Be prepared to hear a great deal about a particular TV show in the coming days. Conversations With Friends, an adaptation of Sally Rooney’s debut novel, is likely to do quite a bit of business when it hits Irish screens next week, and with good reason.
Thanks to Rooney-mania, the series has a built-in audience curious to see how the Irish writer’s erudite book translates to the big screen. Or rather, whether the TV adaptation will have the same panache as director Lenny Abrahamson’s previous series, based on Rooney’s second book, normal people.
The rise of must-read TV is a no-brainer. Many book titles already have a proven readership.
Film review site Rotten Tomatoes listed over 125 literary adaptations in development last year. According to Publishers’ Marketplace, the number of TV adaptations is approaching the number of original TV series.
And in the golden age of streaming, a multi-part series can do serious justice to a nuanced plot or complex characters. In some of the best cases, the themes and issues addressed in the novel can be properly expanded with a decent series. Here are some of the better page to screen projects.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale (written by Margaret Atwood)
Showrunner Bruce Miller created a visceral, visually powerful version of Canadian writer Atwood’s disturbing dystopian universe. Elisabeth Moss was wild and luminous as the main protagonist of the novel June, while Ann Dowd is unforgettable as Aunt Lydia.
The show won eight Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series. A film version of the novel starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Aidan Quinn was made in 1990. In more recent series, with Atwood’s blessing, the plot has moved beyond the confines of the original novel story. Can be viewed on All4.
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2. Big Little Lies (originally written by Liane Moriarty)
Reese Witherspoon has turned her production company, Hello Sunshine, into a billion-dollar empire after realizing that Hollywood actresses were crying out for solid, multi-faceted roles.
Among her greatest adaptation successes is this two-year triumph, set in middle-class Monterey and centering on a group of school-age mothers who become embroiled in a murder investigation. The acting performances of the likes of Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Witherspoon himself were considered top notch. Can be viewed on NowTV or Amazon Prime.
3. Patrick Melrose (Originally written by Edward St Aubyn)
St. Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels, which describe a man overcoming drug addiction by facing abuse at the hands of his father, created an iconic character for Benedict Cumberbatch.
He rose to the occasion with a phenomenal performance; The show scored an impressive 80/100 on the film criticism website Metacritic and received two BAFTAs. The series was supported by an outstanding cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Celia Imrie and Hugo Weaving. Can be watched on Now TV.
4. Bridgerton (originally written by Julia Quinn)
Netflix scored with a fresh and supremely sexy look at the stalwart Regency drama. With Shonda Rhimes in the producer’s seat and the deep pockets of Netflix at her disposal, the end result is credited with everything from the return of corsets to a wave of similarly raunchy TV deals.
It became the most-watched English-language series on Netflix at the time. Bridgerton has also made superstars out of its relatively unknown cast, including Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page and Galwegian’s Nicola Coughlan. Available to watch on Netflix.
5. Game Of Thrones (Originally written by George RR Martin) Arguably one of the most successful page-to-screen jumps of all time, Got drew record viewership for HBO.
Set on the fictional continents of Westeros, Sothoryos and Essos, the show seemed to capture a true zeitgeist moment. The show, which was partly filmed in Belfast, has long been acclaimed for its fine handling of characters, story and scope, and is the proud recipient of 59 Emmys to date. Can be watched on Now TV.
6. Orange Is The New Black (originally written by Piper Kerman)
After being charged with criminal money laundering activities, Piper Kerman wrote a memoir about her time in FCI Danbury, a minimum security federal prison.
Directed by showrunner Jenji Kohan, Netflix Orange is the new black became a harsh commentary on violence against women and court bias against women. The series also touched on issues of sexuality, trans identity, race relations, and class, becoming something of a cultural trailblazer. Available to watch on Netflix.
7. Killing Eve (Originally written by Luke Jennings)
kill Eve may forever be associated with the sharp pen of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (and Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell, who wrote the second series), but the clever spy thriller comes from Jennings, a Booker-nominated author.
Some argue that the franchise was destined for screen treatment, and those who enjoyed Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh’s smoldering performances — not to mention the amazing costume design — would likely agree. Can be watched on RTÉ Player.
8. The Queen’s Gambit (originally written by Walter Tevis)
The 1983 adaptation of Tevis’ book was not without its challenges: Nona Gaprindashvili, the Georgian chess champion on which the book and series are based, sued Netflix in a $5 million lawsuit for defamation, alleging that a The line in the television series referring to her success in real life was “manifestly false, as well as grossly sexist and derogatory”.
That aside, the tale of a fictional chess prodigy who battled drug and alcohol addictions on his rise to the top was met with critical acclaim. Anya Taylor-Joy became a breakout star. Available to watch on Netflix.
9. Pride and Prejudice (Originally written by Jane Austen)
Jane Austen’s work has continued to be filmed, although it was agreed that the BBC’s 1995 adaptation (starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy) was a turning point for the canon.
The guard He breathlessly called Firth’s iconic wet-shirt scene “one of the most unforgettable moments in television history.” Meanwhile, the series was credited for not only turning Firth into a heartthrob, but also launching Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones series. Available to watch on Netflix.
10. Heartstopper (Originally written by Alice Oseman)
This 2022 series, based on the coming-of-age graphic novel, boasts a rare accolade: 100-part approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Critics and audiences alike have fallen for the heartwarming portrayal of young LGBTQ+ love as it unfolds between schoolboys Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke). Within a week of its release on Netflix, the series had reportedly watched 23.9 million hours. Available to watch on Netflix.