Santa Monica, CA — Oh, we never take the book, a high-profile literary agent told me recently in a meeting about shopping best-selling books and their prospective TV adaptations.
This year, Hulu hit a creative home run (and marketing tool for Social Protest) with its buzzyworthy adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Starz also clobbered it with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s breathtaking re-working of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
Television is where great books go to thrive.
HBO scored record ratings for its season premiere of its little-known and under-the-radar adaptation, Game of Thrones, however, the Emmys gave lots of Love to the pay cabler’s supposed limited series, Big Little Lies which is based on Liane Moriarty’s novel.
S2 of Big Little Lies starts production in 2018 even though a second book does not exist. That’s how well-received the limited series, starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, was. Who needs a second book? David. E. Kelley has written all seven episodes. Here’s a great Interview & Podcast with Reese Witherspoon from The Hollywood Reporter, wherein, the actor/producer details the script-to-screen process. More carpool!
Praise Be! Hollywood Producers, Development Executives and Agents are reading books, graphic novels and listening to podcasts in search of that fantastic Intellectual Property (IP) that can be adapted for Television.
AMC just ordered Dietland to series. Starz has given the go-ahead to Rook from Stephanie Meyer. Amazon has ordered two seasons of Homecoming with Julia Roberts.
Personal Anecdote Alert: When I was VP, Development for SyFy, the cabler was interested in a sequel to its original miniseries Dune based on Frank Herbert’s first novel. I recall being in New York and buying the next two books in the prolific series and reading them very quickly, proclaiming them extremely worthy of a miniseries.
SyFy pushed the button based on my recommendation and a script was ordered. Important Note: No one above me in SyFy’s executive ranks bothered to read the books. Try explaining the plot of Dune to a room full of business affairs executives! There’s this Planet…Spice…Giant Worms…Witches…Blue Eyes…House Atreides…
I offer this story to illustrate a point: The folks at Paramount probably did not read all 11 Vampire Lestat novels by Anne Rice when it made that big option earlier this year. That’s not everyone’s job. But, someone at Anonymous Content probably did, and that person is lucky because her books are wonderful.
Lots to read and to listen to while we wait for author George R. R. Martin to finally publish the next book in his Song of Ice and Fire series for GOT, entitled, The Winds of Winter.
Meanwhile, Anne Rice and Anonymous Content via Paramount are working on The Vampire Chronicles with no broadcaster announced yet. Showtime and BBC One would make a good fit, I think.
Rice, who is very active on Social Media, has been binge-watching Penny Dreadful, John Logan’s brilliant re-telling of horror classics that include Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride, and Dorian Grey. Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley are not credited, however, with having their work adapted. Such is Television and properties that exist in the public domain.
Hope the execs at Showtime follow Rice on Facebook. There is a synergistic fit here as Paramount, the studio producing The Vampire Chronicles, is a sister company within the Viacom empire.
Meanwhile, here’s a list of IP currently in either Development or Production. This list is by no means a comprehensive one of everything out there, just what has caught my attention, so let me know if I have not included your favorite:
- Welcome to Night Vale at FX. A fictitious radio show covering the supernatural news in the Southwest USA. The popular podcast gets adapted by Sony TV.
- Wolverine: The Podcast via Stitcher. Now, this is interesting. Marvel Studios is launching a 10-episode podcast murder mystery with Logan as the primary suspect based on The Long Night storyline. Richard Armitage voices Logan.
- Les Miserables at BBC. Victor Hugo’s novel about Jean Valjean, a man sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, gets adapted (again).
- Catch-22 at Paramount Network (formerly Spike). George Clooney to star and to direct a 6-episode adaptation of Joseph Heller’s book.
- Crimetown at FX. Another Podcast gets adapted. This one is from the creators of The Jinx. Organized crime and city corruption in Rhode Island take center stage.
- Inside The Church of Chili’s at NBC. Inspired by an article in GQ Magazine, this ensemble comedy centers on Super Trainers who travel across the country opening new franchises of a successful restaurant chain. Conde Nast partners with Sony TV.
- The Lord of the Rings at Amazon. Warner Bros. TV is producing a prequel series adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic set in Middle Earth. Rotten Tomatoes Predicts Possible Storylines for LOTR Series This high price-tag fantasy adventure has a multiple-season commitment. To Gondor!
- I Know This Much Is True at HBO. Mark Ruffalo stars in and EPs this 8-hour miniseries adaptation of the Wally Lamb best-selling novel, playing dual roles (Loved It!). Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) writes and directs. High hopes for this one.
- Nancy Drew at NBC. The teenage sleuth and her best friend get an update (again) after CBS passed on a previous incarnation. Ah, The Secret Is In The Clock!
- The Name of the Rose at TBD. John Turturro and Rupert Everett topline this 8-hour miniseries adaptation of the Umberto Eco best-selling novel.
- Eligible at ABC. Modern version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice finds prodigal daughter Liz Bennett returning home to a crazy household that includes her four younger sisters. Jennifer Levin & Sherry Cooper-Landsman script. I. Marlene King exec produces.
- Happy at Showtime. Chris Meloni (L&O: SVU) stars in this adaptation of Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s graphic novel about a corrupt ex-cop turned hitman who has an imaginary blue-winged horse for a friend. Sounds wild.
- Fahrenheit 451 at HBO. Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction thriller gets remade with Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordon, and Martin Donovan starring.
- The Blinds at TBD. Neil Sternberg’s novel was just published August 1st and was scooped up by Sony TV three weeks later. Story centers on a Texas town, wherein, all the residents or either former criminals or victims of crimes. The Twist is everyone has had their memories erased and has a new chance to begin again. A Thriller.
- The Haunting of Hill House at Netflix. Timothy Hutton is to star for Paramount TV and Amblin in this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel. Ten episodes have been ordered straight to series. Mike Flanagan directs.
- Black Samurai at STARZ. An update of Marc Olden’s novels and a 1977 film courtesy of Jerry Bruckheimer, this is an action-drama about an American soldier who trains with a Samurai master. Common stars and also EPs.
- A Discovery of Witches at SKY. Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer topline this adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. US Broadcast partner is TBD. It was only a matter of time before Witches got hot again! Oxford locations! I’m in.
- Things You Should Already Know at CBS. Millennial dating ensemble comedy based on Ben Schwartz and Laura Moses’ book about disposable romance. Sounds a lot like Friends 2017. Will Ferrell exec produces through his Gary Sanchez production company.
- The Valiant at The CW. Female Celtic gladiator story based on novel by Lesley Livingston. Sounds like young Xena to me.
- Good Omens at Amazon. Limited series produced by BBC Studios based on the book by Neil Gaiman & Sir Terry Pratchett about the Earth’s final days. Hour-long comedy.
- The Changling at Annapurna. No buyer yet for a TV version of Victor LaValle’s novel about a newborn and his parents.
- Ascendant at Starz. Veronica Roth’s last entry in the popular YA Divergent series gets a TV adaptation following a lukewarm last feature film. Smart move.
- Dietland at AMC. Marti Noxon’s adaptation of Sarai Walker’s novel has been ordered to series. Juliana Margulies set to star.
- The Vampire Chronicles at TBD. Christopher Rice writes and EPs this series which seems destined for premium cable. Stay tuned. The Rices post the latest developments on this Vampire Chronicles Facebook Page
- The Rook at Starz. Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) sold this project to the BBC last year, and now Lionsgate is on board to produce for Starz. Turnaround!
- Homecoming at Amazon. Julia Roberts stars in this political thriller based on a podcast about government conspiracy. Two seasons ordered! Anonymous Content and Universal Cable produce. Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) scripts.
- Today Will Be Different at HBO. More Julia Roberts! JR is attached to star in this miniseries version of Maria Semple’s novel.
- The Nix at HBO. Nathan Hill’s fun novel gets Meryl Streep as its matriarchal lead.
- Watchmen at HBO. The graphic novel, not the film. Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) picks up where Zack Snyder left off…well, not exactly.
- Little Women at PBS/Masterpiece. Angela Lansbury is the latest actor to portray Aunt March, so what’s not to like! Looks like a 3-parter. Oh, Beth.
- The Passage at Fox. Justin Cronin’s very dark alternate future where a vampiric plague has drastically changed the United States still haunts me.
- The Underground Railroad at Amazon. Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) adapts Colson Whitehead’s novel as a limited series.
- The Alienist at TNT. Luke Evans stars in this adaptation of Caleb Carr’s novel. Now shooting in Budapest.
- Tales of the City at Netflix. Unclear if this latest adaptation is based on Armisted Maupin’s columns and books or the successful Showtime re-boot of the PBS Masterpiece original adaptation. Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are set to return to Barbary Lane in San Francisco.
- The Witcher at Netflix. A group of young people hunt demons in this series based on Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski’s books. Sean Daniel (The Mummy) produces. Buffy 2.0 anyone?
- Rise at NBC. Josh Radnor stars as an inspirational high school drama teacher in this network adaptation of Michael Sokolove’s story. Great auspices: Hamilton!
- Patrick Melrose at Showtime. Benedict Cumberbatch. Enough said. However, if you need more, there’s Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Blythe Danner starring in this 5-parter based on Edward St. Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels.
- Jack Ryan at Amazon. Tom Clancy’s most famous hero returns, and John Krazinski plays him in what is sure to be a spy thriller. Watch out, The Americans and Berlin Station, you have competition.
- Wild Cards at USA. Another lesser known novel by George R. R. Martin gets set up.
- NightFlyers at SyFy. George R. R. Martin could sell his grocery list at this point.
- Agatha Christie Mysteries at BBC One and Amazon. Ordeal By Innocence is the latest of these evergreen properties that are getting re-made following recent updates to And Then There Were None (which Lifetime broadcast) and Witness for the Prosecution (Acorn).
Not all adaptations work (i.e., Girl Boss on Netflix lasted just one season while Midnight, Texas on NBC looks like a dud), so why do the networks and streaming services still aggressively pursue IP?
The answer is that it is easier to commit financially to a well-known property with a built-in audience to which a studio and network can market their new show. The Vampire Chronicles doesn’t even have a network attached yet, but the fans of Rice’s books are waiting with baited breath (and bared fang).
HBO is actively developing multiple prequels to Game of Thrones even though those books have not been written. The audience is that into Westeros and the World of Winterfell and direwolves and sand snakes. It’s the GOT Universe that sells.
Outlander on Starz is such a creative success and its international fan base is incredibly active promoting it on Social Media. So much so that tourism for locations depicted in the series (both real and imagined) is booming in Scotland. S3 premieres in September, and S4 has already been ordered.
Sherlock has been made, re-made, re-imagined so so many times. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is probably shouting from his grave If only I had maintained Intellectual Property Rights in perpetuity!
You can bet J.K. Rowling sure has. Tolkien did. So did Christie.
Lastly, here’s an author who so deserves some attention from Hollywood: Octavia Butler. Look her up. So good.
(Post Script Note: Ava Duvernay just optioned Butler’s novel, Dawn, however, there is no buyer attached yet. Based on her Queen Sugar series, I expect OWN to be the broadcaster.)
N E X T U P:
My 53,000-mile Tune Up. An Unaffordable Care Act.