Syfy’s adaptation of Lev Grossman’s bestselling Magicians trilogy is nearing the end of its fourth season and has already been renewed for a fifth. Whether you’re looking to reacquaint yourself with the source material or find out what the novels have to offer, now’s the perfect opportunity to dive into the world of Quentin Coldwater, Brakebills University, and the land of Fillory.
The Handmaid's Tale
Unsurprisingly, Margaret Atwood’s seminal–and uncomfortably timeless–dystopian thriller made for an extraordinarily compelling TV series. The award-winning adaptation premiered on Hulu in 2017 and has been a hit ever since. With the second season officially wrapped up and a third set to premiere on June 5th, the series is now well beyond the confines of Atwood’s novel. If you want a little something to hold you over until Offred and women of Gilead return, head back to the well-loved novel.
Historian Anne Choma illuminates the life of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century: Anne Lister. As an industrialist, an explorer, a mountaineer, and openly gay woman, Anne was far ahead of her time. Gentleman Jack, derived from never-before-published coded entries in Anne’s diaries, recounts the remarkable life that made her a feminist icon. An eight-part adaptation from HBO is set to arrive later this year.
A Discovery of Witches
Discovery of Witches proved enough of a hit to garner second and third season renewals. If you want to get an early idea of where the series might be headed, look no further than Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, which served as a basis for the show. Season one was just the tip of the iceberg–there’s plenty more paranormal romance and edge-of-your-seat thrills to come.
Diana Gabaldon’s time-traveling, swashbuckling epic is a richly woven piece of historical fiction that deftly threads the needle of literary romance and adventure. Fans were immediately enthralled with the tangled love story of Claire Randall, a nurse from 1945, and Jamie Fraser, a Scottish freedom fighter in 1743. Fortunately, for fans of Gabaldon’s long-running series, the Starz adaptation has proven every bit as enthralling as the novels and with fifth and sixth seasons on the way, it is showing no signs of slowing down.
A. N. Wilson
While a season four renewal for Victoria is still up in the air, you can always turn to A.N. Wilson’s extraordinary biography of Queen Victoria. While the series itself isn’t necessarily an adaptation, Wilson’s biography is an excellent read with a view of Victoria’s life that manages to be both grand and intimate.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is an ingenious thriller that’s sure to keep you guessing until the very last page. The story centers around a thirty-year-old unsolved case of a missing teenage girl. When Marcus Goldman’s mentor is implicated in the girl’s murder, Marcus, a successful novelist, sets out to investigate the mysterious circumstances of the girl’s disappearance. Be sure to check out the miniseries adaptation from Epix starring Patrick Dempsey.
In the Woods
From its opening pages onward, Into the Woods felt tailor-made for TV. So, it’s no surprise that Starz has picked up an eight-episode series based on Tana French’s first two Dublin Murder Squad novels, Into the Woods and The Likeness. Into the Woods focuses on detective Rob Ryan, whose traumatic past comes back to haunt him when he and partner Cassie Maddox pick up a case with disturbing ties to an incident from Ryan’s childhood. The Likeness centers around Cassie Maddox investigating the grisly murder of girl who not only resembles Cassie, but is using an alias Cassie once used as un undercover cop. Look for Dublin Murder Squad on Starz later this year.
While Les Miserables is arguably best known for its many musical incarnations, BBC’s latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic is striking a pure dramatic note. However, as much we love these adaptations, there’s nothing quite like Hugo’s original, sprawling tale of misery, hope, and redemption set against the tumultuous backdrop of the France in the early nineteenth century.
Big Little Lies
While the upcoming second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies will be moving into uncharted territory, we’re still expecting great things from the series. Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and its ruthless and often darkly comic examination of suburban Australia is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner with plenty of satirical bite.
Fire & Blood
George R. R. Martin
As we not so patiently await the arrival of both the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and the final novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, we can at least turn to Fire & Blood for some measure of comfort. The latest from Martin delves into the sordid and world-altering history of House Targaryen, from their flight from the Doom of Valyria to the brutal civil war that nearly destroyed their dynasty.
With an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s satirical masterpiece on its way to Hulu, there is no better time to pick up this beloved classic. Widely considered one of the funniest novels ever written, Catch-22 centers around a bomber squadron in WWII and a young man named Yossarian desperately plotting to avoid the perils of war. With a cast that includes George Clooney, Kyle Chandler, and Hugh Laurie, we can’t wait for the premiere of Catch-22. Fortunately, we have the novel to hold us over until then.
His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a modern classic and one of the finest fantasy series of the latter 20th century. Combining epic fantasy with entrancing rumination on the nature of man, religion, and the metaphysical world (in ways that would make Tolkien and C.S. Lewis proud), His Dark Materials is a thought-provoking adventure that builds from an extraordinary literary grounding into something wholly original. An eight-part adaptation is set to premiere on HBO later this year.
If there’s any one thing this era of prestige TV has shown, it’s the power of television as a medium for well-drawn adaptations. From Orange is the New Black and Game of Thrones to Olive Kitteridge, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Outlander, great TV and great literature have proven to be a perfect pair. Here are some of the small screen adaptations we’re looking forward to this year.
Featured image: @JulieK via Twenty20