If you’re anything like me, you love stories, regardless of the medium. Books are great, TV is great, movies are great, so long as the plot is something you can get behind. But what’s better than just watching TV? How about a show based on a book that you already know and love? There are few pleasures greater to a bibliophile than seeing your favorite characters come alive, especially when it’s done well.
(And before you get all up in arms about how adaptions never live up to the original, I already know that argument, and with very few exceptions, I totally agree. The book is always better.)
If it helps at all, think of adaptions this way: They’re just really, really well-funded fan-fiction. So here’s some of the best fanfiction on TV right now:
The Paradise – PBS
Based on The Emilie Zola novel, Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise), This PBS adaption follows Denise Lovett, an intelligent shopgirl with more than counter sales on her mind. It’s richly dressed, with all the trappings of period pieces that lovers of Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge should and will naturally flock to. In fact, if you’ve ever seen Mr. Selfridge (also on PBS) you’ll notice that the plot is very similar, and I was a little apprehensive that the shows would be too alike for my taste. The reality is, The Paradise is far superior, and has absolutely none of Jeremy Piven’s wooden acting. Total plus. Let’s just say my roommates know not to engage me in any conversation while this show is on, for fear of lash-outs.
The Zola novel is actually one in a series of 20 books, so writers of The Paradise have a lot of material to work with. Season Two will start just after our main characters (spoiler alert) have proclaimed their love for one another. It’s actually a bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation, and I can’t wait to see what ruin and mishaps will befall the lovers next season.
And if you like the precedent that the show sets, you can pick up the first in the series, La Fortune des Rougon, (or, The Fortune of the Rougons) Season two of The Paradise starts October 6th, so catch up on Season 1 this summer on PBS.
Elementary – CBS
You didn’t think we were going to let Sherlock slip by, did you? Everyone loves the BBC adaption, but I’m standing up to say a few good words for this primetimer. Sure, Watson’s a Joan instead of a John; Moriarty is a Jamie, not a James; and it’s set in New York City instead of London… But if you’re a big enough fan of Sherlock Holmes, you surely have read some fanfic that sullies the good name of 221B far worse.
And in CBS’ defense, it’s actually pretty good: Miller makes an excellent modern-day Sherlock. A recovering drug addict and former expert for Scotland Yard moves to NYC, and starts helping out the NYPD with their most puzzling cases. His best friend and his worst enemy are gender-bent, not to mention there’s a sexual past between Moriarty and Holmes. That’s a legitimately solid basis for good fanfic if I ever heard one.
Sure, it doesn’t have the flair and intelligence of the BBC adaption, but it’s sure as heck got more episodes. Like, 40 more. (I’m so sorry… that was a low blow.)
Check out Elementary every Thursday at 10/9c. Even if you can’t get past the fact that it’s not the BBC version, it’ll still alleviate some symptoms of Cumberbatch-Freeman Removal Syndrome.
Call The Midwife – BBC/PBS
One of these is not like the other… I know. Call the Midwife isn’t exactly an adaption, but it is based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a young midwife in London’s East End during the 50s and 60s. The show is as often funny and endearing as it is heartbreaking. It’s hard not to see the comedy of four 20-something women living with a bunch of nuns, even if it is set in the 50s. But East London after the war looked more like Baghdad than the famous capital city, and bringing fragile new life into that environment is often fraught with danger.
It’s worth binge watching as much of this show as you can in order to catch up. Set aside a weekend to watch season one and two, because season three just started, and the swingin’ 60s are going to jumpstart a lot of changes inside Nonnatus House. Watch it in the states on PBS, Sundays at 8, or online here.
The Autobiography of Jane Eyre – YouTube
The massively successful Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube spawned a whole lot of awesome fanfics and projects, but the clear winners are a group of students from Canada who took the show’s transmedia platform and adapted it for their own story: The Autobiography of Jane Eyre.
Told through the video lens of Jane, a college student who’s tutoring E.D. Rochester’s daughter Adele, AOJE (as i’ts growing pool of fans call it) is a strong successor to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries… one might say even more so than Emma Approved, which is the second project from the same team as LBD. I like the idea of fans taking a show and it’s lessons and then making it entirely their own. It’s basically a fanfic of a fanfics and it’s massively amazing if only for the sheer ambition it takes to start your own show. Put simply: Dear reader, it’s fabulous. Go watch it.
Best of all, you can check out the entire series thus far on Youtube, for free. New episodes are uploaded every Wednesday and Saturday.
What are some of your favorite adaptions? Join the conversation and comment below!
– Admin R is watching a lot of nerdy TV