Book-to-Netflix Adaptations

By Daley Wilhelm

Netflix not only offers the some of the best book-to-film adaptations, it also creates them. Making a book into an original series has been a hugely successful venture of Netflix, producing uncensored, highly binge-able shows like Orange is the New Black or Hemlock Grove. The authors and fans of the books are elated at the Netflix originals because they stick to the original material of the book. This is likely why author Lemony Snicket decided to trust Netflix with his iconic A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

    Most notably, of course, is the mega-hit Orange is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. The show spices up the drama, exaggerates details, and has taken “tremendous liberties,” as Kerman noted in a National Press Release interview. Kerman, who works as a communications consultant for nonprofits and serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association, is satisfied with the show’s accurate depictions of mental illness and the threat of systemic sexual assault in women’s prisons. The creator of the Netflix series, Jenji Kohan, emailed scripts to Kerman, who more or less acted as a technical consultant on the world of women’s prison. Kerman was most concerned with keeping the world of Orange is the New Black close to the real world, understanding that conflict had to be liberally added into the show where there was none in her memoir. She gives credit to Kohan for both creating a show that entertains and tackles weighty themes.

    Hemlock Grove was a dark, horror-thriller novel rife with gypsies and werewolves, written by Brian McGreevy in 2012. Before it was released, Netflix was interested in making the ultra gory, ultra sexy story of the clash and strange friendship of a dirt-poor werewolf and an affluent pseudo-vampire into a series without the censorship that the usual means of distribution enforce. In 2011, Netflix reportedly ordered a thirteen-episode series based on McGreevy’s yet to be released book. When the show was released in 2013, McGreevy signed on as a main developer and executive producer, believing that TV was more willing to go into edgier subjects than movies. McGreevy was also happy that the episodes were shot seamlessly. With Netflix, there are no commercial breaks. The series stuck closely to the graphic canon of the book, each episode near-correlating with a chapter. However, the book ended with the first season. Netflix continued into a second season, again with McGreevy heavily influencing the direction, and are now promising a third and final season.

    It’s easy then to see why Lemony Snicket chose Netflix to adapt his own lengthy series into a show. You might recall the 2004 Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events movie featuring Jim Carrey harassing the Baudelaire orphans as the dastardly Count Olaf, which received favorable reviews all around. Despite this, Daniel Handler‘s (Snicket) screenplay was thrown out, as fans of the books recognized. Handler is famous for making snide comments during the DVD commentary, not exactly excited about the liberties taken with his original work.

Netflix has already promised that Handler will work closely with the writers, serving as executive producer of the family-friendly series, thus we can expect to see material that is true to the original, or at least approved by the creator of the books, which in the end is the ultimate stamp of approval.