adam Wingard directs.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney Channel is an animated version of the super-hit feature from Marvel, which in turn was adapted from the Comic.  Now, that’s Trans Media, folks.
  • Red Moon at Fox is an adaptation of Benjamin Percy’s novel with Akiva Goldsman on board as an EP.


  • Lucifer at Fox is an adaptation of the DC Comic about the Arch Angel relocating from the Underworld to LA to help the LAPD punish criminals.  (#groan)  Len Wiseman directs and Jerry Bruckheimer produces, so it’s got a shot.
  • Fantasy Life at Fox is based on ESPN’s Matthew Berry’s memoir about hosting a fantasy football league series (now set at Fox Sports, natch).  Kevin Connolly, Vanessa Williams and Utkarsh Ambudkar star in this multi-cam comedy.
  • Lewis and Clark at HBO is a 6-hour miniseries adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s novel, Undaunted Courage, and has unknowns like Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, and Brad Pitt attached as EPs.
  • Hyena at HBO is inspired by Sirius radio hip-hop radio host Jude Angelini’s book of the same name.
  • The Casual Vacancy at HBO is a 2-parter miniseries based on J.K. Rowling’s novel.
  • 11/22/63 at Hulu is a 9-hour miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about an English teacher who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK.  James Franco stars.  JJ Abrams produces during his day off from Star Wars.
  • Beowulf at ITV has a 13-episode order and tells the story of a wandering warrior who must hunt a terrifying monster, and is of course, based on the “poem” by an unknown Anglo-Saxon author which must have thrilled those business affairs attorneys at ITV once they learned they didn’t have to pay off an author to adapt his story.


  • The Frankenstein Chronicles at ITV is described as a “re-imagining” of Mary Shelley’s story that is now a 6-part period crime drama that blends the investigation and horror genres.  Sean Bean stars.
  • Jules Maigret Mysteries at ITV are two feature-length adaptations of  Georges Simenon’s novels featuring the iconic French detective in 1950s Paris.  Rowan Atkinson stars.
  • Clan of the Cave Bear at Lifetime is an adapation of Jean M. Auel’s series of books about pre-history with Neanderthals.
  • Shannara at MTV is, of course, an adaptation of Terry Brooks’ wildly popular series following a family that taps into ancient magic.  Manu Bennett, the villainous Orc in The Hobbit trilogy, stars alongside genre favorite John Rhys-Davis.
  • Imitation at NBC is an adaptation of an Amazon digital novel (!) about clones and the privileged elite who use them.  That little-known producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is at the helm.
  • The Songs of Dolly Parton at NBC.  Wince at first, if you will, but this idea is as solid as they come.  Dolly Parton is a master songwriter, and her songs are about women overcoming dire circumstances which will translate into solid movies-of-the-week if executed properly.   Kudos to Bob Greenblatt for thinking outside of the proverbial box.
  • Heart Matters at NBC tells the true-life story of a successful female heart transplant surgeon and has Amy Brenneman attached to star and produce this adaptation of Kathy M. Magiolto’s memoir.
  • The Legend of Zelda at Netflix is a live-action version of Nintendo’s videogame franchise that’s described as a tamer Game of Thrones and centers on elfin Link’s quest to save Princess Zelda.
  • Queen Sugar at OWN is an adaptation of Natalie Brazile’s novel that chronicles the journey of an LA woman who returns to rural Louisiana to claim an 800-acre farm she inherits.  Oprah and Selma director Ava DuVernay executive produce.
  • You at Showtime is a psychological thriller based on You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes which centers on 20something Love in the digital age.
  • The Magicians at Syfy is an adaptation of Lev Grossman’s trilogy that they better not mess up because I really like these books which are a much sexier, edgier take on YA magicians akin to the Harry Potter nutters.  Kudos to SyFy for nabbing this property, but too bad for fans that it’s not getting a feature film treatment instead which it absolutely should.
  • Childhood’s End at Syfy is a 6-hour miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s tome that follows the peaceful invasion of Earth.
  • Hunters at SyFy is an adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s novel Alien Hunter and is produced by Gale Anne Hurd.
  • Five Ghosts at SyFy is an adaptation of the pulpy adventure story by Frank Barbiere & Chris Mooneyham.
  • Queen of the South at USA is an adaptation of sister-network Telemundo’s popular telenovela about a woman on the run from a Mexican drug cartel.
  • Dreadstar from UCP & Benderspink is an adaptation of the super hero comic about the sole survivor of the entire Milky Way galaxy.  No network yet.
  • Night Mary from UCP & Benderspink is an adaptation of the horror comic.

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About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
This entry was posted in 2015 Pilot Season Trends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to TV Pilot Season 2015: Hollywood Adapts! Publishers Rejoice As Original Scripts Take Back Seat To Adaptations

  1. Paula La Rue Varney says:

    LOVE IT!!!


  2. cindy says:

    Love it looking forward to more !


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