Popular TV shows and the books they were based on: Game of Thrones

Popular TV shows and the books they were based on: Game of Thrones
It’s common knowledge that many of today’s biggest television series were inspired by or based on books. Some came from bestsellers, others from lesser known titles. In a lot of cases, it has been the TV successes that have pushed the stories into popular culture, but this shouldn’t take anything away from the books!

A very well known example of a television adaptation is George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. These books were already bestsellers before it came to the small screen, but the audience as it stood was nowhere near big enough to make a profit in television; and as a book it wasn’t fully in mainstream conciousness.

Another example is House of Cardsa novel by Michael Dobbs in 1989, a British TV show in 1990, and then an American series in 2013. The television adaptations are generally cited far more than the book itself.

Slightly less well known as a book to TV transformation is the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, inspired by Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison

Others include the HBO series True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books, and Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar, which as a TV show had a 6 season run.

So how did these books become TV series? And how do the books and their television counterparts compare? We wanted to know more about the success of both the books and their television brothers, sisters or cousins – so this week we’ll be investigating the book to small screen switches of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Game of Thrones. Starting today with…

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones BlurayGame of Thrones was seen as a near impossible task when it was first suggested as a series to adapt to television. The screenwriters who eventually got the gig though, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, were huge fans and this held them in good stead to keep going even when things didn’t go as planned. After the pilot was made, both HBO and the writers saw that it wasn’t good, but I for one am very glad they changing things up and persevered!

The TV series begins with a lot of similarities to the first book, but of course not everything can be included, and ‘TV Game of Thrones’ and ‘book Game of Throne’ do later diverge quite a bit. Benioff and Weiss talk about it in this snippet from an interview they did for Variety:

Benioff: One of the most common questions we’ll get asked is, “Why did you change this from the books?” The answer is always the same, really. It’s just because we thought it would be better for the series. Some of them are really fun characters but we already have the largest cast I think in television history and it just seems to grow every year.

The fact is, we can’t possibly have all the characters from the books. It would start to sink beneath its own weight. We have different colored index cards. We have to search for all of these weird colored cards. Each color signifies one story line.

Weiss: We have to go to the OfficeMax flagship store, the only place where they carry yellow polka-dotted index cards because we’ve run through every conceivable color.

Benioff: And at a certain point maybe the show can carry 13 separate story threads but it can’t carry 24. I don’t want to shortchange Arya because there are 15 other characters in a whole another country that we need to spend time with.”

So now you know! They chose to do fewer things well rather than do everything a bit substandard. And they chose not to have a never-ending cast list.

So what are the other differences between the books and the television version?

This article lays down 22 book vs TV differences – some of them are pretty stark (excuse the pun). Watch out though, it contains spoilers.

But why is Game of Thrones so popular? Ken Tucker for the BBC cities the classic need for escapism, but also the revamping of the fantasy genre:

“Game of Thrones, as a fantasy, is unfettered and free to soar, to spit dramatic fire like the dragons belonging to Emilia Clarke’s Princess Daenerys.”

He also mentions the great acting and the primal appeal of the story. You can read the full article here.

And if any thought of Game of Thrones gets you impatient for Season 6 and you fancy philosophising on what might happen, this article has some predictions. Again, look out – Season 5 spoilers!

So what’s your favourite, the books or the TV series? Are you a watcher or a reader/listener, or both?!
And look out for tomorrow’s article on… House of Cards!

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This post was written by Holly Newson

Picture credit: Cyanide Studio; Flickr – Maria Morri

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