March 17, 2014

TV FOR THOUGHT | Proliferation Across Media

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and then exploit the crap out of it. Such seems the mantra of entertainment in recent years. From the comic book to blockbuster franchises to the slew of Nicholas Sparks’s schmaltzy film adaptations, cross-medium projects bombard our everyday lives. With that trend, we also tend to hear over and over again how the film does not do the book justice because they failed to capture this or that from the prose. And although most people know that they won’t like the outcome going in, they still go in droves to watch the film adaptations to further immerse themselves with the characters that they came to love while reading. But my beef isn’t really with these book to film projects. My real beef is this rampant proliferation of big films into television shows.

Last month, NBC premiered their second television adaptation, this time of the famed Nick Hornby novel and subsequent film adaptation, About a Boy. When I first heard about the adaptation, I was skeptical as I didn’t feel that the story could be episodic. The evolution of Will Freeman (played by David Walton in the NBC series) from manchild to a decent man and human being, perfectly fits into a three act film; the schtick would start to get old after a few weeks as he messes up with the kid to later redeem himself by the end of the episode. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened in this series. The writers have not added anything to the characters that would make one identify with them anymore or truly care about their ordeals. I mean, the little boy is adorable, but Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal was much more poignant in the 2002 film along with Toni Collette as his depressed mother. Nevertheless, with its The Voice lead-in, it should be able to stay afloat in the ratings to be picked up even though it really shouldn’t.

This trend is not always bad, either. Also on NBC is Hannibal, based on the infamous psychiatrist/serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. This, too, was adapted from the Thomas Harris novel, and later film, Red Dragon. In this case, the main character as a serial killer would easily lend itself to episodic storytelling. And so far this thriller has worked phenomenally with Mads Mikkelsen in the title role. Bates Motel, based on the character Norman Bates from Hitchcock’s Psycho is another great example of an adaptation done right.

Granted, this trend is nothing new. M*A*S*H, Clueless and countless others have been translated for the small screen over the years, but it just seems like we have been hit really hard as of late. Along with About a Boy and Hannibal, the upcoming 2014-2015 season will have us see Fargo, Rosemary’s Baby, The Money Pit, From Dusk til Dawn and a show based on The Transporter films grace our television (or laptop more likely) screens. Can we not come up with original content anymore? I mean some films, despite their popularity and success, need to stay as films to preserve the magic and reputation. By making a television series, the quality of narrative is easily diluted rather than enhancing it, and it’s just not worth it. There are so many original series on television with great writing teams that allows me to still believe; we need more of those. A few adaptations here and there don’t hurt either, but I feel like soon we will only be watching recycled material, quelling the ability of new content to break through and change the game. This broken record needs to be fixed.