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8 TV Shows You Didn't Know Were Based On Novels

Because nothing sounds as smug as "have you read the books?"

8 TV Shows You Didn't Know Were Based On Novels

Fans of Game Of Thrones have long known their favourite dragon mothers and Northerner bastards are based on characters from books: devouring George R. R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series has allowed the truly devoted to delve deeper into the origins of the story.

But you may be surprised to learn some of TV's other most celebrated franchises also started life on the page. Even in the midst of TV's much-vaunted Golden Age, writers and directors are still seeking inspiration in the humble novel.

Whether you're eager for the extensive backstory and fleshed-out characters literature provide or your eyes have just gone square from watching too much Netflix, here is our round-up of the ones you might not have heard of.

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1 | Dexter

TV’s most charming forensic blood splatter analyst bowed out after eight seasons last year, but the show was actually based off a series of books by Jeff Linsday, beginning with Darkly Dreaming Dexter. The show deviates from the books in several ways, namely the killing of several characters still alive in the show, but Michael C Hall’s depiction of Dexter as a remorseful, anguished killer is more nuanced than the slightly clueless killer written in the books.  

 

2 | Friday Night Lights

We’re big fans of Friday Night Lights at Esquire – you can read Giles Coren’s ode to the show’s sports-meets-soap-opera charm here – but the fictional town of Dillon, Texas started life as a non-fiction book called Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team And A Dream.

Written by a journalist from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the book was originally going to look at the way high school football was ingrained into Odessa’s community spirit, but it quickly expanded its scope to examine other themes, notably the critique of life in a small town, something which didn’t go down well with the locals.

3 | True Blood

What started as The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of books was adapted into True Blood, the deep-south supernatural drama where vampires, telepaths and werewolves live among mortal folk.

Themes of discrimination, equal rights and oppression gave the show a distinct underdog feel, but it was the show’s deviating from source material that helped it stand on its own two feet.

Writing in new characters such as Jessica and giving a new lease of life to others, like the sassy firecracker Lafayette. The show began sagging under the weight of its own storylines, but the books offered a more complex take on the world of Bon Temps.

4 | Orange Is The New Black

Ahead of OITNB’s return in June, it’s worth reading the memoir that the show was based on. Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison was written by Piper Kerman following her 13 month prison sentence for money laundering and drug trafficking.

Notably, the book features less of the soap-opera style dramatics that gave the show such momentum; Piper’s former lover isn’t behind bars with her, nor is there any of the heightened sexual activity between the women in prison. Piper was also quite warmly received by her fellow inmates upon her arrival, although she does nearly get in a fight for eating all the spinach at the salad bar.

 

5 | 24

While the 24 books were not written prior to the show being commissioned (they started being released in 2005) they operate within the show’s universe but between seasons of the show, which were often set several years apart.

24: Declassified are a series which take place before Day One, focusing on a deadly strain of influenza being released over New York City while a rogue agent turns the FBI against CTU.

Each chapter covers an hour, and each book features 24 chapters, but the real time aspect isn’t as easily deployed on the page than on screen. Still, they provide huge insight, character development and fleshed-out backstories for some of the show’s most iconic characters.

 

6 | Boardwalk Empire

HBO’s show about the gritty underside of prohibition-era Atlantic City was based off the book of the same name. Author Nelson Johnson spent 20 years working on the book, getting close to the old-timers who had been involved in the rich history of the roaring 20’s.

One of the biggest changes is that Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (or Johnson in the show) was a big, broad, intimidating figure – a departure from the sly, spindly looking character made famous by Steve Buscemi.

7 | The Walking Dead

The zombie show where foes don’t so much stab you in the back as bite you in the neck was based off a comic book series of the same name with a hugely devoted fan base.

During season three, many fans felt the show was deviating too far from the source material (characters being killed off unnecessarily, for example), and comics author Robert Kirkman wanted the show to follow his work more closely.

As a result, season four stuck to the original storylines, and the show’s picked up in quality. Proof that meddling with the original isn’t always the wisest move (we're looking at you, Game Of Thrones).

8 | Bones

The name Temperance Deassee Brennan might sound like a character from Downton Abbey, but she’s a forensic anthropologist and hero of the crime novels of the same name, books which were later used as a blueprint for the forensic detective show Bones.

The books’ author Kathy Reichs works as an executive producer on Bones, overseeing the forensic aspects of the show due to her background as an esteemed academic.

Apart from Reichs writing an episode of the show that tied into one of her novels, the two do not share much of the same material. Show producers wanted instead to base the TV show on the life of Reich, not her fictional characters.

 

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More Books:

Four Unusual Books To Read This Month
America's Most Controversial Cartoonist
The Other Side Of Trainspotting
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