Why Books Should Be Adapted To Limited Series, Not Movies

We love to see our favorite books become movies but adaptations are rarely seamless. As shows like Queen’s Gambit demonstrate, limited series may be the answer.

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In theory we all want to see our favorite books adapted to movies, but in practice, the transition is rarely seamless. From Artemis Fowl to Divergent, there are plenty of examples of movies that failed to live up to their book counterparts.

As I discussed in a previous article titled, “5 Reasons Why Books are Better Than Their Movie Adaptations,” one of the reasons for this persisting problem is the limited runtime. With movies, an entire story must be condensed into around two hours of content. The result is either that crucial scenes are cut out or the plot feels rushed. But there is a solution: limited series television shows.



For those who are unfamiliar with the term, limited series refer to tv shows that intentionally run for only one season or a few episodes. Some popular examples include Netflix’s The Queens Gambit, and HBO’s Chernobyl. The upside to limited runs is that there’s no long wait for the next season as is typically the case with tv shows. It is also advantageous to movies in that there is ample time to explore all the complexities of plot and character development.

As both the Queens Gambit and Chernobyl immense popularity demonstrates, limited series have the potential to be the next big trend in television and streaming. Without further ado, here’s a deeper look into the benefits of adapting a book into a limited series.


Longer Runtime = More Details


As previously mentioned, movies are constrained by their limited runtimes. With limited series, this is not the case. Episodes can usually range from 45 minutes to over an hour and usually span anywhere from 4-12 episodes on average. At the very minimum you’re getting at least double the amount of runtime that a movie would give you.

So when it comes to adapting books, limited series can go into far more detail than a movie could.

This means characters can be fully fleshed out, even having entire episodes devoted to backstory, character development or inner struggles. The longer runtime also means most plot points can be explored in its entirety rather than being cut out or rushed. In general, the extra time lends itself to creating a more complex and detailed world that is more faithful to the original story.

I should also note that while a book series may lend itself to a TV show that has multiple seasons, in general, a limited series works best for cases where there is only a single book in the series.


The Wait is Over


Sure on-going TV series are great, but what about the insanely long wait between seasons? (Looking at you here, Stranger Things). In truth, binge watching an entire series when it drops and then having to wait a year or longer for the next installment can be frustrating beyond belief. With limited series you know exactly what you are getting. When it’s done, it’s done. While a good limited series might leave you wanting more, sometimes it’s nice to not have to keep track of the release dates for all those ongoing shows you’re only semi-invested in.


Content is King


In the increasingly cluttered world of streaming services, streaming companies are desperate to stand out with original content. For these businesses, making a limited series is a great way to provide new content to viewers while not investing an enormous quantity of time and money into an ongoing series. There’s no need to worry about long-term contracts or actors outgrowing their roles. They can take an idea, quickly produce a few episodes and then move onto the next project.

Plus, there’s no shortage of ideas for these types of shows. While limited series are not exclusively based off books, doing an adaptation of a pre-existing storyline can once again save time and money. With all this in mind, we may be seeing a huge shift to these types of series in the coming years.


The Future


Perhaps the biggest indicator of limited series potential has yet to come. I’m talking about Disney Plus’ Adaptation of the Percy Jackson series. We all remember the massive flop that was the Percy Jackson movies. The movies were nothing like the books and ultimately a huge disappointment for fans.

But now, Disney Plus is planning to make a TV show of the Percy Jackson series. While there are five books in the series and this would likely mean there would be multiple seasons, the first season of this show would provide a direct comparison to how TV series can trump movies when it comes to adaptations.

In all likelihood, the Percy Jackson show will triumph over its movie version for all of the reasons already stated above. There were plenty of book scenes cut of the movie adaptation, like fighting the Chimera on the St. Louis Arch or a beach battle showdown with Ares. Key plot points like this could likely be explored in the series, whereas the film didn’t have the time to do so.

While there is no official release date for the show, if the series is successful, it will directly show that adapting books to shows rather than movies is more effective and enjoyable. (For more on this check out: “Everything the Percy Jackson’ TV Series Needs to Include.”)

So the next time you want to see your favorite book go from page to the screen, consider asking for a TV adaptation instead!

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