11 TV Shows That Go Beyond The Books That Inspired Them

List Rules
Vote up the TV shows that added to the stories that inspired them.

A popular book receives acclaim and someone declares that it can be successfully adapted into a television series. These 11 TV shows that go beyond the books that inspired them map out when exactly the author’s source material expired, but there was still more story to tell.

Television is a fickle business. Who knows how long a show will last? Most TV pitches don’t even make it to the pilot episode. Then, most pilots do not get picked up. 

Game of Thrones show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss probably had no idea that their medieval fantasy series about power and dragons would last eight seasons. However, by Season 5, the HBO series had surpassed the narrative from George R.R. Martin’s source novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. Additionally, Martin had no clue how his series would end and wasn’t even sure when he would finish writing the books. 

Benioff and Weiss were tasked with coming up with storylines for three additional seasons, including the now-controversial series finale. 

What other popular television shows surpassed their source material? Vote up the TV shows that added to the stories that inspired them.


  • 1
    113 VOTES
    Justified
    Photo: FX

    What Happens In The Book: The FX Western crime drama is based on Elmore Leonard's stories about a man named Raylan Givens. The main source material comes from the novella Fire in the Hole. Givens is a modern-day deputy US Marshal.

    In the novella, he pursues Boyd Crowder, a white supremacist who has no interest in paying income taxes. Givens attempts to stop Crowder from blowing up an IRS building in Cincinnati. The plot is complicated by the fact that Givens and Crowder used to work together in the coal mines. 

    Givens is romantically interested in Crowder's sister-in-law Ava. At the end of the novella, Givens fatally shoots Crowder.

    What The Show Invents And Adds: Justified lasted six seasons on FX. Fire in the Hole was only used as the source material for the first episode of the series. However, there were tiny differences. For example, instead of threatening to bomb an IRS building, Crowder (Walton Goggins) is the main suspect in the murder of a fellow white supremacist who is linked to the bombing of a Black church. Givens (Timothy Olyphant) does shoot Crowder. However, unlike in the novella, the white supremacist doesn't perish. Instead, Crowder goes to jail. 

    Before Leonard's passing in 2013, he wrote another novel titled Raylan. That novel has been used as the source material for ensuing episodes of the show. The entire series focuses on Givens, who is stationed in the poor Kentucky coal-mining town where he grew up after repeatedly taking the law into his own hands. 

    Elmore was in full support of Justified and believed it to be among the best adaptations of his writing. All six seasons of Justified were critically acclaimed. The series received eight Emmy nominations. 

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  • 2
    45 VOTES
    The Magicians
    Photo: Syfy

    What Happens In The Book: The fantasy Syfy TV series was based on Lev Grossman's trilogy of novels: The Magicians (2009), The Magician King (2011), and The Magician's Land (2014).

    In the first book, the plot follows Quentin Coldwater after he is accepted into Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. It is the only school for magic in North America. In his second year, he accidentally conjures up "the Beast," which kills a student before the teachers drive it away. He is then assigned to the Physical magic group and begins a relationship with a fellow student named Alice.

    Quentin graduates and enters a magical world from his childhood called Fillory. Against orders, Quentin blows a magical horn that summons the Beast, who is revealed to be Martin Chatwin, a character from a series of books that Quentin loved as a child.  

    Martin sacrificed his humanity in order to stay in Fillory. He is determined to take control of the magical world so he can never be banished. Alice makes the ultimate sacrifice with her life in order to stop Martin. A disillusioned Quentin denounces magic. However, he later agrees to return to Fillory with three other magicians in order to become kings and queens of the land.

    What The Show Invents And Adds: The fantasy series lasted a total of five seasons. There were several differences between the series and the trilogy of novels. The books largely take place when the characters are still in school learning the process of how magic works. The genre-bending series has been described as "Harry Potter goes to Graduate School and later finds a door to Narnia.” 

    In Season 1, Quentin (Jason Ralph), Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Penny (Arjun Gupta), Margo (Summer Bishil), and Eliot (Hale Appleman) attend Brakebills University to study magic. They learn the craft but also discover that there is a dark side to magic. The second season largely takes place in the magical kingdom of Fillory. The world of magic is in dire straits. There is a beast lurking that may destroy humanity. Season 3 reveals the magicians' worst fear - magic as they know it is dead. The group must seek out the seven keys or else magic will be gone from the world forever. 

    In Season 4, the magicians have miraculously restored magic to the world. However, the heroes have sacrificed their own magical skills. The final season is a devastating one for many of the magicians. Magic is given back to the world. However, now it is running out of control in abundance. The magicians have to navigate this new world. 

    All five seasons of The Magicians were critically acclaimed and scored over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Seasons 3 and 5 scored a perfect 100% rating. The series was lauded for its creation of magical creatures, crossing genre lines, its numerous musical episodes, and its exploration of today's social and political landscape. 

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  • What Happens In The Book: This Amazon Prime series is adapted from Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel, which revolves around the alternate history premise that the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, and Italy) won WWII. It now jointly governs the divided United States. The main plot takes place in San Francisco (which is part of the Japanese-governed Pacific States of America) 15 years after the end of the war. A key aspect of the plot is that many of the characters secretly read a banned book entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, a novel of speculative fiction that suggests that the Allies, not the Axis Powers, really won WWII. Another key point in Dick's novel is that Joseph Goebbels becomes the chancellor of Nazi Germany.

    Robert Childan owns a store that sells counterfeit antiques made by Wyndham-Matson. One day he receives a request from Nobusuke Tagomi, a high-ranking trade official, who is looking for a gift to impress a Swedish industrialist named Baynes. Childan's business is threatened by a secretly Jewish man named Frank Frink. He has recently been fired by Wyndham-Matson.

    He blackmails the company in order to try and finance his proposed jewelry business. In order to win favor with a Japanese client, Childan takes some of Frink's jewelry on consignment.

    Baynes, who is actually a Nazi defector, warns a Japanese contact about Operation Dandelion, a Goebbels-approved plot to secretly attack Japan. When Baynes and Tagomi are confronted by two Nazi agents, the latter uses an antique gun to kill the men. He returns the weapon to Childan, then impulsively buys some of Frink's jewelry, which is said to have wu (spiritual awareness).

    This results in Tagomi seeing an alternate-history view of San Francisco. Frink is arrested, and it's discovered that he's Jewish. Tagomi refuses to sign the extradition, and Frink is released.

    Frink's ex-wife Juliana, meanwhile, takes a road trip with her lover Joe Cinnadella. She later murders him when she discovers that he is a Nazi who plans to assassinate Hawthorne Abendsen, the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The author lived in a heavily guarded residence (the High Castle) due to his fears of being murdered.  

    Juliana heads off to meet the author, only to learn that he abandoned the "high castle" for a normal residence. He ultimately realized he was no longer afraid of someone trying to harm him. When he tells Juliana he used the I Ching to guide his writing, she infers that the novel reveals the Inner Truth that Japan and Germany actually did lose WWII.

    What The Show Invents And Adds: The central concept between Dick's novel and the dystopian alternate-history Amazon TV series remains the same: What if the Axis Powers won WWII?

    The prolific sci-fi writer has had several of his acclaimed works adapted for the screen, including Blade Runner and Minority Report. Amazon released all 10 episodes of The Man in the High Castle in 2018. The Emmy Award-winning series lasted a total of four seasons. 

    Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, became involved with adapting the Ridley Scott-produced Amazon series. Her goal has never been for writers to adapt her father's works word-for-word but instead stay true to his spirit. "I encourage the writers to use it as an inspiration and a spiritual guide, rather than looking to do literal adaptations," said Hackett.

    Most of Dick's Hugo Award-winning novel is covered in the pilot episode of the series. However, several aspects of the novel take place over four seasons. "All of the really outlandish sci-fi elements that people sometimes accused this production of just inventing are actually genuine Philip K. Dick, based on the same story ideas," added Hackett.

    “The truth is when I started, I thought, ‘I don’t want to change anything because I love the book.’ But then I realized that you have to because it’s not a TV series. It’s a great book, but it’s not a TV series.” said producer Frank Spotnitz. “I want to build out this world. I want to extend it in a way that is consistent with the intention of the novel and actually hopefully give us an even greater opportunity to explore those ideas.”

    In TV show, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a set of film reels instead of a popular banned book. Additionally, the series features several sympathetic American Nazis, such as Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank).

    Over the course of 40 episodes, one of the more obvious changes is that there are more characters. There are also more narrative threads. Hackett revealed that one concept of the series, the discovery of a portal between the many universes, actually came from her father's audio recordings. 

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  • The Night Manager
    Photo: AMC

    What Happens In The Book:  This British TV series is based on John le Carré's 1993 spy novel of the same name. The main character in the book is Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who is now a night manager at a hotel in Zurich. One night, a billionaire arms and illegal drugs smuggler named Richard Onslow Roper checks into the hotel.

    Pine has been obsessed with trying to destroy Roper for years in order to avenge the death of his friend Sophie, who was slain after giving Pine incriminating documents on Roper. Pine gave the documents to the authorities. However, he ignored the warning that Roper had ties to the MI6. 

    After Roper shows up in Switzerland, the night manager agrees to take part in a "sting" by fabricating a criminal past so he will be recruited into the billionaire's organization. Pine gains Roper's trust by "rescuing" the latter's son from a staged kidnapping attempt.

    Pine is unaware that Roper's lawyer, Dr. Paul Apostoll, is actually an informant for the FBI. Apostoll informs Leonard Burr (the head of the "sting" operation) that Roper is planning to supply a Colombian drug cartel with military-grade weapons and training in return for a large shipment of cocaine, which the billionaire would then resell for a huge profit.

    Apostoll convinces Roper to replace his usual frontman, Major Corkoran, with Pine for the operation. However, corrupt operatives in the CIA and British intelligence expose Apostoll as an informant. The lawyer is murdered, but not before he reveals Pine's true identity. Pine has found enough evidence to convict Roper, who is captured and tortured.

    A contrite Harry Palfrey - the legal adviser to the British Secret Intelligence Service - tells Burr about the corrupt government agent's plan to destroy the latter's "sting" operation. Burr uses this information to bluff his way into getting Pine and Jed (Roper's innocent mistress whom Pine has fallen for) released in return for Burr abandoning the "sting" and letting Roper get away. The billionaire agrees to the terms, and at the end of the novel, Pine and Jed are happily living together in England.

    What The Show Invents And Adds: The Night Manager is a BBC One six-part series. The TV show and source material do not always match up. One main difference is that on the TV show, it's unclear whether Pine (Tom Hiddleston) and Roper's (Hugh Laurie) girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) wind up together. The show's ending features Roper being captured by his incensed buyers, not by the police. The implication is that his life is most likely in dire jeopardy.  

    Due to the show's success, there were talks that there would be a sophomore season. However, the creative team and producers were concerned about living up to the success and quality of the first season. "I think in a lot of ways we would love to do another series, it would be very exciting," said producer Simon Cornwall. "We wouldn't do something that we didn't feel had a fighting chance of being even better than the first one. We might not succeed, but I think if you don't go in with ambition, there's actually no point in doing it."

    The Night Manager received 36 Emmy nominations. It took home two statues for director and music. 

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  • The Handmaid's Tale
    Photo: Hulu

    What Happens In The Book: The Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale is adapted from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. The novel's plot takes place in a dystopian society not too far into the future.

    In the wake of a fertility crisis, Christian fundamentalists kill the US president, seize power, and form the Republic of Gilead. Gilead is a military dictatorship where households consist of the male Commander, wives (who have the highest status of the women in the household), "Marthas" (domestics), and "Handmaids." The titular Handmaids are fertile women whose purpose is to have sex with their household Commander in order to birth his children.

    The plot is narrated by Offred, who has been forced to become a Handmaid after her failed attempt to escape to Canada with her husband and child. She starts an illegal relationship with her Commander.

    At the end of the book, the Commander's wife discovers the illegal affair. Offred (who may be pregnant) is taken away in a van. She is unsure whether the men who've taken her are members of the secret police or of the Mayday resistance group trying to overthrow the government.

    What The Show Invents And Adds: The first season of the popular Hulu series ends exactly where the book does: Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is locked in a van being taken away but unsure whether she is going to a safe location. 

    Season 2 of the dystopian series picks up from that exact moment. With the exception of Atwood's epilogue, the show has moved past the source material. The sophomore installment features Offred's escape with the help of Nick (Max Minghella). The Handmaids are rebelling, and there is a fatal bombing that takes place. A radioactive substance is discovered that is making people sick.

    Offred is eventually captured and gives birth to a daughter. The Marthas unsuccessfully try and help Offred escape.

    In Season 3, Offred is placed with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), who has no desire to participate in Gilead's morbidities. However, Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) has other ideas. Much of the season is spent trying to arrange for the dozens of children to obtain safe passage to Canada. Season 4 of the Hulu series features Offred's escape from Gilead, the consequences of her actions, and revenge.

    The Handmaid's Tale has won 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the award for outstanding drama. Elisabeth Moss won the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. Despite the numerous accolades and critical acclaim, the series has been criticized for its incessant violence and doom. Some critics appreciate its sheer mastery, while others have long grown tired of its meant-to-shock set pieces. 

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  • Big Little Lies
    Photo: HBO

    What Happens In The Book: The HBO drama series was adapted from Liane Moriarty's 2014 novel of the same name. The popular book centers on the friendships between Jane, Madeline, and Celeste - all of whom have young children.

    Jane tells the two other women that her son Ziggy is the result of being sexually assaulted by a man named Saxon Banks. Madeline and Celeste don't inform Jane that Saxon is the cousin of Celeste's rich, abusive husband Perry, whom Celeste eventually leaves. However, when Jane sees Perry at a school event, she realizes that he is the man who assaulted her.

    When she confronts him - in front of Celeste and Madeline - he admits to the crime but is unremorseful. In the ensuing argument, Perry hits Celeste. Bonnie is completely outraged over his abuse and pushes him off a balcony. When they learn Bonnie had been abused as a child, the other women want to lie to protect her from the police. However, Bonnie turns herself in and is convicted of accidental manslaughter. 

    What The Show Invents And Adds: One of the main differences between the book and the Season 1 finale is that after Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) pushes the abusive Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) down a flight of steps to his demise, the group of five females, AKA the Monterey Five - Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Bonnie, Jane (Shailene Woodley), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), and Renata (Laura Dern) - agree to tell the police that he fell accidentally. 

    The original plan was for Big Little Lies to be a limited series of just seven episodes. However, the David E. Kelley drama with its massive star power of Hollywood elites was such a critical success and audience favorite that another season received the green light. Moriarty got to work coming up with a whole new plot line for Season 2, which turned into a 50,000 word novella. 

    Season 2 centers on the aftermath of Perry's death. The Monterey Five vowed to keep what really happened a secret. However, there is guilt, remorse, and a prying detective to contend with. The show's sophomore season received some additional Hollywood star power when Meryl Streep joined the cast as Perry's grieving mother. 

    The second season of Big Little Lies was not quite as well-received as the first. However, the powerhouse performances and juicy plot twists helped to keep it afloat. Critic Matt Zoller Seitz from Vulture discusses a possible issue with the show's writing. "From the start, something about this season felt off. Kelley’s writing always leaned on saucy exposition, but here it sometimes seemed as if every scene was delivering payloads of pertinent facts," wrote Seitz. 

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