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Pragmatic Adaptation / Live-Action TV

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  • The BBC show Being Human had to do this with vampire lore. Vampires are not supposed to have reflections, but it would take huge amounts of effort to CG away the actor's reflection in every window he passed by. So, they changed it to being unable to see their reflection in anything silver-backed (both camera film and mirrors.) This led them to being able to have the traditional "no reflection" scenes while saving the effort and sanity of the editing team. (Although it leaves something of a Plot Hole when a vampire can't be seen on a digital camera.)
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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer does something similar, having vampires only burst into flame from direct sunlight, moving around in daylight just fine as long as they stick to shadows. It also adds that vampires disintegrate when staked through the heart, removing the issue of how a bunch of teenagers manage to hide all those bodies (which results in a funny scene where they have to bury the corpse of a demon that doesn't disappear). However this created its own problem as the effect was very expensive in the beginning, so most early dustings took place just off screen.
  • Ida Makes A Movie was an illustrated children's book about anthropomorphized cats. When former schoolteacher-turned-documentary-filmmaker Linda Schuyler turned it into her first scripted piece she adapted it to live-action with actual human characters, having no other choice and sparing what became a Teen Drama from Bittersweet Candy Bowl-style awkwardness...
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  • The Dexter novels eventually get a lot darker and weirder than the first book, with Dexter's "Dark Passenger" turning out to be a fragment of an ancient god of murder. The series maintains the balance of dark humor and creepiness evident in the first book, and keeps things realistic by comparison.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: In particular, the 2016 series which, other than the presence of the titular character, uses none of the stories, characters, or plots of either of the books by Douglas Adams and also changes the setting to America, somewhere in Washington State (in effect, making Dirk the only British character in the series). The books were more literary comedy than visual action adventure and a stylistic deviation from Adams' more famous earlier work. There was also the technicality of the first Dirk Gently book being a retreatment of Shada, the famous aborted 1979 Doctor Who serial. Because Shada has been since realized in not less than three remakes (the latest one decidedly being canonical since it stars Tom Baker), much of the first Dirk book includes plots and characters from Shada which, of course, are no longer accessible for Dirk adaptations.
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  • Doctor Who: "Dalek" is based on the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play "Jubilee". "Jubilee" is twice as long, features a massive Timey-Wimey Ball, and had a companion character who was very experienced with Daleks. Robert Shearman, who wrote both, cut out the Alternate Timeline plot and political implications to simply focus on Character Development for the Ninth Doctor and Rose.
  • The Dresden Files TV series replaced the talking skull Bob from the books with a ghost inhabiting said skull (at least after the pilot) so they could have an actor providing a visual component and emotions to the character. Jim Butcher says that the TV series is essentially an alternate universe.
    • There's also very few characters who look like their book descriptions - the show runners went with Ability over Appearance (most notably, the actors considered for Murphy and Susan looked the parts, but were better at each other's roles.)
    • Harry Dresden in the TV series drives a jeep instead of the Blue Beetle. This was to make it easier to film scenes inside of the car. Additionally, a jeep is the kind of car Harry would drive - so it served as a double whammy.
  • Some of the characters from Homicide: Life on the Street are changed from their Real Life counterparts. Tom Pellegrini who inspired Bayliss was an older detective from Pennsylvania who came to police work later in life and was assigned to Homicide two years before the Latonya Wallace/Adena Watson case. Other changes include changing Irish-American Mclarney to Italian Crosetti and removing his legal training. Italian D'Addario became Black/Italian Giardello and Landsman became Munch with his family history in the department removed.
  • The TV adaptation of Meg Haston's How To Rock Braces and Glasses distilled the plot of the book (Alpha Bitch has to get braces and glasses, loses her popularity, joins a band, and gradually becomes nicer) into a single episode, then shot the rest of the series like a typical teen sitcom, making it fit better with Nickelodeon's other popular shows of the time. It also changed Kacey's music style from rock-and-roll to pop to better fit Cymphonique Miller's vocals.
  • The phenomenon of many people preferring the The Incredible Hulk (1977) TV show to the 2003 big budget CG-fest movie. While the former removed and simplified elements from the comics original, the latter added whole layers of story that were never there - the "more is less" principle at work. (Agony Booth recap)
  • The iZombie adaptation removes all non-zombie creatures and leaves the show grounded, with zombism explained as a virus caused by a strange interaction of a new energy drink and a designer drug.

  • The TV series of Lark Rise to Candleford was very different to the original books, sharing only one or two complete stories, the names of Laura's family and Dorcas Lane, and some peripheral characters and situations (the Pratts, Cabbage Patterson, the Arlesses) with Flora Thompson's memoirs. Part of it seems to be the book has some perspectives on late Victorian society that modern audiences would find disquieting (Laura's age when she goes to work at the post office, for instance, or the lack of UST between many of the characters). The book provides a lot of plot hooks for many episodes, but the writers went out of their way to create a series that expanded on the books, provided modern audiences with a nostalgic "theme park" experience, and made more dramatic sense than the book allows for.
  • When Richard Hooker wrote his original novel, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, the story he wrote was highly conservative in its political leanings, with an array of characters who were fundamentally unlikeable Jerkasses and a truly appalling level of sexism that includes, among other things, one "hero" who has a nickname from an implied attempt at a Date Rape, a character who earns the nickname "Me Lay" by way of his successful usage at that appalling pick-up line to get one night stands, the MASH unit having a good reputation in part because of the unit's dentist being well-endowed, and the heroes, who are doctors, only bothering to note the epileptic employed as a whore at the local brothel because it's "such great fun" to be having sex with her whilst she's in the middle of a seizure. To say nothing of the lone black character being nicknamed "Spearchucker". When a live-action movie eventually led to the production of a weekly series, the result was a genuinely funny sitcom that eventually successfully adopted a much more dramatic tone, running for eleven years of non-stop production and becoming a world-wide phenomenon, whilst the original novels have mostly faded into obscurity. Amusingly, Richard Hooker expressed a vehement distaste for the show because of how different it was to his novel, despite the show's far greater success. The series also had much more of an Economy Cast than either the novel or film.
  • Merlin, the BBC series, has Merlin as the same age as Arthur, early 20's at the latest and his servant, living with the Court Physician and former sorcerer Gaius, Uther is still alive and banning magic on pain of death, Gwen and Lancelot being commoners, Gwaine (Gawaine) pretending he's a commoner and Percival only being introduced as a minor character in the 3rd season finale. Gwen also has a brother.
  • Ditto for Moonlight, although they do make it clear that digital cameras work just fine, to the vampires' chagrin (the older cameras only made blurry photos, proving only the photographer's incompetence). No silver-backed mirrors are shown in the show, probably to avoid extra CG costs. The vampires are also able to walk in the light, as long as they stick to the shadows and cover as much skin as they can. Bursting into flame or dusting is also CG-costly, so they instead went with extreme dehydration in sunlight, although vampires still dust when exposed to flame.
  • In the miniseries adaptation of North and South (U.S.), Orry Main goes from losing an arm to having a permanent limp, as the director worried that the audience would be distracted trying to spot how Patrick Swayze was hiding his arm.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon:
    • The talking cats are replaced with talking stuffed toys, a Merchandise-Driven decision to rationalize carrying a stuff animal is more likely than an actual cat. The Sailor Senshi themselves look like typical Japanese girls when they're not transformed; exotic hair color and styles are part of their superhero forms, which also explains their ability to keep secret identities. Many settings and accessories that were typical of an early 90s teenager are updated to what a modern teenager would be associated with. The plot also dealt more strongly and harshly with the implications of their past lives, not that it didn't indulge in some of the campy stuff.
    • It was more faithful to the manga in regards to the baddies; since the individual villains feature more heavily, each basically had to be reverted back to their original personality in the comics rather than the memorable but slightly more one-note anime of The '90s.
    • More modern sensibilities means Jupiter is more openly a tomboy; her initial obsession with femininity became an initial aversion to it. Ironically, the DiC English dub had done this years ago...
    • Sailor Venus is portrayed as somewhat of a distant loner, an enormous change in her canonical personality. Writers have admitted this was basically to have the conflict a Sixth Ranger provides as well a persistent attempt to make her different than her Expy Sailor Moon. Fans unpleased by the change just labeled her an Expy for the Outer Senshi instead.
  • From A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017):
    • The hook-handed man was described as having hooks for hands. However, the character has more realistic prosthetics that can even manipulate items.
    • The henchmen are depicted as being much more competent at disguising themselves than Count Olaf. This does not actually work in a visual medium without swapping the actors or making HEAVY use of makeup and costumes. So the netflix adaptation makes their disguises just as paper thin as Olaf's... and the costuming department intentionally does a shoddy job to make this into a Running Gag.
    • The Miserable Mill had perhaps the most changes:
      • The character Sir was, in the books, described as having a cloud of smoke where his head should be due to smoking. Since this wouldn't be possible in a live-action series without heavy CGI usage, he is simply depicted as smoking.
      • The Miserable Mill (much like the first four story arcs in general) also had a lot of changes done to more incorporate it into the series Myth Arc with the imagery. Including the VFD imagery as well as more ties of Paltryville and the lumbermill to the overall Myth Arc.
      • In the books, Mr. Poe is definitely aware that the Baudelaire orphans would be working at the lumbermill, easily requiring the readers to take a massive Willing Suspension of Disbelief. In the series, Poe does not send them to the Lumbermill, they stow away on a van heading towards Palryville and Poe spends the two episodes looking for them. The Baudelaire are working there illegally and Poe even lampshades that a mill is not a substitute for a guardian.
      • In order to avoid having to build a set for Paltryville, it had burnt to the ground prior to the Baudelaires' arrival with their parents blamed for it. This also gives them a secondary goal to clear their parents' names.
      • Dr. Orwell meets her demise via sawblades in the books. In the netflix series, she instead dies via furnace.
    • In The Hostile Hospital, Babs is given much more screentime and instead of only speaking via the intercom, is a director of human resources. When Olaf takes over her job as Mattathias, he becomes a visiting doctor.
    • Much like the henchmen, Klaus and Sunny disguise themselves as doctors. However, much like the henchmen, it's much easier to pass this off in the books - so instead they pose as one doctor (With a notable Balloon Belly), which is just as paper thin as Olaf's usual disguises.
    • In the books, Kit's pregnancy is not revealed until the second chapter of The Penultimate Peril. However, Kit Snicket has a much bigger presence in the netflix series. For her brief appearance in season 2, they simply opted to film her from the chest up, and season 3 reveals her pregnancy in her first scene in "The Slippery Slope".
    • Also in The Penultimate Peril, the trial has everyone blindfolded. In the series, they instead limit the time the characters spend blindfolded due to the difficulties in directing a scene (especially with this many people) with the blindfolded characters.
      • The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair and no beard are also two judges - however in order to keep the Baudelaires from recognising them, they instead are offscreen and intended to be in the shadows, so that even In-Universe, the Baudelaires cannot point out that they have stacked the court in Olaf's favour.
  • Shadowhunters follows the same basic story as The Mortal Instruments novels, but with several setting changes and plot developments revealed in a significantly different order.
    • Protagonist Clary's mother tries to proactively tell her about her heritage and the associated dangers on her birthday (foiled by Clary rushing out the door) in contrast to the books, where she struggles to keep Clary in the dark until the villain strikes, even though she knows the ruse is crumbling and her daughter is in danger.
    • The Shadowhunters use significantly more modern technology than their book counterparts. Their base includes banks of high-tech equipment and computer displays to quickly convey the sense of a bustling, organized agency in a visual medium.
    • The circumstances of Simon’s vampire encounter and kidnapping was changed to be deliberate on the part of the vampires, in contrast to the book’s tangent involving the main characters crashing a party and running afoul of a magical party trick.
  • In the transition from The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries book series to HBO's True Blood, Sookie's (often Wangsty) first-person narration is cuts and adds in occasional snatches of thoughts Sookie catches.
  • The Umbrella Academy : The series tones down more outlandish elements from the comics that would be difficult to translate to live-action, such as Klaus's levitation, Luther's gorilla bodynote , and Five's boss being a talking goldfish in a human suit (instead she's a human woman).


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