Monday, February 17, 2014

Literature on TV

So, for those who might have previously been unable to find a way to watch the hit TV show, True Detective is one of the most fascinating shows to pop onto many people's TV radars in some time. While the quality of the acting and the story is unbelievably good, one of the most interesting elements of the story is that it is playing rather broadly with literature. What kind of literature? Weird Literature, the kind that created the foundation for some of the best American horror stories of their time.

Matthew McConaughey plays Detective "Rust" Chole and Woody Harrelson plays Martin Hart. The two characters work for the Louisiana Police Department as Detectives who come upon a grizzle, and ritualized, murder in the outlands. What starts as a simple open/close murder case gets weird fast when all kinds of bizarre elements get attached to the case - a figure known as "The Yellow King," strange objects left at the crime scene, a traveling church, the Governor's family, and more.  The mentioning of "The Yellow King" is particularly important since the titular "King" is a figure created by Robert Chambers in 1895.

So? How does a book written in 1985 impact the plot of a show in 2014 outside of a few simple references? As mentioned here (very, very well ) the impact of the work by Chambers on the HBO series is pervasive and subtle ... but it is there!

A new series entitled Penny Dreadful (which will be appearing on Showtime) will be taking large influences from Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and many, many more books. The Starz series Black Sails is a prequel to the events of Treasure Island! While the works are not new literature, G.R.R. Martin's epic series Game of Thrones was adapted by HBO off best-selling books.

With the popularity of literature on the pages, it is not a large leap to see why so many cable TV networks would want to create their own versions of these works, either as influences, re-makes, or prequels. While to some an English Class might not seem like anything more than a means of learning how to write papers, some see them as doorways to million-dollar TV shows.