With the huge, and surprisingly unpopular, announcement that Amazon are flirting with the idea of adapting Lord of the Rings for the small screen, it is worth examining other attempts of films that have been bastardised – sorry I mean lovingly crafted – for TV, to see what LOTR can learn.
On the one hand you have the successful adaptations which include most notably Hannibal, Fargo and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (little known fact: Buffy was actually based on a film!), all established off the back of their successful 90s’ film counterpart. What they all manage to do is successfully cherry pick the best bits of the film while adding something new, but most importantly flesh out the world which your standard 90 minute film can never do properly.
Examining Fargo, arguably the best example of film to TV adaptation ever, the morbidly dark comedy which the Coen brothers established in 1996 is still there but we get even more bizarre yet nuanced characters with a whole new cast and premise every season. If this Lord of the Rings TV series ever sees the light of day, Amazon could take a note or two from Fargo through delving further into the characters (more so than three nearly 180 minute films already did), and getting the balance of loyalty and creativity right. Too similar to the Peter Jackson films and people will complain it’s just more of the same, but too different and people will complain it is not Lord of the Rings at all.
One thing this potential adaptation can definitely learn from though, is the recent lukewarm film to TV adaptations. Yes I’m looking at you Limitless, Minority Report and Lethal Weapon. All well respected films but the problem being they were adapted to TV because of their fantastic concepts, and presumably because executives thought it would be a lovely cash cow for them. A drug that allows you to unlock the full potential of your brain, a world where citizens are arrested for crimes they’ve not even committed yet, and a buddy cop comedy. These are all very watchable and fun concepts but their respected TV adaptions thought this would be enough and did not invest time into building the world around it or making the characters interesting.
So bearing this in mind let us also hope that along with LOTR, the upcoming TV adaptions of What We Do in the Shadows, The Nice Guys, and Four Weddings and a Funeral live up to their film counterpart. Please don’t taint our memories of these classic films. Please, Hollywood.