Posted by The TV Team,
Aug 22, 2011
From the very beginning, television has relied upon literature and drama for a significant proportion of its output.
In the immediate years following its creation in 1927, the BBC’s drama consisted entirely of literary adaptations. Although this reliance was partly due to the cumbersome media technology of the inter-war years (immobile cameras could reasonably capture staged performances), even as the lenses, booms and runners have evolved, the written word has maintained itself as an evergreen companion and resource for TV productions.
In those early embryonic stages of TV broadcasting, the non-technological reasons for this alliance seemed clear and, clearly rather one-sided. Literature provided a readymade ‘script’ that saved on screenwriting costs and circumvented the precarious pursuit of fresh material. Furthermore, literature, especially the go-to classics, had already proven themselves as consisting of the necessary ‘materials of captivation’ capable of attracting audiences.
TV, however, has done a fair bit of growing up since those early monochrome broadcasts of The Bard of Stratford. As the technology has developed and the medium’s strengths been learned, TV has come to support literature as much as literature does it. From The Barchester Chronicles to Bones and Belle de Jour, Dickens to Dexter, Galsworthy’s The Forsyth Saga to Gossip Girl, TV has proven its ability to reinvent and refresh prose and plays so that often we now turn to the first chapter of the book because we cannot wait for the next episode in the TV series.
This special relationship does not look like abating any time soon with literary adaptations continuing apace in the forthcoming months. In August alone, ITV are due to air everything from a new re-telling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to a fresh faced version of Jane Eyre’s Wuthering Heights to modern crime drama Above Suspicion, which is based on the novels of Lynda La Plante. Sky continues to produce highly polished drama on both Sky Atlantic and Sky 1. The extremely popular adaptations of Martina Cole’s crime novels The Take and The Runaway will be added to in the new year and hot on the heels of the acclaimed Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet follows Too Big To Fail, which takes its lead from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s novel that investigates banker Richard Kuhn’s attempt to save the Lehman Brothers during the financial crisis.
Even C4, who in the shadow of Big Brother have been reluctant to commission drama, are planning to ‘produce twice as many new programmes this year’ according to head of drama Camilla Campbell. Following on the back of the success of the William Boyd adaptation Any Human Heart this will include two new adaptations, Slam, based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name, and Coup, an adaptation of ex-MP Chris Mullen’s popular political memoir ‘A View from the Foothills’.
Finally, another exciting development that will go to bind this relationship between TV and literature is the recent relaxation of the Ofcom law of advertising a product within or around a programme that relates to the programme content. For example, up until the end of last year, the likes of Martina Cole were not able to advertise her latest book on Sky 1 around the TV adaptation of her book The Take.
However, now these restrictions are no longer in place, Publishers can have presence in programmes that have a direct correlation with their very own literary adaption. How’s that for a creative fit?
Written by Samuel Dawson