10 TV Shows Based on Books

My Life as an Experiment, an upcoming half-hour sitcom by NBC produced by Jack Black, is based on journalist A.J. Jacobs’s book, Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment. The nonfiction book, and the TV show, is about the author’s experiences as an immersion journalist and the effects on his family.

Jacobs, better known for his books The Know-It-All, about his attempt to read the Encyclopedia Britannica cover-to-cover, and The Year of Living Biblically, his one-year experience living by every rule in the Bible, is the latest in a long list of authors who, instead of signing book-to-movie deals, have sold the rights to see their work developed for television.

Viewers may be surprised to learn that many of the most popular TV shows today are based on a book or series of books.

10 TV Shows Based on Books

1. Bones The investigations of Washington, DC forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan is based on the novels of bestselling author, and real-life forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. Starting with Déjà Dead in 1997, Reichs has written 14 novels (including the latest, Virals, to be released November 2010) on which the TV show Bones is based. Reichs is also a producer on the show.

2. Dexter The sympathetic serial killer Dexter Morgan on Showtime’s Dexter is based on the main character from Jeff Lindsay’s novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Though Lindsay has written five novels featuring the character, the first season of TV show followed the plot of the first novel and has since ventured into its own plot lines.

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3. Gossip GirlGossip Girl was a popular series of young adult books written by Cecily von Ziegesar for almost a decade before the TV show premiered in 2007. The books and the TV show are narrated by an unseen blogger, who gossips about the lifestyles of the students in elite private schools in New York. Both the novels and the TV show have been criticized for their sexually explicit content.

4. Vampire Diaries Another popular young adult book series, The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, inspired the teen TV show Vampire Diaries on the CW network. First dismissed as an attempt to capitalize on the popular vampire trend, the TV show has enjoyed increasingly positive reviews since its premiere in 2009. Both the TV show and the book series follow the life of Elena Gilbert and the love triangle between her, vampire Stefan, and his brother Damon.

5. True Blood Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries series inspired HBO’s True Blood, the adventures of waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse and her romance with vampire Bill. After the first season, the TV show diverged greatly from the plot of the book series, introducing new characters and keeping the captivating Lafayette when the book series killed him off.

6. $#*! My Dad Says Not only was $#*! My Dad Says (pronounced Bleep My Dad Says, for those opposed to more colorful language) a book before it was a TV show, it was originally a Twitter feed, now with almost 2 million followers, started by Justin Halpern, who found his 74-year-old dad Sam’s random musings hilarious. While the TV show, starring William Shatner as the dad, has not had many positive reviews, the book (and the Twitter feed) are quite entertaining. For example, one of the more PG-rated entries: “Just pay the parking ticket. Don’t be so outraged. You’re not a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement. You double parked.”

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7. The Unit The Unit follows a fictional, military special-forces unit of the Army and is based on the non-fiction book Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit by Eric Hanson, who also produces the TV show and is a former Delta Force operator. Four seasons of the TV show, which follows the team’s missions abroad as well as their domestic lives, ran on CBS and continues to air in syndication.

8. Boardwalk Empire The nonfiction Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson inspired the historical HBO drama Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi as main character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson as he interacts with mobsters, politicians, and government officials in Atlantic City during Prohibition. The pilot of the TV show, which premiered in September 2010, was directed by Martin Scorsese and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

9. Friday Night Lights Another non-fiction book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger, first inspired a movie of the same name starring Billy Bob Thornton, and then a TV show which premiered on NBC in 2006. Despite low ratings, the TV show’s critical success kept the show on the air for five season, and it will continue to air in syndication on ABC Family.

10. The Walking Dead AMC’s The Walking Dead, set to premiere on Halloween 2010, is based on a comic book series The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, which follows a group of people, led by police officer Rick Grimes, in the aftermath of an apocalypse cause by zombies. AMC’s site features video clips and a news blog about the TV show and the comic book series. Author Kirkman serves as an executive producer for the show.

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Resources:

Andreeva, Nellie. NBC Comedy ‘Experiment’ With Jack Black” Deadline.com http://www.deadline.com/2010/09/nbcs-comedy-experiment-with-jack-black/

Wikipedia.com