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TV Shows and Movies That Would Make Great Literature

There are books that translate fabulously into cinema, and others that should never have been altered from their original state of perfection. But are there works of television and certain movies that would do well as books? When we can engage with films and TV in a way that trumps mindless entertainment, it more or less puts that piece of media into a different category than your run of the mill sitcom or blockbuster action thriller. We need the mindless stuff in order to unwind, but there is quality television and cinema that can feed our intellect. When we find ourselves identifying with characters on a particular TV show and are compelled to know more about the production, cast members, and the inspiration for the series, the kind of appreciation we feel towards the work denotes the value of the piece and that it acts as an artistic contribution to our culture.

Books into movies or books made into TV series is a common enough transaction and at times lauded, but it’s just as often deplored, for there are many an adaptation that do nothing to contribute to the intellectual conversation that the piece of literature started. The quality of an adaptation does not always have to do with how much the visual representation differs from the original story, but rather the type of dialogue, if any, the movie/series creates. Plainly put, if you’re not adding anything of value to the conversation, why bother?

There are certain movies and TV series that we feel close to in a way that is similar to how we feel when we read passages from our favorite books. The intrigue it fosters is akin to how literary masters create dynamic storylines. In my opinion, anything can be literary; any kind of medium can make the same kind of statements about culture, humanity, and life in general that a novel can.

This culmination of TV series and movies all include literary elements: they either delve into issues that effect our lives and shape our society, or they include artistic elements that force us to contemplate beyond Pass the popcorn.

Mad Men
The show is known for being historically accurate and representing the time period authentically. This was the show’s first good move. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was also meticulous in how he developed the plot and characters in a way that offers audiences a glimpse into more than just a staged version of the 1960’s and 70’s, but accurately portrays the presence of media and societal characteristics that denote this era. The series touches on feminism, or lack there of, during this time, frontiering what it means to be the “Average American family”, and how people reconciled with the influx of new media. Joan Harris and Peggy Olsen will forever be opposites who are linked by their honorable determination to have a professional presence in man’s world. Characters like these are the glittering threads in the web that traps viewers in the Mad Men story-line; never touching down on a happy or tragic ending, because, after all, real life never gets to tie up all those loose strings.

Downton Abbey
It’s not merely because this series recounts actual historical events that makes it prime for a historical novel or something of the like. The range of issues this series traverses in relation to social and familial hierarchy provides consistently compelling twists and interactions among characters. The set of Downton Abbey is always remarkable as they often use real locations as opposed to studios. Much of the exterior and interior shots are filmed at Highclere Castle in north Hampshire. Other outdoor scenes are filmed in Bampton in Oxfordshire. The series gives an authentic depiction of post-Edwardian era life through a well-to-do family and exemplifies how people would have been affected by the historical events at that time.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The opening scenes of this film, with its vibrant yet subdued hues depicting season changes, may have viewers feeling like they’ve landed in an elaborately illustrated young adult novel. The colors and intricate scenery is so dream-like that it feels like it was painted onto the screen. Apart from the whimsical cinematography, the story-line is abundantly rich with one bizarre situation after the next. Some of the people and places feel wholly unrealistic, but the detail to which each character is developed leaves you enthralled with every outlandish event that suddenly occurs, as if you’re right there with them, traversing frozen European mountaintops and barely escaping hit men.

Modern Family
Hang in there with this TV series to book adaption, although it may seem an unlikely selection, it actually kind of works. Imagine Dylan, Haley’s boyfriend, as the protagonist and narrator. He observes all the chaotic happenings within this family and his novel is a tell-all about this group of people who refuse to succumb to the idea of a typical American family. There’s divorce, LGBTQ issues, cultural assimilation; lots of good stuff for a modern American novel.

The Magdalene Sisters
This film is based off of accounts from women who lived in the Magdalene Asylums, but who proclaim that the treatment they received there was actually far worse than what is portrayed in the film. The characters are stark and their experiences are depicted with detail that allows audiences to feel the weight of their personal histories and why a sentencing to the Magdalene Asylum is gravely unjust. Though the story jumps off the screen and into our hearts, one can imagine how well this story could be told as a novel with chapters devoted to each woman’s individual misfortunes and journey.