Everything's an Adaptation: You Won't Believe How Many Current TV Shows Began as Something Else

Earlier this week, we learned that HBO is looking to develop a TV series based on Martin Scorsese's film Shutter Island, which itself was based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. And it was only the latest in a long line of recent "[X] Is Adapting [X] for TV" headlines; last week, news broke that NBC is developing a show based on the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate (which, like Shutter Island, was based on a novel), Steven Spielberg is developing a show based on the 2002 movie Minority Report (which was based on a short story), and ABC is developing a show based on Castle's Derrick Storm novels (which were written written by a fictional TV character yet have been published in real life). The onslaught was enough to spark a 100-percent-friendly, not-at-all-window-breaking discussion here at TV.com about the slow death of original thought and the number of adaptations either currently airing or set to air on TV in the near future. And hoo boy, there are a lot of them. 

If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe the photo gallery below, in which I've compiled as many current adaptations as I can think of (excluding A&E's upcoming adaptation of French TV series The Returned because it's too new to have photos). If a show it based on or inspired by a book, film, comic book, or TV series—international or otherwise—it's in here. Take a look, and prepare to be surprised by just how many of your favorite series started out as something else.

Crazy, right? And I didn't even consider spin-offs like NCIS: LA and CSI: Cyber and Chicago P.D., or "new" mash-ups of preexisting characters like Once Upon a Time and Penny Dreadful!


Ed. Note: If you know of a (current!) adaptation that we've missed, please feel free to share it in the comments!


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The fictional "Richard Castle" of Castle also has a real-world website...
which promotes all of his actual published novels!

Quite clever, if you ask me! I know it's just another way for ABC to capitalize on the show's success, but I have to give them props for thinking like this. (Trust me, the irony is not lost on me.)
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I hate to do this to you Kaitlin, but Doctor Who is an adaptation. I know, it's supposed to be a continuation, but it's a new production and a new series numeration by its producer and its broadcaster. Thus, it's an adaptation.
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The networks are creatively bankrupt and have no artistic vision because they've switched to a system of bean counters, thus they are too afraid to trust someone's original vision to a new series. I didn't expect 70 damned adaptations though, that's horrific - original thought is dead, going by our tv content today.
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Anyone remember when Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a series?
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And the little boy in that would become John Connor fighting robots with his mom in his then future. Or become a witch / warlock in a secret circle. Or...
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Play a part in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake/origin story.
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It is true, but sad. It seems creativity has no place in serial television. Many of the series seems like retreads of old shows like Hawaii 5-O and while some series went to movies and back again like 21 Jump Street, sometimes there was something missing that the original had. I actually like the new Hawaii 5-O. They took the character's names but gave them different back stories they weren't trying to be the same character.

I find nothing wrong with book adaptations, many of the Great movies came from book adaptations like "Gone with the Wind".

I would like to see some fresh ideas. I would love to see a series based Questor, a Gene Roddenberry creation that was a tv movie. I happen to be one of the few people who like scify but realize it is not a ratings winner. I still cannot understand how Under the Dome with its ridiculous science can still be on the air.

I miss some of the classics like Leave it to Beaver, Lassie, I love Lucy, and Happy Days. These shows were entertaining without using foul language, shooting or beating anyone up every week, or nudity. The shows these days all seem to have character faults of moral turpitude, infidelity and downright bad manners.
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Just sayin' but I'd love to see 2 things: A serious serialized reboot of Vampire: The Masquerade & an equally serious Logan's Run remake that follows the book & not that disco theatrical abortion they made in the 70's
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You forgot Once Upon A Time which is adapted from Fairy Tales, Disney Fairy Tales Movies and also adapted from 10th Kingdom.
Grimm should be on here as well as it is an adaption from The Grimm Fairy Tales.
Salem should be up there as well as it is adaption of the Salem Witch Trials an actual historical event.

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Isn't Defiance based on a video game?
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I think it a bit pretentious to say original equates better. There is some great original programming out there as well as some not so great. Same can be said about adaptations.

I also believe "original" can be difficult to determine or define. For example, dystopian works seem to be a dime a dozen lately. Not that each or even many are based on or adapted from another work, but their a spin or twist on a preexisting idea. Each idea started from somewhere else. An entire movie has been made surrounding that very idea.

Some have mentioned that original works are a gamble and therefore adaptations are safer. While that can be true it's a gross generalization. Adaptations can be just as much, if not more so, a gamble. Because inevitably it will be compared to the "original." Not everyone will know the source material but those that do can be ruthless and nit-picky. I've been guilty of this. I've also learned to appreciate the story in its new medium for what it is, sometimes.

Whether it's an original or an adaptation should have no import in terms of quality as long as writing, directing, acting, etc are good. Personally, I love a good adaptation, spin-off, continuation, deconstruction, reboot, remake or whatever other term you want to apply. It can add another level to an enjoyable discussion of the work.
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Sometimes I don't mind the adapting of foreign TV shows. It's understandable that people in the US would want to watch and vote for Americans in their own shows, rather than just watching a "rerun" of the original British programmes. These include Britain's Got Talent [America's Got Talent], X Factor, Pop Idol [American Idol], and Strictly Come Dancing [Dancing with the Stars--it even shares 2 judges with the UK]. Two adaptations from Dutch TV are Fox's new Utopia reality series, and The Voice.

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The 1970s were really the golden age of British-American remakes...most notably Three's Company, All in the Family, and Sanford & Son.
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Plenty of countries adapt US shows too. We currently have The Amazing Race Aus vs NZ and The Amazing Race Canada. Both have challenges better than the US version and I enjoying watching all of them.
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Longmire, novels by Craig Johnson, "Girl meets World" based on the show "Boy Meets World",
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You forgot Rizzoli and Isles on TNT..based on the books by Tess Gerritson.
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Is it not in there? I thought we'd added that. Thanks!
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I think "original" TV has always been the exception, not the rule. Except for soaps (which were still derivative) and the TV equivalents to Fast and Furious, such as Dukes of Hazzard or Knight Rider (which I don't think were based on anything else, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now).
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You boil it all down, and every single story is based on something in the past. The question is whether it was intention, subconscious, or accidental.

And ultimately it always boils down to one of a handful of archetypes.

The trick is to write it WELL and to put enough of yourself into it that it stands on its own. I've seen solid star-crossed-lover stories that were unique enough that I didn't just say "Lame, Romeo and Juliet in a new setting"
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I can deal with tv shows coming from novels (even comic books I guess). But what drives me insane are the remakes of tv shows from abroad. Especially if they re-create it shot for shot.

Sundance TV made an excellent choice when it chose to import The Returned instead of re-creating it. Which itself was based on a novel of the same name. Inception y'all.

Only recreations I accept:
House of Cards. Because Kevin Spacey.
SHAMELESS (US). Terribly underrated. Should win a lot of Emmys but does not.

I didn't see Dexter in the slideshow. Darkly Dreaming Dexter
by Jeff Lindsay
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That's because I've purposefully forgotten everything related to Dexter. But also because it's ended a little while ago. Maaaaybe I'll add it.
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Slideshow Title: Current TV Adaptations
So maybe just tv shows that are airing currently belong in the slideshow
I want to forget last 2 seasons of Dexter.
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Devious Maids is also an adaptation of the mexican series "Ellas son la alegria del hogar"

Once Upon a Time is a different take on the fairy tale and mostly Disney version of the characters.
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I don't understand the Strike Back 'adaptation'
I haven't seen it yet (waiting until it finishes next year) but isn't Chris Ryan's Strike Back considered the first season of the Strike Back series, followed by Project Dawn, Vengeance and Shadow Warfare??
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Well, the first season was adapted from Chris Ryan's novel, then, Cinemax signed on to it and simply rebooted it from season 2 onwards.
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Well, they did mention Richard Armitage's character from the first series. In fact, if I recall correctly, this was the very reason why Scott (the American) contacted Stonebridge (the Brit), because he got some info from him. Anyways, as far as I know the series is still co-produced by Sky, and most of the cast is still British, so I wouldn't call that adaptation.
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I can see where you're coming from, but the reason why I think it still qualifies as an adaptation is because Strike Back wouldn't be on the air at all if it wasn't for the book the 1st season was based on
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the first season, aka the British version that Cinemax finally aired recently calling it "Strike Back: Origins", is the adaptation. season 2+ is more a spinoff. Richard Armitage showed up in one episode of Cinemax s1, which brings the two missions together but that and who they work for is the only connection to the original series. Cinemax should've aired the UK s1 first going into US s1 and then just rebranded each season and used the subtitles that the UK used: "Project Dawn", "Vengeance", and "Shadow Warfare"
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I find it so funny how this comes up all the time these days like its something new! Humans retell and re imagine stories, it's just what we do and have been doing so since we acquired language. If you look at ancient plays like the Odyssey Beowolf etc you realize that so much of what we have boils back to that basic formula. Anytime the media changes we want to adapt stories we love into the new format. Happened when we went from oral traditions to written, written to radio, radio to TV etc. Sure it is more prolific these days and somethings don't need to be remade within 5 years of each other. But none of the "originals" were really that original in the first place when you break it down.
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It is a little bit unfair to call TV series based on a non-fiction book (like Turn) unoriginal, since it covers events that actually happened and people who actually existed (though their lives are quite probably fictionalised to some extent).

If you apply your criteria without discretion, you should also include Masters of Sex, because it is based on a biography, Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, by Thomas Maier.
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And the marvel agents of shield seems to be an update of mission impossible for teens in the 21st century.
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I read somewhere that Castle's Derrick Storm novels are really bad and if it was on real life Castle would be a loser writer.
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I haven't even heard of a lot of the shows listed here...
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You gotta admire the fact that now that they are running out of stories to adapt, and have rebooted almost every adaptation (not to mention re-rebooted in some cases - i'm looking at you Spider-man...), they are now trying to retell the same stories only before or after the main protagonist came into the picture, like: "Gotham - Life before Batman", "OZ - The story of the wizard", "The Kents - little house in Kansas ", "Breaking Bad - how i met your father" (last two copyright pending...), I mean anything just god-forbid we write something new and original...

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It's not that the industry is running out of stories to adapt & tell. It's not their goal to create good stories...that's the goal of the artist. The goal of the industry is simply to sell movie tickets, fill seats and keep us tuned in to a channel long enough to view commercials.

The reason why they reboot things & put different spins on 'em is simply because it's easier to make money on the back of an older, proven money-maker than it is on something that the suits would consider much more of a financial risk to produce.

Just for an example, Gotham: Warner Bros. forbids Batman to be on TV because the character is a tried & true theatrical cash cow, but the minor characters are not. WB allows Fox to use those minor characters because they will both make money. people are 100% guaranteed to watch it because it's loosely connected to Batman

If it ends up actually being a good show, that's just a bonus to those guys. They only expect it to generate ratings
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That's why I admire a show like The Black List, which is truly one of the only original shows on TV worth watching. My only criticism is when TBL uses Plot-Induced Stupidity Syndrome (Or PISS writing as I like to call it) to stretch the story of the week, or to make the bad guy seem smarter than the entire FBI team.
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I too watch TBL, but mostly because of James Spader who is single-handedly keeping it afloat, and i would give that show as a good example of an original idea with bad execution (also that "he is her father - he isn't her father" game they are playing is getting old real fast).
If i had to pick an original show that is currently running and is any good then maybe "Person Of Interest" or "Manhattan" would be good candidates.
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This time last year I was thinking TBL was going to be a Silence of the Lambs "rip-off". Its trailer really did look a lot like that to me.
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For some reason i can't answer your reply so i'll write it here - i know what you mean by the similarities to "Silence of the Lambs", but i said "Hannibal" TV series because he is not really in custody for most of the show (i mean he takes his jet and hops around the globe for Christ's sake), and it's more case-of-the-week than one main antagonist, but i get where you're going with this...
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maybe more a "Hannibal" (TV series) rip-off without serial killers (mostly) ?
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Criminal mastermind, in custody, maximum security/restraints, will only work with a neophyte female FBI agent, to help track down another most-wanted criminal. That was about all the first trailer I saw had in it.

I'm glad that I watched anyway and discovered it was more than just those similarities. I see a lot of people making the same type of assumptions when they call things "rip-offs".
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Taking material from other sources and remaking it has gone on for a long time. The Wizard of Oz was made from a series of books, and it's from 1939. And it was "adapted" too. For example, there were no ruby slippers in the books, only silver ones.
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While this is true, the level that it's taking place today is crazy. With all the undiscovered screenwriters out here you mean they can't come up with any original material? And this doesn't just pertain to movies, the music industry does it as well.

You have to sound similar to an established artist in order to get put on.
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12 Monkeys the movie is itself an adaption of "La Jetée", un short film from French director Chris Marker.
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Saying "current" is a little misleading since we're in-between seasons. Crossbones has finished. Gotham has yet to start.

Shaw's Pygmalion was based upon a Greek play. There's been numerous adaptations of the Pygmalion story.

Grimm is based upon folk stories, mainly those of The Brothers Grimm and Perrault. Similarly, Once Upon A Time is based mainly upon the Perrault stories as well as other Disney adaptations such as Peter Pan. (Much of the classic Disney stories are Perrault stories.)

The Game of Thrones stories are really based upon Shakespeare's stories. He was the first to deal with royalty killing each other.

There's been numerous US adaptations of UK shows like Life on Mars and the IT Crowd, although this list is for current shows. Similarly, Big Brother and other reality shows are based upon foreign versions of the shows.

NCIS started from JAG, which was based more on a genre of military films, particularly A Few Good Men and Top Gun. Similarly, Supernatural was a combination of Route 66 and Kolchak The Night Stalker.




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"[Shakespeare] was the first to deal with royalty killing each other."

Yes, because the Greeks or the Romans never had any stories about royalty killing one another.
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*drops mic*
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Oh man, you just pop up and make me smile. Keep it up!
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Red Band Society (Fox), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Band_Society, adapted from the Spanish (in Catalan language) TV series "Polseres Vermelles".
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The Orphan Black from Brave new world of Aldous Huxley
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Why? I do not see that.
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The clones story and the man with the tail are some points in common. Furthermore Aldous has the same name of the author and in the first episode is set at huxley station... there's no coincidence it's done on purpose.
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Ok, thanks. Obviously I have to reread it as too much of the story is gone :-)
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Series like Breaking Bad and Damages will always hold a higher respect in my mind due to the fact that in the current television and movie landscape everything is an adaptation, remake, reimaging or spin-off of something else (just look at the gallery), and therefore by being original you know the idea and execution of the series was always specifically designed for television as a medium, rather than another piece of work (whether it be books, comics, web series, films etc.) being adapted to fit it.

All that being said though, without them we wouldn't have gotten great shows like Boardwalk Empire, Orange Is The New Black, Fargo, Hannibal, etc. and adaptations are obviously something that are not going to ever go away, so we may as well embrace the good.
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I have no problems with adaptations. A book (or series of books) is not the same as a movie (or a TV show) , it's a different entity in its own right. A well-adapted book can be a fantastic series.
Even an adaptation of a movie into a series can be fantastic (just ask Fargo).

I do draw the line at unnecessary, lesser remakes and reboots the likes of which have been plaguing movie theaters for a while now.

AMC's upcoming (when??) The Terror, adapted from the great book of the same name, is missing from your list.
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Two more for the list Longmire based on the Longmire mysteries and Stretching it a bit Revenge based on the novel The count of Monte Cristo.
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So what? The Untouchables was based on a book, The Saint was based on a series of novels, and those shows were on 50-plus years ago. If you take adaptations as a sign of no original thought in television, you might as well say TV has never been an original medium. If there are only a limited number of stories to tell, the important thing is how well the story is told, not whether it's never been told before. Some of the writers on this site need to let go of their blankies and come out of the fetal position.
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The problem with that is 50 years ago, there wasn't nearly the excessive amount of adaptation as there is today. While everyone wants to complain about lack of originality, the problem everyone keeps forgetting is that originality doesn't sell! Sequels and adaptations are so prevalent on the marketplace because they sell so well on the marketplace. Not only do studios not want to take a gamble, but viewers don't have the time or money to take as many gambles and it's generally safer to just go with what you know.

What I find more common isn't people complaining something is being adapted, it's that they're complaining it wasn't adapted the way THEY wanted it to be, essentially ruining any argument they had against adaptations to begin with. So yes, blankies and fetal positions all around just the same.
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That was the goal of a lot of Novelists though to have their books adapted for the silver screen. Of course I'm basing that off of the various conversation from the film "Capote," where all of the authors are saying things like this book will make a great movie
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That was also a pretty common trend amongst many comic book writers during the early-to-mid 2000's. Granted, I don't think anyone was more obvious about it than Mark Millar, but hey, he's never been known for subtlety anyways...
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What realy bother me is that this trend is also happening in hollywood.
All the movies nowadays are either a remake or some sort of adaptation.
There is no one anymore who writes something remotely original.
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It's not a trend. it's the norm & has been for decades upon decades. There have been people making the same argument about Hollywood loooong before you or I were born that have since died of old age...& decades upon decades from now, after we are nothing but bones, people will still be saying the same thing as if it were a trend
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I agree that Hollywood has always used pre-existing material to make movies. And, actually, I have no real problem with that, at least as long as they make good, entertaining movies (this is obviously not always the case).

But you have to agree that in the last decade or so sequels, prequels, spin-offs and the like have become much more prevalent than in previous times. In wikipedia's list of the highest grossing movies for the 2014, there is not a single film that is not a sequel, adaptation or re-imagining of previous material. Anf we're not talking of obscure, hard-to-find, never-heard-of books or anything like that.

In any case, if you look hard enough, there are always some original ideas out there.
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I'm perfectly cool with adaptations. Like Chrelle said, that's how it's always been done.

Hell, most of my favorite shows are adapted from another medium but there are a couple of things that specifically irritate me about 'em...First, Fanboy/Fangirl rage: No one can suck all the fun out of talking about a TV show like they can. They simply love too much & tend to choke the life out of whatever they embrace & nitpick it to death...even when it's good. Second: Network Bandwagoning. I've got no problem with movie to TV adaptations. Fargo & Dusk Till Dawn are good examples of how to do it right, but it's already starting to get under my skin that every channel is falling over themselves to get one or two of their own.

At this point, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if some network tried making a series out of The Exorcist or Schindler's List

/soapbox
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Networks largely seem to have a distaste for / fear of originality...until one of them decides to take a chance and it pays off big. Then the knockoffs and wannabes pop up all over the schedule for the next season or two, with the vast majority ending in failure. This cycle repeats over and over, year after year, decade after decade. I can cite examples of this going back at least 25 years and it was probably an old story even then.

As to questionable ideas for series, I'm convinced that networks would broadcast gruesome executions live in prime time if it meant getting a 75 share.

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Yeah. I think it's more about fear than distaste. I can't really blame the industry for wanting to make some bucks trying to surf a zeitgeist...it's just the nature of the beast & all, but gawd, I know it's just a fantasy, but it would really be great if networks spent more time & energy having some balls instead spending their time & energy cupping some other pair of balls. ::shrug::
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There are "original" series that are less original than many of the above shows. I would say they're also based on previous works, but are less honest about it.
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I don't see anything special about adaptations of novels. That's how it's always been done.
Serialization of movies and remakes of older series on the other hand, shows a lack of innovation.
But I wouldn't have missed neither Fargo nor From Dusk till Dawn. They were great, both movies and shows.
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and the more they adapt adaptions / spin off spin offs the more the ratings and total viewers go down. If you like or know about the "original" the more inclined you are to watch and then turn off because the TV show "doesn't follow the book" and people who don't like or know about the original don't tune in. An example is Shield. DC Marvel comic lovers tuned and hated it and non-comic book types never tuned in in the first place. Although renewed, the second season was in doubt.
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I don't remember seeing Mistresses, it's an adaptation of the original British version. and Sirens should probably mention that the original was a British series.

wouldn't Fargo technically be a continuation of the movie, since it seemed to take part in the same universe involving a different storyline (never saw the movie so..)
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Good call on Mistresses. Forgot about that one!
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I didn't see Red Band Society in the gallery. It's adapted from TV series Polseres Vermelles (Spain).
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Ah yes. Thank you! Adding it now.
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