After Game of Thrones, HBO is still king of the book-to-TV adaptation

HBO is showing no signs of giving up the crown of book-to-TV adaptations with hits like Watchmen and His Dark Materials.

In today’s age, walking through a bookstore is almost like scrolling through a video library as a very large amount of literary titles are frequently turned into a major motion picture or television series. Everyone has attempted to find greatness on screen from the pages of a book, but out of all the competition out there, one rules supreme when it comes to the live-action adaptation game.

The Home Box Office Network, or what is more commonly known as HBO, has been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to this practice. Over the years the premium cable provider has developed several award winners from mini-series to made for TV movies and everything in between.

So many great titles come to mind like Sharp Objects, Big Little Lies, Behind the Candelabra and Band of Brothers, which are just a handful of programs that solidify their dominance in this practice. But it doesn’t stop there by a long shot. Not only does their work bring home gold statues and critical acclaim, sometimes it can start an international phenomenon.

HBO’s Game of Thrones took the world by storm and was probably one of the biggest TV series to have ever existed. It single-handedly changed television forever as everyone continues to race to fill the gap its left behind, trying to make their shows on a cinematic level.

This legendary status HBO has achieved did not come by chance. And while some would guess this, it doesn’t quite feel like they have a strict formula to follow to guarantee a hit every time. They have set the standard, and if something isn’t HBO quality, its a subpar affair. Remember folks — it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

The common denominators in any HBO program are a stellar cast, large budgets and big names behind the scenes. But why is it that when other outfits provide these same ingredients in their projects, they fail to achieve the same results?

From watching the live-action adaptations that HBO puts out, it starts to become more apparent at what makes their work stand out so well among the rest. The strategies they apply seem to be different for each property.

One thing that brings down most live-action adaptations is the fact of not knowing what to take form the source material and what to leave out. This was something Game of Thrones did very well with in regards to the storylines they chose. It’s impossible to fit everything in, and of course, there will always be fans that complain, but the things Game of Thrones utilized from George R.R. Martin’s writings were enough to make it one the best shows ever made.

Another thing that HBO excels at is staying true to the source material when it really matters. While they do take a fair amount of liberties, they know when to stick the script, especially with His Dark Materials. The show stays very true to Philip Pullman’s novels, unlike the 2007 film adaptation attempt, The Golden Compass, that tanked a studio. This direction choice has resonated well with both newcomers and longtime fans of the property.

As good as they are at staying true to the source, HBO has shown zero fear of expanding the story beyond the book’s final page. While His Dark Materials is straight from the books, Watchmen is actually a continuation of the infamous graphic novel.

The series from Damon Lindelof takes place 34 years after the events of the comic and sees a brand new set of characters enter the fold along with some familiar faces. While this is all new content, the storyline from the original material helps push the narrative forward through flashbacks and compelling exposition.

Watchmen has always been regarded as a very difficult property to adapt, which was evident in the film version. Lindelof and HBO found a way around this hex by taking the story to a whole new level, offering subscribers a satisfying mix of old and new, resulting in yet another hit in the book-to-TV game.

This thought process is something HBO has done before. The Leftovers, which Lindelof was also the showrunner for, was somewhat bogged down by the source material. It wasn’t until the later seasons when they went off on their own did it really shine. HBO’s next attempt at this strategy will be with the highly anticipated upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series.

So it seems even after Game of Thrones, HBO’s reign of adaptation supremacy is still holding strong. His Dark Materials and Watchmen prove that they’ve still got it, and that’s not all that’s on the horizon. HBO’s next entry into the book-to-TV game will be from none other than the master of horror himself Stephen King. A mini-series for his story The Outsider will be arriving early next year starring Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman.

Will the Home Box Office network continue to sit on the throne when it comes to the book-to-TV game, or will one of their competitors usurp them in dramatic fashion? Only time will tell. But from the looks of things, HBO shows little signs of slowing down in that department.

Next: 25 best book-to-screen adaptations

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