Thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher being super popular there’s a good chance that you’ve seen a television series or two that began life as a book. When film adaptations prove to be unable to capture the full scope of a novel sometimes it falls to TV to step in and show film how it’s done. Here are five TV shows that began life as books.
His Dark Materials (2019 – present, BBC)
After the disaster that was 2007’s The Golden Compass it was only a matter of time before another attempt to adapt the Phillip Pullman series was made. A joint venture between the BBC and HBO, His Dark Materials is the live action version that fans have been waiting for. Spread out over eight hour long episodes, and incorporating elements from later books in the series, the first season of the show proved to be very popular, having been renewed for a second season before it even premiered.
Set in another world where each human has a ‘demon’, an animal familiar that’s a manifestation of the soul, the series follows Lyra (Daphne Keen) as she searches for her missing friend. Along the way she discovers a conspiracy involving the sinister Magisterium, the secrets of her past, and the existence of other worlds.
The series mixes together great acting, some superb writing, and brilliant special effects that bring the demons, and giant armoured bears, to life.
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The 100 (2014 – present, The CW)
Based upon the novel series of the same name by Kass Morgan, the post apocalyptic science-fiction series follows a group of survivors who return to Earth after a devastating nuclear apocalypse.
After nearly a century of living on an orbiting space station called The Ark, a group of 100 delinquent teens are sent down onto the surface of Earth to see if the planet has become habitable again, as well as reducing the increasing population on The Ark. On the surface they find that people have managed to survive the apocalypse, and have broken into warring factions.
Over the course of the seven seasons the survivors of the 100 are drawn into the conflict between these groups in an effort to survive, and those living on The Ark follow them back to the planet and try to establish a new settlement. The seventh and final season is set to air this year, so now’s a great opportunity to catch up before it ends.
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The Strain (2014 – 2017, FX)
Based upon the trilogy of books by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro (yes, that Guillermo del Toro) The Strain follows a small group of inhabitants of New York as a deadly new virus sweeps through the city; one that turns the victims into monstrous vampires.
The series begins with a very down to earth premise as members of the CDC are called in to investigate an airliner that has fallen silent upon landing, with all aboard dead. Very quickly, however, the show begins to reveal that the one responsible is an ancient vampire who wants to spread his contagion and take over the world. Luckily the CDC doctors get joined by a group of capable survivors to try to stop him, including an ageing vampire hunter played by David Bradley.
The Strain embraces its horror roots, and doesn’t shy away from scares or gore. The vampires in the series are monsters, and one of the few in TV that really lean into it. They don’t talk, they act like animals, and they’re vicious. The series has some great production values and a brilliant cast of actors, and at just four seasons long doesn’t make the mistake of overstaying its welcome.
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Bones (2005 – 2017, Fox)
Loosely based upon the life and novels of Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist, Bones became a huge hit police procedural series that went on to last for twelve seasons.
Bones follows Dr Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan (Emily Deschannel), a forensic anthropologist, and FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), as the two of them work together to solve crimes. To help it stand out from other police procedural shows on American television such as CSI and NCIS the show incorporated much more humour than similar series, and is often described as a dark comedy as well.
The series is as much based upon the real life Kathy Reichs as her books, and Reichs has said that the series serves as something of a prequel to her novels. In a funny little twist, just as Reichs writes books about Temperance Brennan in real life, Brennan writes books about a fictional anthropologist in the series, called Kathy Reichs, in a weird little bit of fourth wall breaking.
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Dexter (2006 – 2013, Showtime)
Possibly one of the better known shows on this list, Dexter follows the life of the titular ‘hero’ Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), who spends his days solving crimes as a blood analyst for the Miami Police, but at nights hunts down and kills criminals to state his serial killer urges.
Based upon the book series by Jeff Lindsay, the show followed the books for the first season before breaking away and doing its own thing. Whilst the series became extremely popular, thanks to its unique and dark take on the standard mystery/police procedural, it waned in popularity towards the end, and the final episode is often cited as one of the most polarising, as many fans outright hated it. Sadly, the series also has a somewhat dark legacy after media reports of real life murders supposedly ‘inspired by’ the show.
Despite these issues Dexter is still a popular series, and some of the early seasons really stand out as creative and engaging television.