Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Books Into TV and Fall TV

My brain really must be on tape delay because I'm still coming up with examples of books turned into TV shows. There was Spenser for Hire in the 80s. I think I started reading those books because of the series, and I must admit that I liked the series better than the books. I think it was because the actress who played the main love interest left, so they promoted a minor character from the books into a main love interest, and I liked that actress/character and relationship far more than I liked the way it went in the books. Plus, there's no way that anything in print can be nearly as awesome as Avery Brooks.

Then there was The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which might be my favorite book-into-series adaptation so far (yes, I managed to forget my favorite). It really captured the feel of the characters, while adding visuals and sound enhanced the portrayal of the setting. Like with True Blood, the first (I hope -- it would be nice to get more) season was more or less based on the first book, with some expansion, though they got individual episodes out of vignettes in the book. It was a series that managed to make reading the book more enjoyable.

Currently, there's Haven on the Sci Fi Channel, which is based on a Stephen King short story, though apparently it's very, very loosely based, with the short story providing the basis for the mystery at the core of the ongoing plot arc but with the setting, characters and other situations all new (though they're apparently using some bits and pieces from other King works for the episode plots). This series has really grown on me over the summer. I initially had no interest and didn't watch the first two episodes, then watched the pilot OnDemand one night when I got bored. And then I was intrigued. I immediately watched the second episode and was hooked to the point I hated that I had to wait for the next one. Now I find myself looking forward to each new episode.

It's not so much the plots that get me as it is the characters and their relationships. Namely, that we have the rare occurrence of a set of police partners that doesn't bicker. Normally in cop-type shows, it seems to be a rule that the partners have to be Total Opposites in some key way -- college-educated vs. street smart, rookie vs. veteran, sophisticated vs. crude, skeptic vs. believer, local vs. outsider, family man vs. playboy, loose cannon vs. straight arrow, etc. -- and then they have to bicker constantly, with every argument centering around that one key area of difference. If the partners are of the opposite sex, the bickering usually also is meant to indicate sexual tension. But the partners in this show actually get along pretty well. There was some initial wariness, but the relationship gradually developed to the point that they're now pretty much best friends (maybe even only friends, since these two are pretty socially awkward). They do disagree at times, but the disagreements are specific to the situations and the particular evidence in the case, not based on their pre-conceived roles that make them have the same argument over and over again. They're starting to introduce some elements that create a sense of sexual tension, but that's based on something that might be considered a commonality rather than a conflict, and it's actually related to the main plot. There's no constant sniping or criticism, and that's so refreshing. I'm getting bored with the "we act like we hate each other, but we have each other's backs when things get tough" trope. It's nice to see people who act like they like each other and who have each other's backs when it comes to the paperwork, in addition to the tough times.

I also like that the main character kind of reminds me of my Katie. It seems like her "power" in all the weirdness is an immunity to the weirdness. She's very down-to-earth and has a lot of common sense. She deals with all the strangeness not because she's a "believer" like Mulder from The X-Files but because, duh, it's right there. What else are you gonna do? Denying it doesn't help anyone. Katie isn't a blonde, but other than that, this actress might even make a good Katie because she's got the right body type, voice and line delivery with that dry, snarky sense of humor.

However, other shows seem to be failing on the bickering front. I'll have to see how the new Hawaii 5-0 shakes out, but right now, it seems to be Total Opposites of the Local vs. Outsider variety (with maybe a side order of Family Man vs. Loner) who bicker constantly. Then they added unnecessary bickering (with what looks like it will be bonus sexual tension) to NCIS: Los Angeles. I liked the dynamic of the team and the fact that although they did sometimes disagree, they all pretty much got along, and it was bantering, not bickering. Now they've added a new, "edgy" (gag) character, they've thrown him into working with the girl in a way that turns her into "the girl" rather than just another agent who happens to be female, and they bicker constantly around what looks like it will be the federal agent vs. local cop axis, which isn't even that interesting a point of difference, and I get the feeling that this is supposed to indicate sexual tension. For Simpsons fans, this new character has "Poochie" written all over him, and this show is too new to add a Poochie. Meanwhile, his addition seems to have come at the expense of the adorkable, freakishly tall psychologist, who was the character I seemed to relate to most. Remove my personal viewpoint character and add someone who actively annoys me, and you lose me as a viewer. (It does sound like the writers are trying to gauge audience response, so I wonder if I should add more Google bait to this post to make sure any searches pick it up. Because they've totally ruined the character dynamic of the series.)

Meanwhile, my local PBS station is starting to run the first season of the British Life on Mars tonight. I saw the second season on BBCAmerica OnDemand, so now I can go slightly further back in time and catch up.

No comments: