Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finding TV fame: Why some fictional detectives fare better than others...

I was browsing the Internet this weekend, reading several crime fiction-related news stories and articles, when I cam across an interesting piece by Guy Somerset, Arts & Books Editor at the New Zealand Listener. As part of a review of two now-available DVD box sets of British TV series based on famous fictional detectives, Somerset raised an interesting question; why are some detectives more adapted than others? In his article he focuses on GK Chesterton's Father Brown and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (the stars of the respective DVD releases, the 1974 Father Brown series starring Kenneth More, and the modern Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch), noting the differing treatment of the two famous (at least in a literary sense) characters throughout TV/film history.

Somerset begins his article with: "Poor Father Brown. How it must rankle. It’s a good thing he’s a man of the cloth or who knows what evil might worm its way into his heart were he to dwell on all those classic detectives who have fared better than him when it comes to film and television adaptations. Dare one even whisper the words Sherlock Holmes?"

It's a topic which has intrigued me for a while - how some detectives, and therefore their books and writers, become more famous due to numerous adaptations, how some terrific characters aren't adapted for film and TV, or aren't repeatedly adapted, etc? Of course, when it comes to the film business (and probably TV too, by extrapolation), William Goldman's famous quote: "Nobody knows anything" is very appropriate.

Somerset mentions the likes of the much-adapted Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, as well. Sherlock Holmes has of course been adapted many times over. Could it just be that those characters have been around for so long? Well, no - because as Somerset points out, Father Brown hasn't fared so well. Dame Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Roderick Alleyn has been adapted for both British and New Zealand television, but I'm not sure how Wimsey and other Golden Age characters have fared. They're certainly not being regularly remade for modern films or TV shows like the drug-taking, violin-playing resident of 221B.

You can read Somerset's article in full here.

Why do you think some crime fiction characters have been remade more than others? Is it just that the most popular characters or authors have been most remade? Or does that become self-fulfilling (ie remakes generate more popularity)? What about modern detectives? Which more recent characters would you most like to see adapted for the big or small screen? Which older characters would you like to see given a modern twist in an updated film or TV series, ala Sherlock?

1 comment:

  1. Fortunately, Father Brown has more than the only adaptation (though, I agree that Chesterton's stories are screened very seldom).
    What about animtion? From Russia? Exactly, USSR?

    Here you may read something about this stop-action animation:

    it's adaption of G. K. Chesterton’s The Blast of the Book, produced by Soyuzmultfilm studio, 1987

    And here see:

    without Eng. subtitles

    Alexander from Russia :)