7 Book Series That Should Be Made Into A TV Show Before That Bodice Ripping Drivel "Outlander"
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7 Book Series That Should Be Made Into A TV Show Before That Bodice Ripping Drivel "Outlander"

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | November 8, 2012 | Comments ()


I'm not trolling, I promise you. I know it's very dangerous to express your disdain for a highly popular book series. So all you "Outlander" lovers, you Gabaldon accolytes, you Jamie Fraser fangirls and fanboys can have at me in the comments section. I expect it and I don't blame you. I'd do the same if you attacked something I loved. That being said, I think the insanely popular "Outlander" series is pretty f*cking dumb. It's one wobbly half-step above the mass market bodice rippers my gran covers in brown paper before she reads them in public. And, listen, that's fine. Those things serve a purpose. And I love a man in a kilt as much as the next girl. But when I heard that Ron Moore ("Battlestar Galactica," "Deep Space Nine," "Roswell") would be adapting the series for Starz, my eyes rolled right back in my head.

Obviously, obviously it's smart to adapt a very popular book series for cable television. One need look no further than the success of "True Blood" "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones" (not to mention the filmic success of "Twilight") to know that a known-quantity story with a built-in, rabid fanbase is the perfect fodder for television. And, hell, Diana Gabaldon has already written seven volumes of this time traveling, kilt lifting nonsense so Moore et. al. will have plenty of material to pull from. But I can't help but think of all the other, better book series that merit an adaptation above "Outlander." And with that in mind, I took to Twitter last night to crowd-source some ideas of book series You People would like to see on your television. (Trust me, I didn't just pick my favorite books. I'm pretty sure the world isn't exactly clamoring for turn of the century pith helmets. Then again, with the success of "Downton Abbey," you never know.) Here are 7 options with a little light dream casting. Holler at me if you think of something even better.

7. "The Aubrey-Maturin Series" -- Patrick O'Brian: This fantastic series of seafaring books has 21 volumes and has already been made into a f*cking amazing and criminally underrated movie starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Why they stopped at one, I can't tell you. Would it make a great TV series? You're damn right it would. One need look no further than the excellent "Sharpe" or "Horatio Hornblower" series to know that this is fertile ground. The downside, of course, is that this particular set of books is a bit of a sausage fest, so not much room for "Game of Thrones"-style sexposition. Alas.
Dream Casting: Crowe is too busy, of course, to reprise his role as Capt. Jack Aubrey, but I see no reason why the equally weather-beaten Sean Bean couldn't pick up where Crowe left off. As for Dr. Maturin? Well, let's be honest, Bettany isn't doing much else these days.

6. "The Passage Trilogy" -- Justin Cronin: Justin Cronin famously sold the movie rights to his clever vampire books before the first installment was even published in June 2010. The second volume was released this fall with the third slated for 2014. As nice as a plump movie deal is, I think these wonderful books would make terrible movies. They're far too long (the first book clocked in at 784 pages), tangled and grand in scope for a feature film series. Even if that series were seven films. I would much rather see it adapted for television where there's room to grow and tweak the vast timeline and large cast of characters. If you haven't tried them out yet, think early Stephen King. And then start salivating.
Dream Casting: Amy (after the outbreak) has always been Dakota Fanning in my mind.
dakota fanning   pics 1600X1200.jpeg

5. "Dune" -- Frank Herbert: Many have tried, but, so far, no one has been able to truly capture the appeal and rich splendor of the "Dune" series. Oh, I like the films and mini-series that have come before. But I think we can do better. Especially given the advancements in special effects.
Dream Casting: I'd love to see Evan Peters ("American Horror Story") as Paul Atreides aka Muad'Dib. Mostly because the kid has talent and I'm not sure he should continue to hide his light under Ryan Murphy's graphic bushel. If you think Peters is too dark for the role, then maybe he'd be a better fit for the next entry.

4. "The Sandman Chronicles" -- Neil Gaiman: On the world's most popular comic series, Neil Gaiman's dark and gothic tale would be an absolutely delightful TV series. I was completely devastated by the depressingly low budget 1996 adaptation of his "Neverwhere," but after Coraline I think Gaiman has a lot more clout in the entertainment world.
Dream Casting: This is basically an elaborate excuse to get David Tennant back on my TV screen on a regular basis. Could he pull off Dream? Oh I think he could. Summer Glau, on the other hand, is a physical match for Death. If she were to tone up her acting skills, I would love to see her do some Gaiman.

3. "Y: The Last Man" -- Brian K. Vaughan: There have been rumors about a film adaptation of this fantastic comic series for years. But, like the other titles listed here, I think this post-apocalyptic story would be better suited for the smaller screen. In stark contrast to the Aubrey-Maturin novels, this series is a total clambake. But something tells me you wouldn't have a problem with that.
Dream Casting: I had Yelchin in my mind as I was reading the series. But he's starting to get a little too old to play Yorick. Get your *ss in gear, Hollywood.

2. "Discworld" -- Terry Pratchett: This TV series is reportedly in development. I'm not sure what the hold up is. Quite possibly author Terry Pratchett's illness. But I would pay all my money to whatever channel would finally do this sprawling world justice. (Don't watch the ITV movies. Just. Don't.)
Dream Casting: It's called "dream" casting, right? So I can "dream" that the late great Pete Postlethwaite is still with us? Good. Because no other Vimes will do.

1. "The Song Of The Lioness Quartet" -- Tamora Pierce: I read this series of books over and over until the covers started to come off. The story of a young girl who wants to be a fighter and dresses as her brother so she can train with the other boys before coming into her own as a the most bad*ss knight in the realm is begging to be a TV series. Basically it's the story of Arya Stark who turns into the Khaleesi and then into Brienne of Tarth. Just so you know, the last book in Pierce's series predates the first in "Game of Thrones" by 8 years.
Dream Casting: Maisie Williams. Yeah, yeah, she's locked into "Game of Thrones" for the foreseeable future, but she would be perfection itself.
maisie .jpeg

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Lbeees


  • the other courtney

    My husband refers to the books as "that story where everyone gets raped all the time".
    I love that series. LOVE IT AND DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS IT. Gabaldon's prose if phenomenal, the historical detail is insanely thorough and Jaime Frazier is the shit. Concur that only HBO could do it justice but you bet your sweet ass I'll watch it.

  • littlealbatross

    Song of the Lioness Quartet....oh gods yes, but only if it blows my mind and has the best cast and high production values. I read this as a kid, it made a huge impact on me. I think all little girls should read this. Learn it. And don't take shit- you can be whatever, and whoever you want. I still read these books about once a year, it makes me happy, like Christmas. Why is it not more popular?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    There is a Discworld series in development.

    While they were far from perfect, I didn't think that Going Postal and Hogfather were that bad. Richard Coyle (Jeff from Coupling) as Moist von Lipwig, Marc Warren as Teatime, and Michelle Dockery as Susan were great.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I thought Jeff was very unattractive but put the same actor in different clothes and he comes across as very handsome and rather dashing. I think it was the shiny metallic suit that did it for me.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I also took a liking to Claire Foy's Adora Belle, although I abhor smoking women.

  • Strand

    Master and Commander was one of those movies I didn't enjoy when it came out. Probably because I bought into everyone else's expectations that it was Gladiator On A Boat. Then I watched it a couple years later and enjoyed it, a couple months after that and loved it. That movie is absolutely beautiful.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I should re-watch it, I was very underwhelmed by it years ago.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Have you ever seen Spartacus? Starz is the perfect place for Outlander and I say that with love for both the book series and spectacularly cheesy TV shows.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Yeah, thanks, Jo, I was just riding high on my joyous 'it's Friday, goddamit!' vibe, and you had to go and put in that picture and remind me that Postlethwaite is no longer with us. Now I mourn. Again.

  • Yocean

    No love for Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrel by Susanna Clerk? Then again that might be better as a double or trilogy of movies. But still. I wanna see it made dammnit.

  • yocean

    And David Tennant would make a great Jonathan Strange.

  • Kate

    Wow. Have you even read Diana's books? I'm thinking no. They are anything but bodice rippers

  • Mrs. Julien


  • Idle Primate

    HBO miniseries of Kavalier and Clay.

    It would be great to see sandman. But don't let the potty wooden doll Glau anywhere near Death. It needs to be someone buoyant, spritely, and chipper

  • Fredo

    I threw it into the WWZ thread but make that book into a 10-episode HBO adaptation. Hire Mark Ruffalo as the central UN worker and get a super-cast of actors to come in and out.

    As for other book series?

    His Majesty's Dragon series:come on, the SFX are cheap now and imagine getting Tom Hardy as Cpt Laurence and Rachel Weisz as Cpt. Harcourt. And I'm thinking James McAvoy can voice Temeraire.

    The Sandman series: Benedict Cumberbatch is Dream AKA Morpheus. Ellen Page is Death. Carey Mulligan is Desire.

  • AudioSuede

    I'm gonna throw a curveball in here: "Black Hole" by Charles Burns. It's basically another nostalgic throwback high school angst story, but with the added sci-fi elements of an STD that turns people into monsters. Plus it's a beautifully-written source material that could spawn a whole series of smarter and more elevated teen drama; a hallway romance series that's not about how vapid and apathetic teens are, but how they navigate the world and grow up despite the horror and conflict inside being expressed on the outside by the ravages of disease. It could just be the genre-Wonder Years or Freaks and Geeks, minus the comedy (the book is veeeeery dark).

  • literaticat

    oh oh oh OH and if they made alanna then they could follow up with the (even better imo) Protector of the Small series. AhHHHHHH. LOVE TAMORA PIERCE SO MUCH.

  • Tinkerville

    Yes! Protector of the Small was the shit. Not that Alanna wasn't amazing, but I think the storytelling got much more complex with that series.

  • I'll admit I loved the first three books of that series. I love a fun, ridiculous bodice ripper, and the story was so much fun and the characters were perfect.

    Then along came Brianna and she made me want to kill myself and I stopped reading. The fact that someone wanted to rape Claire every 2 goddamn seconds also got pretty damn old.

    A TV show could be so much fun, though. It'd all depend on the casting.

  • Groundloop

    The phrase "Ryan Murphy’s graphic bushel" has painted a most horrific image in my mind.

  • DominaNefret

    For a long time I thought it could never be done because of all of the sex, but after how well HBO has adapted Game of Thrones I would LOVE to see them tackle the Kushiel's Legacy Trilogy. I think each book could easily be split in to two to three seasons.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Lookit guys, the Kingkiller Chronicle needs to be here. Once finished, that thing is at least three awesome miniseries.

  • Steph

    That guy with the silly name who plays Sherlock is the obvious choice for Dream of the Endless. Also, Neverwhere was originally conceived as a TV show, Gaiman wrote the book after when it didn't turn out like he'd imagined.

  • *shun*

  • Ash

    *sigh* Evan Peters. Which reminds me...new AHS episode!

  • EB III

    Preacher from Garth Ennis would be my top choice. Can't be done well enough as a movie, and has to be on premium cable. Do each volume as a shortened 6-8 episode season.

  • Stephen Nein

    I've become a complete slob for Larry Correia's Grimnoir series set in the Depression-era with magic & guns. Lots of guns. Capital G, guns. I hear that the Monster Hunter stuff is just as good.

    Now that HBO has proven that murderous backstabbing & sex with complex plots can be marvelous and popular, I see no reason most of Dan Simmons' work couldn't be translated to series television. Hyperion drags a bit at the end, but the first two books would work. And it would take several years to unwind Ilium and Olympos.

  • AngelenoEwok

    Wait wait, hold up before we get to your list.

    *has never heard of Outlander*

    Bodice ripping, you say?


  • Mrs. Julien

    Give it a go. It seems to be a love or hate thing. It's not great literature, but it is fun.

  • Amanda

    I wonder how many YA series are being picked up nowadays. There is just such a huge gamut of great stories waiting to be adapted for cable television. I was really hoping that The Hunger Games would've been a series on HBO instead of watered down for a PG13 audience.

  • Artemis

    Dude, buy your gran a Kindle so that she doesn't have to paper over book covers to enjoy her smut in public.

  • Also, there are only two of them so I'm not sure if they count as a series, but I have always wanted to see a film and/or book adaptation of Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown...

  • JoannaRobinson

    One of my all-time favorites.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    HOMG. According to this Wikipedia article (my research skils are IMPECCABLE), Outlander was inspired by A DOCTOR WHO EPISODE.


    ::bangs chest::



    Oh? Still don't care for it? Fair enough, then. Carry on.

  • Falstaff

    "Many of tried..." I think one of those words does not mean what you think it means.

  • Bandit

    On one hand, I would dearly love to see the Discworld come to life. On the other, I fear disappointment that it could hardly live up to the hugely imaginative world crafted for us by Mr. Pratchett. My fears are justified by ITV's attempt (and failure).

  • Phaedre

    Yep. I fear that it can never be done right. To me so much of the fun is reading the footnotes and little in-jokes. Or how DEATH speaks in all caps. All that would be lost in translation.

    Some things are best left to the original medium.

  • Zirza

    Gaiman. Anything Gaiman works for me. Can we do American Gods too while we're at it?

  • FireLizardQueen

    American Gods is already happening. HBO picked it up.

  • Zirza

    I thank thee, O bearer of good news.

  • Slim

    Yes, this. I cannot wait for this. And that will give Neil the clout.

  • Nosio

    Oh god, I loved the Tamora Pierce series. I think I may have just realized why Arya is my favorite GoT character. Nicely done, JoRo.

  • I'm going to assume that a "Horation" is what the coach gives at half time of the Lingerie Bowl, and is not in fact a typo.

  • Kaetian

    I would give nearly anything to see a made-for-cable series based on the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey.

  • Phaedre

    Oh God, yes! And I actually think this could work on HBO. Looking at what they do with Game of Thrones, it's actually less controversial. No incest at least. And with the success of Shades of Grey we at least know that people would be interested in the themes...

  • FireLizardQueen

    That would be amazing, but I think even HBO wouldn't go there and they'd be the only ones who could do it justice.

  • Samantha Klein

    Oh, J. Rob. Thank you ALL THE TIMES for that header pic. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Also: Woot, Song of the Lioness.

  • Malin

    At least you do realize to what extent them's fighting words to a large contingent of Pajiba readers. I love the books, and don't think they need to be adapted for telly at all. I got more than I ever dreamed of with Game of Thrones, there's no way there could be two decent TV adaptations of books I love.

    Hence they should also stay FAR FAR away from Sandman. There's no one I can think of that could adapt it properly, and no actor or actress alive that can do the Endless justice.

  • foolsage

    Del Toro has a great eye for twisted dark fantasy, and I have to agree that Tennant would make a fine Dream. I'd never really considered it but he could certainly pull it off.

    I agree that Glau would be a better Delight/Delirium than Death. Why not put Tori Amos in as the character whose look and feel was based on her anyhow? She might well be able to pull of a fine Death.

    I've always imagined Destruction being played by Brian Blessed. I never knew until just now though that Neil Gaiman agreed. Huh. Go figure.

    Swinton as Desire works for me.

    Gabriel Byrne would be good as Destiny, or perhaps Jude Law; someone physically appealing who's nonetheless somber and reserved.

    Despair... hmm. I'm not sure who would fit that role. It's more than a little unusual.

  • Tinkerville

    Artemis Fowl as a television series, please! It'd make a brilliantly smart kids/YA show.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Yes. And now I'm reminded I should really get around to catching up (or did it finish?) that series. I liked it when I was younger and then just lost the thread.

  • Malin

    Now that would be a good starting point for a show.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    Oooh, That WOULD be good. The guidance counselor from Glee would be a great Holly Short.

  • Ley

    I agree with all the other choices (Pete Postlethwaite was inspired), but there is no shortage of actresses who could play Death...so why settle with Summer Glau?

    Adapting "Sandman" also makes me think we could squeeze Tilda Swinton in there.

  • TheFatling

    As Desire. Full. Stop.

  • Quorren

    Tilda as Desire, for sure. Glau would make a better Delirium.

  • I know it's been done, but the Dresden Files is just begging for a better TV incarnation. Or at least one that gets a second season. There's so much more material now from the books, so the producers wouldn't have to make up derpy dragon plotlines.

    And I second Kushiro's motion for a Thursday Next adaptation, although I have no idea how they'd do it.

  • Optimus Rhyme

    Somebody suggested RDJ as Harry. Just mull it over.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Depending on how faithful we're being, Dresden at the start is definitely pretty young. Definitely sub-30, but then add in wizard aging and he's probably not apparently much more than mid-20s. RDJ wouldn't really fit.

    That said, I'm pretty sure going that young would be the biggest mistake ever. Which is why I advocated early 30s, with Christopher Gorham as Harry and Kristen Bell as Murphy. Matt Bomer, should he be free is Thomas to me.

    ETA: Faery casting is a problem, though. I can't get away from Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett as Mab and Titania, respectively. Pretty sure you can't get them both on TV, or even one of them.

  • Ick. Gorham? I love K-Bell as Murphy, but I don't know that Gorham can do stoic. At least, I've never really seen it. He'd also need to bulk up a tiny bit.

  • katherinelynn_04

    Have you seen him on Covert Affairs? He's pretty impressive, both acting and build-wise. He plays a pretty convincing blind man/ex-military. With a six-pack.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I would bet money he can pull it off (he plays blind pretty well, which is about halfway to stoic, really). And physically, I think he's pretty much spot on. Harry's never been described as particularly built, he's just the kind of big you get from being tall. Training wise, he learned to run and fight with a quarterstaff-- not a guy rocking much real brute force.

    ETA: And of course, he's well under the accurate height (RDJ would be even worse), but you get the right duster and shoot him the right way and he still gets to be imposing.

  • BobbFrapples

    James Marsters reads all of the audio books. He's forever Harry in my head.

  • Someone reminded me of that fact on my CBR blog not three weeks ago. But I'm having trouble with Blondie Bear as Harry visually. I'm sure his voice is dead-on.

  • Eh. Paul Blackthorne did a pretty bang-up job in the first series. I'd love to see them give him a second chance. I'm sure RDJ would be great, but that would also imply a totally different level of production.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    ::sputtering, incoherent rage::

  • JoannaRobinson


  • SeaKat Stabler
  • Kiddo

    Sandman Chronicles please oh please. And all the yesses in the world for David Tennant. I've missed him. I can't get behind Summer Glau though. I don't think she can improve her acting enough for me to enjoy watching her as Death.

    Don't hate on my Outlander. That series got me through months of recovery after some gnarly back surgery. Not so much a bodice-ripper as a kilt-lifter. Hubba hubba.

  • b

    I'm normally a perfectly respectable book reader, but I love me some Outlander too. They're pretty well written and, honestly, as the books have progressed I feel like they've gotten less bodice-rippy and more historically focused.
    (Althooooough I will never forget one scene in a Lord John spinoff where he walks in on his lover with another man, his buttcheeks being "split like a buttered roll". That might even be beyond bodice ripping, haha.)

  • danobc

    David Bowie is my dream cast for Desire. oh how i would love to see him in that role.

  • Phaedre

    James Alexander Mckenzie Fraser is and will always be in my fictional five and I don`t care who knows it.

    All of my adaptation dreams have already come true with Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead but I'm okay with the Sandman idea.

  • Tracey

    Phaedre, it's actually James Malcolm Alexander McKenzie Fraser, and I'll fight you for him!!! But I do think it will be a terrible series. Some things should be left to the imagination....

  • A big yes to the Song of the Lioness Quartet! I've re-read those books as an adult and still enjoy them. :)

  • Malin

    I only discovered them as an adult, and it makes me sad that I didn't know about them as a teenage girl first discovering fantasy. I would've adored them even more than I did now.

  • e jerry powell

    Is that prosthetic makeup or his real ear?

  • BiblioGlow

    Pretty sure it's makeup. Aubrey gets blown up almost as often as Maturin has near-death experiences.

  • Optimus Rhyme

    That Pete Postlethwait casting gave me whiplash. THAT IS PERFECT- oh ... sads.
    And you know I support Yelch in all endeavors.

  • JoannaRobinson

    I think you're the one who suggested that to me in the first place when I was reading the series. Y.elchin The Last Man.

  • kushiro -

    I would watch the shit out of a TV show about Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next.

  • Bodhi

    Fuck yes! Dream casting for Thursday Next??

  • Bodhi

    grrr disqus hates me...

  • Bodhi

    Fuck yes. Dream casting for Tuesday Next?? I'm drawing blanks...

  • Tinkerville

    Completely agree but unfortunately I think Jasper Fforde's said that he'll never give away the rights to it. Shame because the Det. Jack Spratt books would make for a fun whimsical mystery series.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I really, really, really want HBO to pick up Y The Last Man. The graphic novels are AWESOME. I read all of them in almost 1 sitting.

    On a similar vein, other graphic novels that should be made in to TV shows? The Runaways, Fables ( but Once Upon a Time and Grimm ruined the chances of that forever), and, of course, Strangers in Paradise.

  • Jemiah Jefferson

    Or "Echo", the next series from Terry Moore. It's phenomenal. (If you haven't read it, get it - minblowingly wonderful.)

  • foolsage

    I'd love to see a "Books of Magic" adaptation, though Harry Potter ripped off more than a little from the source there. "The Boys" by Ennis could be good fun if properly handled. I still maintain that John Constantine could be a fabulous property in the right hands, for TV of feature films. Busiek's "Astro City" had some splendid stories and a compelling setting, with a solid deconstruction of the superhero genre. "Powers" by Bendis would be another great option along similar lines. It'd be damned hard to get the right treatment but maybe someday we'll see "The Invisibles" as well, by Morrison.

  • foolsage

    *or* feature films. Sigh.

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