2022 proved to be a hugely successful year for book adaptations. Shows such as ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ and ‘House of the Dragon’ launched with impressive viewership numbers and critical acclaim, establishing that there are no budget holdbacks and adaptations that remain faithful to the original text are what make them a huge success with fan bases. Adaptations don’t just stop with books or comics though, they also include more under-the-radar categories such as articles and podcasts, that often get overlooked. This is due to the fact that they are much harder to adapt without an in-depth backstory that novels provide. Although this has shown to be a major limitation for those looking to create literary adaptations, some shows have found success having been adapted from minor content categories. For example, ‘Inventing Anna’, one of last year's most popular Netflix shows, was originally based on an article by ‘The Cut’ but made headlines for its backstory based on real events.
Looking at the shows that have aired since the 2016/17 season, Show Tracker reveals that nearly 50% were original concepts, and almost 3/4 of literary adaptations are book adaptations. However, the most interesting data is that only 19% of all literary adaptations originate as comics. With shows such as ‘The Boys’ and ‘The Sandman’ gaining popularity, and Disney+ announcing a never-ending roster of MCU-based TV shows this number is bound to go up significantly in the upcoming years.
With recent shows such as ‘Gaslit’ and the widely popular ‘The Dropout’, adaptations based on podcasts are slowly starting to establish themselves. But just like shows based on articles, these adaptations require in-depth, often real-life, backstories which give writers the necessary material to expand them into compelling dramas. Podcast shows even managed to beat shows adapted from video games but once again the limited availability of narrative-based podcasts will always prove a problem for this adaptation type (Which is the same limitation that is stopping the production of more shows based on articles).
Video game adaptations have been a nightmare for studios in the past as they’ve often resulted in disastrous critical and audience reception. This is to be expected as video games often focus on the gameplay experience and the plots are often woven around this factor. But in recent times with movies such as ‘Pokemon: Detective Pikachu’ and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, as well as shows such as ‘Arcane’ and ‘Halo', video game adaptations have entered a renaissance period of sorts. With services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime announcing close to 10 new movies and TV shows (combined) based on video games, it is sure to be an exciting period for video game adaptions. It also helps that HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ has been receiving widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike and has already ended up as one of the highest-rated TV shows on IMDB. With the fan base already calling for a second season, it is only a matter of time before HBO decides to give the green light for season two.
Films are undoubtedly not a minor adaptation type, but they have definitely gained in popularity over the years with Disney+ once again playing a major role in this with all the MCU and Star Wars titles they keep announcing, as well as the recent sequel/spinoff shows from films such as ‘The Santa Clause’ and ‘National Treasure’. For Netflix, who are in the process of developing spinoffs to some of their original movies such as ‘The Gray Man’ and ‘Birdbox’, and Paramount+ who are announcing a spinoff to Sonic 2 based on the character ‘Knuckles’, the possibilities look endless for film adaptations.
Although some of the minor adaptation types such as articles and podcasts often get overlooked due to their limitations with content expansion, they have proven to be capable of producing engaging and critically acclaimed dramas, and with ‘The Dropout’ winning a golden globe award, these adaptations are sure to get more recognition in the future. Whereas films and video games certainly have everything going for them, with loyal fanbases backing every single show that comes out (as long as the content remains faithful to the original), it does seem like the sky is the limit.