Thursday, January 25, 2018

TMP Television Edition: Book to TV Adaptations


It's the final Thursday of the month of January, 2018. That means Thursday Movie Picks goes small. By small, I mean we're talking TV. More specifically, the topic chosen by our wonderful host, Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves, is Book to TV Adaptations. Rather than digging around to figure out which of my favorite shows were born on a bookshelf, I went with all mini-series. I even thought about making this post a mini-series. I wasn't sure how I was going to do that...and I ran out of time, so we're stuck with my one normal post. Alrighty then, let's get to it.

Roots
(1977)
When people make their lists American literary giants, the name Alex Haley often gets left out. However, he has penned some of the 20th century's most important work. As a journalist, he conducted the first interview in the history of Playboy magazine and was responsible for a number its very best interviews. They really were afforded more discussion than the pictures of naked or near-naked women adorning the magazine's surrounding pages. He was the writer who took the words of a fiery civil rights leader and crafted them into The Autobiography of Malcolm X. However, his crowning achievement will forever be the Pulitzer Prize winning historical novel Roots, based on the history of his own family. When the miniseries aired in 1977, it shook America to its core. For the first time, the medium of television was used to bring the country face-to-face with its biggest demon - slavery.


Roots: The Next Generation
(1979)
Two years after Roots, came this sequel miniseries. It continues chronicling Haley's family, including, and concluding with, Haley himself. America was still reeling from the blow struck by the original. Matters of race and the nation's complicated history dealing with race were still hot topics. As if to remind us all that the struggle isn't over, here came this tale about a family that is uniquely American. Though not quite as impactful as its predecessor, it still has plenty to teach us.


Alex Haley's Queen
(1993)
Roots and Roots: The Next Generation look at slavery, in particular, and race as a whole from a male point of view. Queen, looks at things from the female perspective. It's based on the life of his grandmother Queen Jackson Haley. However, the gender of its vantage point was not the only thing Queen had to offer. It also took the tragic mulatto trope head on as Queen was born of a black woman who was a slave and her white owner. Like Roots, this  one encompasses many generations as it offers a broad scope of the African-American experience.



22 comments:

  1. I've seen bits of Roots and yeah, that was intense. Mike Brady as a slave owner. Wow....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roots has lots of faces in roles you wouldn't expect.

      Delete
  2. I never realized Roots had a sequel. We watched that in my History class in Jr. High, that one sticks with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Next Generation is definitely the tamer of the two, but still excellent and important.

      Delete
  3. I remember watching Roots, mostly at the behest of one of my sisters. I was 9 or 10 when Roots was broadcast, and it made a pretty significant impact on me. Honestly, I'm not sure how it couldn't have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw it for the first time at about that age, myself. That was a lot to process. And I had to process it because each night's entry was actually homework. Hard to fathom that, now.

      Delete
  4. One of my big regrets as far as TV viewing goes is that I've never gotten around to seeing Roots. I remember when it was broadcast and I just didn't have the time at that particular period to follow it and I've toyed with working my way through since but it's such a significant chunk to commit to. One of these days though....same goes for Holocaust another one I missed.

    So obviously I haven't seen your second but I did watch Queen and thought it was good, it would have been better had Angela Bassett or Lynn Whitfield played the lead frankly but Halle Berry got the job done.

    I also went the mini-series route all adaptations of books that I loved, the first is my all time favorite book, that had versions that turned out well. Nothing is worse than to see a book you loved destroyed by a bad alteration (Pillars of the Earth comes to mind-brilliant book-vomitous miniseries. I get mad just thinking about it!!!) Well on to happier things here's my three.

    East of Eden (1981)-Comprehensive telling of the John Steinbeck masterpiece itself a twist of the Cain and Abel parable is effectively rendered if slightly weakened by a mushy performance by Timothy Bottoms as main protagonist Adam Trask. But it is entirely worth seeking out for Jane Seymour’s virtuoso turn as one of the most venal females in literature. Her work as the soulless Cathy/Kate is a revelation-she is by turns vindictive, coy, feral, enchanting and chilling. It is one of THE best pieces of acting in television history. For her work alone this is a must see but it is a very effectively told tale with many other fine performances especially Lloyd Bridges as a version of the author’s own grandfather Samuel Hamilton.

    Tales of the City (1993)-Based on Armistead Maupin’s first book in his Tales series this is a bittersweet look at the denizens of the bohemian apartments of 28 Barbary Lane in swingin’ 70’s San Francisco whose owner Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) is the freest of spirits. Full of wonderful period detail and fine acting from at the time rising performers such as Laura Linney as na├»ve new girl in town Mary Ann Singleton and Chloe Webb as nonconformist Mona Ramsey as well as Parker Posey, Paul Gross, Thomas Gibson and a wealth of others. Followed by several sequels.

    The Stand (1994)-Solid rendering of Stephen King’s chronicle of a nearly annihilating plague followed by a battle of good versus evil features an excellent cast (Gary Sinise, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee etc.) and involving story telling though it does have some ill-conceived special effects even for the time. Outside of that misstep this is about as good a version of the story as can be had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! I'm surprised you haven't seen Roots. It's one of those things I automatically assume anyone who was alive at the time has seen.

      As much as I love Angela Bassett, and think she's a far superior actress to Berry, she couldn't play that role due to her complexion. The character spent lots of time (often successfully) trying to pass for white. That said, there may have been lighter and better actresses around.

      Of your picks, I saw a very little bit of East of Eden and the same for The Stand. Just never went back for them.

      Delete
  5. I've seen parts of Roots, but none of the sequel or Queen. It is powerful stuff, even today.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I haven't seen any of these. I didn't even know these books existed.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was riveted by Roots and so was my mom. I had heard that, decades later, Alex Haley made this family tree up but that doesn't matter in the slightest because these events are real even if the characters are not. It is beyond disgusting how one race can assume they are superior to another just because of the colour of their skin. I thought Levar Burton was excellent as the young Kunte Kinte and so was Lesley Uggams as his daughter. I watch Finding Your Roots hosted by the great Henry Louis Gates Jr. and he often shows the famous people having their ancestry done that most African Americans had a white slave owner as their ancestor. I watched the Next generation also and, although, not as good as the original, it still was quite good showcasing the struggles that many African American faced and still face. I haven't seen the last film but it looks good

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The entire country was riveted by Roots. And with good reason, regardless if the people are real or not.

      Delete
    2. You are so right! I am glad everyone, including my mom and me were riveted

      Delete
  8. I actually thought about doing a theme of books turned into miniseries, since that was a thing in the 1970s and 1980s with Roots being one of the big drivers of the craze. Probably would have gone with Roots, The Winds of War, and North and South.

    I decided to be boring and go with three old TV series instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Turning books into miniseries was a huge thing in the 70s and 80s. I watched a number of others, myself. That includes at least some of North and South. That one didn't hold Mama Dell's interest all the way through, plus it aired on school nights, so I never got to see it all.

      Delete
  9. Know of the original Roots, not the later additions. I can only imagine its impact.

    ReplyDelete
  10. They remade Roots recently, what did you think of the new version? Have not seen the original version, but saw a little of the new one and didn't think it was good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't seen the new one, but I do plan on it soon. I'm sure it can't measure up to the original, but I'm curious to see what they did with the material.

      Delete
  11. Roots is really good but it has been so long since I've seen it. And you're right, it was important.

    ReplyDelete