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Stretching the story

Mark Williams as Father Brown

 

Candice: I’ve just spent a long but fun day on the set of Series 3 of Father Brown.  This light, afternoon show is based on the stories of G K Chesterton, of which there are a number, but not a many as the episodes from the three series that have been made.  So where do these extra story lines come from?

The description of the show says that they are based on the characters but new story lines, in the same vein as the books.  But they have moved the stories to the Cotswolds and cast a man who must be 6 ft in the role of  a ‘short,stumpy’ character.  Hum.

Then take James Bond, an extremely famous set of books which have been expanded in to many films.  How many of those are based on the actual books and how many ‘expanded in the same vein’?  There have even been additional books written by others including Sebastian Faulks, described as continuation books. Faulks wrote the book in the style of Fleming, and the novel carried the credit “Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming”.

So, where do you go when you have run out of source material?  You obviously get someone to interpret it themselves in the style of.  But I question whether this really works?  If the original author knew the character and the concepts, and that is all they wrote, should you really take it on yourself to make something else when they never did?

As a purist I’m not sure I am a big fan of taking things further, and I dont always think it works. You often lose the real sense of the characters and the way the story will flow.  I know we have ideas for up to seven books with Kate and Dave, but if we don’t get past two or three before we decide that enough is enough, well then thats fine.  The characters have told their story.

When Bond returned to the screen with Daniel Craig, Casino Royale was based on a Fleming story but Quantum of Solace and Skyfall arent.  The first is a great film, the other two ok and totally different in style.  Skyfall particularly gives you a completely different Bond.  I have to say I wasn’t sure if it was my thing. The question I want to ask was, would the original author approve.

I do wonder with all of this if it is all about money rather than staying true to your characters.  I’d love to be in a situation where someone offered me money to carry on our stories, but I’d also like to say ‘enough is enough’.

 

 

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Father Brown and the curious case of the television adaption

Father BrownPhil: The BBC has decided to fill part of the void left by shunting children’s programmes over to their own channel with some drama. Based on characters from G. K. Chesterton‘s books about a crime solving Catholic Priest, Father Brown, the first 10 are running in a post-lunchtime slot this week and next. Attractively shot in the Cotswolds, with a cast of people you probably half-recognise from other things on the telly, an extra in the background you will recognise from this blog, they ought to do very well. So well in fact that I wonder why they aren’t on in primetime viewing.

Being the sort of person who can find time during the day to do some work while half-watching the telly and a sucker for a well-filmed whodunnit, I tuned in for the first few episodes. I don’t know the stories except from a series of radio plays vaguely recalled from many years ago. The opening episode was entitled “The Hammer of God” and it gave me an idea. Digging through my library, I found a book of collected stories, one of which was the very same I’d just watched. The book has been in the “to read” pile for longer than I care to remember but now I had a reason to take a look.

How did they compare?

Well, I enjoyed the TV version. And I quite enjoyed the book version. They just weren’t the same.

OK, the title is the same. Some of the characters are the same. The era is the same. The murder is the same. Everything else is different.

The clue is in the caption “Based on GK Chesterton’s characters”. Now I know that books are adapted for television. A couple of years ago, I watched a talk by prolific adaptor Andrew Davies, where he explained the process. I can’t help feeling that what the BBC have done this time is more akin to fan fiction. The adaptor has taken the characters from the books and written a TV story to fit our modern expectations. This isn’t bad – personally, I think it’s been done very well, but one wonders whether they couldn’t have just invented the who thing from scratch.

Of course, this wouldn’t have provided a handy hook for viewers. People don’t like new things, especially the sort of people watching at this time of day. Tell them it’s all based on a book, even one they have never read, and it’s a much easier sell. This has been done before. Readers of James Bond books bemoan the films lack of similarity. Indeed, when I become Director General of the BBC, just after I’ve introduced a Dalek family to Eastenders, I think some discussions will be had to film faithful versions of each Ian Flemings story. There might even be a good case for this. Father Brown seems to solve cases around 2/3rds of the way through the story which isn’t how we do things on telly today.

Of course, the best thing is that people can buy and enjoy the books and watch the stories on TV and double their enjoyment. With 51 stories to work through, there should be plenty of books sold.

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