Can Adaptations Be Better Than Their Originals?

Although we are in an era of shocking un-originality, inundated with sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations, sometimes there is some value in the “derivative” practice of adaptation. There are many instances where an adapted work is much more successful than its original, and the article below lists and discusses 14 such examples, complete with clips for demonstration.

The best example, in my opinion, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon’s original concept was a film that was made in 1992, but was unfortunately skewed from his intentions simply by having the wrong director. Whedon intended the film to be taken seriously, while Fran Rubel Kuzui turned it into a campy, cheesy teen horror flick. When given the opportunity to turn it into a show, then, Whedon indisputably redeemed Buffy, producing the clever, witty, and insightful series that lasted seven seasons and is now in its 9th season in comic book form, continuing to enchant audiences to this day.

What are your favorite examples of adaptations that are better than their originals?

Clear eyes, full hearts, eh, I’ll just wait for the TV show: 14 TV series that usurped their original film versions
Jason Heller, Joel Keller, Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias @ A.V. Club

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In the hierarchy of entertainment, television adaptations are generally considered poor relations of the films that spawned them. Oftentimes adaptations of films never make it past the pilot stage, like an ill-fated 1997 television version of Fargo starring Edie Falco. Even when television adaptations do make it onto a network schedule, they seldom make it past a single season. But every once in a while, a television adaptation—official, loose, or otherwise—usurps its big-screen version in the public’s imagination.

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S.H.I.E.L.D. is Coming!

Is anyone else ridiculously freaking excited about S.H.I.E.L.D.?? The new show from Joss Whedon, an off-shoot from The Avengers, started shooting last week. I simply cannot contain my excitement.

If you haven't seen Joss Whedon's gripping performance in "Scary Smash," click here and watch it now. Seriously. You won't be disappointed.

If you haven’t seen Joss Whedon’s gripping performance in “Scary Smash,” click here and watch it now. Seriously. You won’t be disappointed.

Although I have been thoroughly delighted by Whedon’s recent foray into the film world, and even more pleased by his well-deserved reception (finally!), I still believe his true medium is television. After his success with the long-running Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, in which he proved his talent for playing on your heartstrings, among other things, Whedon’s subsequent projects, Dollhouse and Firefly, were unfortunately stymied despite their massive potential.

So despite the excellence (and abundance) of his work in film over the past year, I couldn’t be happier about Whedon’s return to television, if anything just because I’ll get to bask in the glory of his genius for an hour every week. But also he now has the clout to ensure that something like the devastating loss of Firefly won’t happen again. Right guys? It couldn’t possibly. Could it?

There are also talks of Cobie Smulders joining the cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. as her character from the film, Maria Hill, and the wonderful Clark Gregg has already been attached to the series, even though Agent Coulson is no longer with us (maybe Whedon will pull one of his classic resurrections à la Buffy?).

Cobie Smulders Talks Agent Maria Hill in S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America
Roth Cornet @ IGN

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Cobie Smulders’ inclusion in last summer’s comic book movie mega-hit, The Avengers, as Agent Maria Hill left many fans wondering what the actress’ role in the larger Marvel cinematic universe might be. When the S.H.I.E.L.D. television series was announced it was natural to guess that she may be a part of that story.

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Espenson Brings ‘Once Upon A Time’ to a New Level

I know I talked about Once Upon A Time not that long ago, but after last night’s incredible episode I can’t help but bring it up again, especially to talk about how Jane Espenson‘s writing is this show’s redemption.

First of all, we finally get to learn more about Frankenstein, and Henry actually says something meaningful again, expressing what all of the viewers are thinking: “Frankenstein isn’t in here. It’s not even a fairy tale!” Hopefully the fact that someone in the show finally sees Dr. Whale/Frankenstein’s presence as strange means that this incongruity will soon be explored.

“In the Name of the Brother” seems like a completely different show, rife with witty dialogue and clever quips as opposed to unnatural, awkwardly delivered lines. The entrance of the “outside” world into Storybrooke allowed Espenson to inject her characteristic referential humor into a show that has been bland for quite some time, throwing in a Star Wars ringtone, a joke about posting pictures of food to Twitter, and worries about outsiders wanting to experiment on Storybrooke’s magic inhabitants like in the movies E.T. and Splash.

Not only that, all of the characters seem to have, well, more character in this episode. Mary Margaret’s pluck seen previously in some of her Fairy Tale World exploits is revived, especially in one cheeky aside about the doctor:  “Does anybody else notice that he’s drunk off his ass?” Rumpelstiltskin is also given some particularly biting dialogue, bringing back some of that acerbity that we all so loved in his character in the first season.

Another Espenson staple, no doubt fostered by her time on the Joss Whedon shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, is the supurb–and superbly funny–ensemble scenes. As I’m sure any of you screenwriters out there know, ensemble scenes are exceedingly difficult to write. You need to have the correct balance of participation among all those present, not leaving any characters by the wayside with little or no presence in the scene, otherwise they might as well not be there at all. But on the other hand, no character should speak unless it is truly in their character to interject at that point.

Both Espenson and Whedon are extremely adept at maintaining this balance, and Espenson definitely displays her skill in last night’s Once. There are far too many examples to list here, and if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I don’t want give away too much and keep you from enjoying it as much as I did. But I’ll just give you one classic example of the quick, sharp group dialogue, as they are trying to figure out where the doctor has gone:

CHARMING
Got the scent?

RED
Boozy.

EMMA
Just find him and bring him back. We’ll watch Hook and figure out options if Whale doesn’t come back.

EMMA
Maybe Doc can do it.

GRUMPY
(uncontrollable laughter)
Surgery?!
(a beat)
No!!

SNOW
Maybe he didn’t even run. Maybe Cora grabbed him for some reason.

CHARMING
I don’t think so. He’s been a rough place since he brought Regina’s fiance back to life.

SNOW
Daniel?

EMMA
Back to life?!

CHARMING
And had his arm ripped off and put back on.

GRUMPY
Cool.

SNOW
Wait, Daniel came back?

EMMA
Like some kind of Frankenstein?

CHARMING
That’s Whale. The Doctor. And Daniel was his…

EMMA
What went on here while we were gone??

CHARMING
(exhausted groan)

A testament to the excellence of this episode is the fact that it was trending worldwide on Twitter as it aired, which apparently was right in the middle of some major sporting event that was taking place. Check it out:

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This review has a great summary of some of the greatest moments in this episode. Thank you, Jane Espenson, for such a delightful hour of television!

Once Upon a Time Review: The World Comes to Storybrooke
Christine Orlando @ TV Fanatic

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Back in the Fairy Tale World… First off, Henry was right. Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster is not a fairy tale. I’ve always considered it more of a horror story. I know some will disagree, but I’ve never been thrilled that they’ve incorporated this story into the show.

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