So given that the final season of True Blood is around the corner. I’ve been reminiscing about the difference between Charlaine Harris’ book series and the episodic version on our TV screens.
At first blush the main cast of characters seem to be front and center (with a few notable exceptions – that being Lafayette and the much more sub-dued Tara – arguably the TV series strongest and most interesting characters). This however is where we hit that proverbial argument (one of which I don’t always think is as valid as Hollyweird seems to make it): Books are different than TV/Film.
Yeah, the more I read, coupled with the fact that I have family that works in the film industry, I am not so sure of that as a creative premise at all. I think in most cases it is producers and directors wanting to make a splash on the shoulders of another author’s works. “Reimagining it for the masses over a different medium…” sort of thing.
It worked for the Harry Potter series, right? Eh, don’t get me started on that one… there were soooo many fucked up production decisions on that film iteration of the beloved books that I could spend an entire blog series just covering it all.
And when David Heyman offered only that as a children’s series they didn’t feel they could ever stretch the films out to encompass the smaller story elements in the books because children were going to struggle to sit still longer than the ‘line in the sand’ at 2 hours and 30+ minutes they’d alloted for each installment in the series. Say nothing of the fact that these were the same children who were happily sitting in the Lord of the Rings movies that toppled at 3.5 hours long with apparent ease. Or given the fact that as the movies wore on (and those little tykes grew up) they should (according to Heyman’s implied theory) be able to handle a longer film. My point being that it was nothing short of a financial cop out. The story and it’s telling suffered because of poor plot line choices. Steve Kloves (the screenplay writer) did his best to keep an even keel scriptwise with input from Rowling herself (often cluing him into elements that were important far before the rest of the world knew what was going on). But alas, it was the story plot lines and the production team involved that sort of ruined the magic of that series for me.
Okay, I’ll cop to the fact that I own every single one of them. They’re my granddaugther’s favorite movies and books. So those films hold a different form of sentimentality for me. She was only one when the first one came out – and she was riveted even at that tender age. If you got in the way of the TV she’d skreech and in her babushka (the reference my family had for her baby talk as she tended to sound like an old Russian woman) way telling you on no uncertain terms to: “get the FUCK outta the way man, I am watching my flick!”
I did like that they never lost sight of the whole blood business. Pure bloods vs. Muggles – yeah, so Third Reich in it’s reach and scope. I really liked that element in Rowling’s series.
Speaking of which – The Hobbit writers felt the NEED to insert a fucked up fake Elvish/Dwarf love thing? WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK? That singular addition to the tale fucking ruined the movies for me! You DON’T INSERT into literature you fucktards! You aren’t that bright to do so… something like that practically soured me on the whole fucking idea of movie options from novels.
Which brings me to the real analysis of this blog entry: True Blood.
In the books the world of Bon Temps and the fearsome but beloved Vamps are quite different. So different in fact, that the faeries play a larger role in the course of the series (and to set the record straight – I HATED the treatment of them by the writing staff of the HBO series – a mishmash of Disneyesque cum Burlesque twat-heads that I was only too happy to see them perish in the TV series. They were complete waste cases). But not in the books, the faeries are BAD ASSED. Even Eric Northman thinks twice about confronting them when Suki is in the hospital and her Faerie grandfather Niall is inbound. What the fuck happened to that element? Why toss your wad on these sappy faerie light versions of their fearsome counterparts in the books? I just didn’t get it.
And I get it, dear reader, that you may wonder why I even care. Well I do because it matters. It matters because I am a writer. Not to say that i have lofty ideals that my stories will ever equate to a property that would get sold to a film/TV company. I can dream but I am a realist as well in that department.
So yeah, if fucking matters big time that they get it right.
There is one element that is fairly spot on between the books and series – Alexander Skarsgard portrayal of Eric Northman. From the moment Alexander makes is appearance in the show I was all “YES! YES! YES!” and I am over the fucking moon that he’s a Nord actor. Go for the blood. It was brilliant bloody casting.
Now, with the exception of Ryan Kwanten, Nelsan Ellis, Rutina Wesley, and Kristen Bauer van Straten , the rest of the cast is questionable. Not that the other actors are bad at their jobs. That’s not it at all. The actors perform admirably to the tasks given to them. It’s the writing that has sucked as the seasons have worn on to the point where it barely resembles the premise it started out with. These are writers who’s good ideas went out with the bath water around the second season. Coincidently, around the same time that the TV series started to really divert from the plotlines that Charlaine had in the books. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it didn’t have to be a bad thing. But unfortunately, it was.
The differences between the two worlds were really starting to show. One element completely dropped from Harris’ books that I really loved in the novels? Bubba – Elvis as a goofy dumbed down lovable vampire with a penchant for kittens. Now THAT I would have loved to have seen. Hell, they could’ve even cast Michael St. Gerard (from the old Elvis bio pic) in the role.
So the takeaway from the TB fiasco, as I’ve come to call it? Whenever someone says they want to put a ‘twist’ on it, ‘shake it up a bit’ on a successful premise, then that really means – hey, we want to substantiate why we’re having to hire screenwriting hacks to reinvent the wheel because, hell, we’re just too imagined out to come up with a truly great premise ourselves so we’d rather bastardize your shit rather than put in the real work ourselves.
I mean it is possible, you know. Need I say ORPHAN BLACK? Now there’s a series that was created from ground up. But of course, it’s Canadian. Damned Canucks (and I happen to love Canucks… brilliant bastards that they are). But if anything, they show how it can be done. Just like we novelists do – with grit, determination, a little mental-elbow grease and guess what IMAGINATION. Something sorely lacking in Hollyweird.
Sidebar: You know, I sorta have mixed feelings when I bash Hollywood with the ‘weird’ status. Mostly because for the most part I like their sense of equality when it comes to the gay community (in so far as it doesn’t extend (or rarely extends) to lead characters). But then they go completely off the rails with real imagination and creative bravado. They just seem to be apathetic to trying new things when it’s so much easier to option something in existence and ‘spin’ it, make our mark on it.
What the fuck-ever.