Popular Books Being Turned Into TV Shows in 2018
In 2017, some of the most popular shows of the year were based on books, from Big Little Lies to The Handmaid’s Tale. This year, expect even more small-screen adaptations of popular novels to make waves.
There are quite a few TV adaptations of books in the works, so now’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on the source material and be ahead of the curve. Here are the popular books being adapted for TV in 2018 — including one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.
1. The Alienist — premiered Jan. 22
Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel The Alienist takes place in New York City in 1896. When police are struggling to capture a serial killer targeting young boys in Manhattan, they recruit a criminal psychologist, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. Joining him in the investigation are John Moore, a newspaper reporter, and Sara Howard, a secretary for the NYPD.
24 years after Carr’s novel was published, TNT has turned it into a TV show. Starring as Laszlo Kreizler is Daniel Brühl, while Luke Evans plays John Moore and Dakota Fanning pays Sara Howard. Brian Geraghty also plays Theodore Roosevelt, who was the police commissioner at the time.
The Alienist is currently airing on TNT.
Next: This show was recently added to Netflix.
2. Altered Carbon — premiered Feb. 2
Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 novel Altered Carbon takes place 500 years in the future, at which point humanity has discovered the ability to transfer consciousness from body to body. This means that immortality has effectively been achieved, and one’s body dying is only an inconvenience. Former soldier Takeshi Kovacs is brought back to life by the richest man on Earth, Laurens Bancroft, in order to solve a murder — specifically, the murder of Bancroft himself.
In the Netflix adaptation, starring in the lead role is Joel Kinnaman, who you’ll recognize as Will Conway in House of Cards and Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad. Reviews have been mixed, but critics have described the show as a visual feast, especially if you’re a Blade Runner fan.
Next: This new drama is based on a non-fiction book about organized crime.
3. McMafia — premiered Feb. 26
Journalist Misha Glenny in his 2009 nonfiction book McMafia explores the rise of various crime organizations all over the world. A new BBC series will bring a few of the stories from the book to life but in a dramatized form.
In the TV series McMafia, the main character is Alex Godman, the son of a Russian mafia boss. Alex has been trying to escape his family’s past for years, but he’s drawn into that world after a murder. James Norton (Happy Valley) plays the lead character. The show was co-created by Hossein Amini, who wrote the 2011 Ryan Gosling movie Drive. The other co-creator is James Watkins, who directed the Daniel Radcliffe horror film The Woman in Black.
Next: This new CBS police procedural stars Alan Cumming in the lead role.
4. Murder Games — March 11
In James Patterson’s Murder Games, a serial killer is loose in Manhattan. NYPD detective Elizabeth Needham recruits Dr. Dylan Reinhart after his book on criminal behavior shows up at one of the crime scenes. The Patterson novel just came out in 2017, but it’s already being adapted into a TV show.
CBS’ Instinct stars Alan Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart and Bojana Novakovic as Elizabeth Needham. Naveen Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg also have recurring roles. Royal Pains‘ Michael Rauch is the show’s creator. CBS audiences tend to love police procedurals like this, so if it’s any good, Instinct should find a warm reception at the network.
Next: This new show combines the talents of the creator of Parenthood and the producer of Hamilton.
5. Drama High — March 13
The Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, Pennsylvania is renowned for its theater program, led by Lou Volpe. Many of his students have gone on to excel in the entertainment industry, and plays like Rent and Spring Awakening have been selected to be performed there first before being brought to other schools. In the book Drama High, journalist Michael Sokolove chronicles Volpe’s last years before retirement. The story has been referred to as a “real-life Glee.”
Now, NBC has a new series which dramatizes this true story, although they’ve changed the title from Drama High to Rise. Starring as the theater teacher — whose last name has been changed to Mazzuchelli — is Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother). The other noteworthy member of the cast is Auli’i Cravalho, who you’ll recognize as the voice of the titular character in Disney’s Moana; she’s playing one of the students.
The show was co-created by Jason Katims, the creator of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, and Jeffrey Seller, the producer of Rent, Avenue Q, and Hamilton.
Next: Fans of The Walking Dead may want to pick up this new AMC horror series.
6. The Terror — March 26
In 1845, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England in order to explore the Arctic. But after both ships became trapped in ice, all 129 men perished. At the time, nobody knew what happened to them. When bodies were eventually discovered, it became clear that some of the men resorted to cannibalism. It was only in the 21st century that both ships were finally found.
In his 2007 novel The Terror, Dan Simmons uses this piece of history as inspiration to tell a fictional story. He starts off with the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror really leaving to explore the Arctic and getting trapped in ice, but in his version, they’re picked off by a monster.
Now, AMC is turning this book into a new horror show from producer Ridley Scott. The trailer is suitably eerie while keeping the mystery alive by never revealing what the monster looks like. AMC clearly hopes to get the Walking Dead audience tuning in to this new story of survival. But don’t expect this one to be dragged out over many years: AMC is describing this as an anthology show.
The show stars Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciarán Hinds.
Next: This new Starz show is all about the New York City restaurant business.
7. Sweetbitter — May 6
Starz is moving rather quickly in adapting Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, which was just released in April 2017. The story follows a young woman, Tess, who begins working in a New York City restaurant.
In the Starz adaptation, Ella Purnell will play the lead character of Tess. You’ll recognize her as Emma Bloom, the love interest of Asa Butterfield’s character in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Stephanie Danler herself wrote the pilot script.
The first season of Sweetbitter will consist of six half-hour episodes.
Next: Fans of Call the Midwife should keep an eye out for this British historical drama.
8. Little Women — May 13
If you’re into historical dramas from the U.K., you’ll want to keep an eye out for Little Women later this year.
Based on the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women revolves around four sisters and their lives during the Civil War. The book has been adapted on screen a few times before, most notably in the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, and Kirsten Dunst.
This new miniseries version will tell the story over the course of three episodes. It’s being written by Heidi Thomas, the creator of Call the Midwife. The cast includes Emily Watson, Willa Fitzgerald, Michael Gambon, and Angela Lansbury.
Little Women actually already aired in the U.K. But in the U.S., it will premiere on PBS on May 13.
Next: One of the classic books of the 20th century is headed to HBO.
9. Fahrenheit 451 — spring 2018
Technically, this one’s a TV movie and not a TV series. But seeing as it’s one of the most influential books of the 20th century, it’s worth mentioning.
Of course, Ray Bradbury’s classic novel takes place in a dystopia in which all books are outlawed. But when a man charged with burning books begins having doubts about his job, he joins a resistance group that attempts to preserve knowledge.
The book was previously adapted on screen in the 1966 film by François Truffaut. But now, HBO is working on a new version. The lead character will be played by Michael B. Jordan, while Laura Harrier plays Millie Montag, Michael Shannon plays Captain Beatty, and Sofia Boutella plays Clarisse. It’s being written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, known for films like Chop Shop and 99 Homes. It does not yet have a premiere date.
Next: This show is on pace to be the Big Little Lies of 2018.
10. Sharp Objects — June 2018
Sharp Objects has potential to be the Big Little Lies of 2018. It’s another HBO crime miniseries based on a novel, and like Big Little Lies, every episode is being directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Vallée also serves as producer on Sharp Objects, as he did on Big Little Lies.
Written by Gone Girl‘s Gillian Flynn, the book Sharp Objects follows a crime reporter, Camille Preaker, who returns to her hometown in order to investigate the murder of two young girls. The novel came out in 2006 to mostly positive reviews, although her later book, Gone Girl, was more of a hit.
In this adaptation, Amy Adams will be playing the lead character, while Patricia Clarkson plays her mother. The show is being produced by Blumhouse Productions, which is primarily known for horror films like Get Out but has also co-produced shows like The Jinx and The River.
Sharp Objects will consist of eight episodes and will begin airing in June.
Next: The author of this book said she imagined it as the female version of Fight Club.
11. Dietland — late 2018
Sarai Walker’s novel about society’s obsession with beauty and weight loss, Dietland, found its way onto lists of the best books of the year in 2015. Now, it’s in the works as a TV series.
In the book, an overweight writer, Plum Kettle, awaits her appointment for weight loss surgery. She is recruited by a secret organization of feminists who reject the patriarchy but who soon begin to take their rebellion a little too far. Walker has said that she was inspired by Fight Club and thought of this as being the female version.
AMC will air an adaptation of the novel in 2018. It’s being developed by Marti Noxon, who created the Lifetime series Unreal. Joy Nash will play Plum Kettle. But the bigger name attached to the show is Julianna Margulies, who will play a magazine editor who is sucked into this organization’s world when people in her circle are targeted.
The show does not yet have a specific premiere date but probably won’t air until near the end of the year.
Next: This series comes from the author of a wildly popular book series.
12. The Rook — TBD
Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook follows a young woman who wakes up with amnesia and soon discovers that she has extraordinary abilities and is being pursued by paranormal adversaries. She must survive against these mysterious foes while also attempting to uncover her past.
The TV adaptation comes from Stephenie Meyer, the creator of Twilight. Depending on how you feel about Twilight, that’s probably enough to either get you interested or turn you off completely.
The show will air on Starz, and the network’s CEO is promising “one of the most fascinating and thrilling female protagonists on television.” It doesn’t yet have an air date but is expected sometime in 2018.
13. The Haunting of Hill House — TBD
Shirley Jackson’s 1959 The Haunting of Hill House is one of the classic ghost stories of all time. In it, four characters who all have some experience with the supernatural stay at a haunted mansion and begin seeing strange things. The book was already adapted into a 1963 horror film called The Haunting, which is itself a classic. There was also a 1999 remake of that 1963 film, which was also called The Haunting and which starred Liam Neeson.
Now, The Haunting of Hill House is being turned into a TV series for the first time. It’ll air on Netflix and comes from writer and director Mike Flanagan. That’s great news, as Flanagan is one of the great horror filmmakers working today, having previously written and directed Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Gerald’s Game.
The show will consist of 10 episodes, which are expected to premiere sometime in 2018.
Next: This new series is based on a novel about the horrors of social media.
14. You — TBD
In Caroline Kepnes’s 2015 book You, a bookstore employee begins using social media to stalk a young woman who comes into his shop, orchestrating a series of events to ensure that she will fall in love with him.
If that premise reminds you of a Lifetime movie, well, Lifetime is the one turning it into a TV show. Starring as the young woman is Elizabeth Lail, who played Princess Anna on Once Upon a Time. And starring as the stalker is Penn Badgley, known for playing Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl.
You is created by Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek) and Sera Gamble (Supernatural). It does not yet have a premiere date.
Next: This show is looking to be Hulu’s answer to Stranger Things.
15. Castle Rock — TBD
Castle Rock isn’t based on any one book but is instead sort of a hybrid of a bunch of different Stephen King novels. The new Hulu series is set in the fictional town that appears or is mentioned in King books like Cujo, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, It, and The Stand.
The trailer for Castle Rock is a treat for Stephen King fans, and it gives off some serious It vibes, complete with an ominous house, posters for missing kids, and even Bill Skarsgård, the actor who played Pennywise in the 2017 movie.
Although the storyline of Castle Rock is original, it will feature some characters who are directly pulled from King books. For example, Scott Glenn will play Alan Pangborn, who appears in The Dark Half and Needful Things. The trailer also features another major King tie-in when it shows off a car from the Shawshank Department of Corrections. Hulu clearly hopes Castle Rock can be their version of Stranger Things, and with Stranger Things itself not airing a new season in 2018, this show may be able to fill that gap.
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