By Megan Cradock, Sam Chambers, Konstantopoulou, and Ana Cecilia Matute
From epic fantasy like Game of Thrones and Good Omens to beautiful love stories such as Heartstopper, from terrifying dystopian futures like The Handmaid’s Tale to classics such as Pride and Prejudice, book lovers today are spoilt for choice with what to watch on the small screen. We’ve selected some of our favourites to share for this year’s World Television Day.
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
The recent TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series has breathed new life into the teenage spy.
Alex’s life is turned upside down when his uncle and guardian, Ian Rider, dies in a car accident. They say he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt but Alex isn’t convinced. Setting out to discover the truth behind his uncle’s death, Alex crosses paths with MI6 and is pulled into the dangerous world of espionage.
The TV show skips over most of the first book, Stormbreaker, instead choosing to adapt the second Alex Rider book, Point Blanc, for its first season – in which, Alex must infiltrate a sinister boarding school in the Alps – and then Eagle Strike for its second (which sees Alex investigating an enigmatic celebrity and his new, suspicious video game release).
The show has excellent casting and the episodes allow for good pacing and believable character development. Otto Farrant is incredible as Alex, bringing the spy’s characteristic sarcasm and humorous bravado, but also portraying his more anxious and emotional side.
The TV show recognises that, for many, this will be an adaptation of a childhood-favourite book series; it blends old and new, and it doesn’t shy away from the underlying darker elements of the story.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Towards the end of the 1980s, not long after revealing the meaning of life in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams penned a detective story like no other. Bringing together an “Electric Monk” and his horse, an intergalactic Cambridge don, two ghosts, “Kubla Khan,” some gloriously dated computer technology and, of course, the wry and enigmatic Dirk Gently/Cjelli, the book – not to mention its sequel – is quite brilliant.
Dirk’s detecting technique centres upon the principle of the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things,” which he puts to the test as he goes about solving the unexpected murder of Richard’s boss and the mystery behind why so many curious things seemed to have gravitated around the inconspicuous Richard. There can be little doubt why this classic of the sci-fi-supernatural-detective-poetic-romance genre has inspired not one but two television adaptations. The most recent version (2016-17) stars Elijah Wood and ran for two seasons on Netflix.
The Partner Track by Helen Wan
In line with the binge-worthy, plot-turning drama series that characterise Netflix’s output this decade, The Partner Track’s first and only series was released in 2022.
Helen Wan’s fictional novel follows the all-too-hectic life of a Chinese American woman who is employed in one of the top law firms of New York City, Parsons Valentine & Hunt LLP, and hustles hard on the track to making partner. The series loyally follows the plot of the book, and the ten-episode-length ensures that each and every key moment that needs to be highlighted is included.
The protagonist, Ingrid Yun, is a woman who knows exactly what she wants out of life; it’s just that, quite simply, she lost herself somewhere along the way to success. Both the book and the series underline the problematic treatment of people of a specific gender, ethnicity or sexuality, and how they are not only pigeonholed but often rejected by the world. Actors Arden Cho and Dominic Sherwood, who play main characters Ingrid Yun and Jeff Murphy respectively, meet the requirements that must be met as they successfully transport the chemistry described between the two from the pages right onto the screen.
Despite Netflix’s decision to cancel series two, the truth in the match of the storyline between the two mediums still stands.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
If you like history and mystery, this novel takes you to Amsterdam during the 17th century and explores the wonderful traditions of the Dutch Golden Age. The Miniaturist tells the story of the recently married Petronella Oortman and her intriguing wedding gift – a doll house that mirrors her new home exactly. Through this new gift and her interest in the uniqueness of the doll house, she starts unfolding a mystery.
All the marvellous details from the history of doll houses during the Dutch Golden Age are also captured in the BBC adaptation in 2017. It is a difficult task to show all the research behind this novel on TV and, certainly, I believe it is achieved through the fantastic work of costume design and cinematography.