Pretty Little Liars – A Pretty Little Television Adaptation

 

Pretty Little Liars has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in the US. The show’s third season has just finished and is going from strength to strength with ABC picking it up for another two seasons. There’s also a spin-off show, Ravenswood, in the works.

Based on the captivating book series by Sara Shepard, the show follows four girls who are tormented by the disappearance of their best friend Alison. Aria (Lucy Hale), Emily (Shay Mitchell), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) are all stereotypical teenagers with different interests. The girls are fundamentally different yet pulled together by Alison, the glue of the group. They share secrets like all best friends do, but Alison seems to have dirt on everyone in town so when she disappears and is never seen again there are many suspects who could have been involved.

Alison’s disappearance causes the girls to drift apart and they believe their secrets are buried with her… until a mysterious person starts sending them intimidating messages revealing things only Alison knew, signing off the messages with “-A.” Initially the girls think Alison is still alive but when her body is found buried under the gazebo of her old house, the girls regroup to find the perpetrator.

The original book series has proved to be extremely popular, with twelve novels published as well as a companion novel. Two more books are planned for release by the end of this year.

Due to the loyal fan base of the novels, there has been a lot of controversy about the production of the television adaptation. Whilst certain elements remain the same, such as the characters names and the general plotline, some viewers have complained about more major differences. For example, some truly sinister characters in the book series have been transformed into love interests and well-received characters are still featured in the television series despite being killed off or leaving in the novels.

Whilst it’s fair that dedicated fans get frustrated about the differences in the adaptation, it’s clear to see why the production of the show doesn’t follow the same narrative as the original series. Most of the novels only span a timeline of a few days, which wouldn’t transfer easily onto a weekly television show of 20 or so episodes a series. New plotlines need to be introduced, or drawn out, to have enough material. The pilot episode, for example, was based entirely on the first book. If the show continued at this pace, there wouldn’t be enough material to make one series.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The issue with television adaptation is that suspense needs to be built in every episode, which usually only focuses on a few plot points. In the case of Pretty Little Liars, with four main characters, it is essential to address a number of different plotlines in each episode. Due to the amount of content that needs to be addressed, fans often become frustrated when questions remain unanswered and sub-plots are forgotten about.

Marlene King, the executive producer for the show, constantly comes under fire on social networking websites for the show’s direction. Fans either criticise her for digressing away from the books or for leaving too many unanswered questions. But that’s surely what good television is all about – Intrigue, suspense, shocks and debate.

Fidelity to the source text is important to some extent, but with television adaptations, you never know how long the show is going to run for. To remain popular, producers will respond to what audiences want.

It can be frustrating as a viewer when questions remain unanswered and characters disappear for a number of episodes and it can be annoying when promos are edited to suggest viewers will receive answers when they don’t – but is fidelity in adaptation as important when it comes to television?

With Pretty Little Liars’ incredible fan base, and the go-ahead for at least two more seasons, it’s likely that producers will be able to plan ahead for what needs to be revealed and when. They have many hours of content they need to fill with plots so it is clear they will need to bring in new ideas rather than remaining entirely faithful to the books.

After all, if the show followed the exact plot of the book series surely we’d all be passive viewers, never excited about character developments and never intrigued about what would be happening in the next episode. It’s far more exciting to be an active viewer, continually being shocked by characters and wondering what will be revealed next. Pretty Little Liars is, in my opinion, a great example of how adaptation should be done for a continuing series.

What is your opinion on adaptation for television? Is fidelity less important for a continuing series?

 

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Crowd Funding: How Veronica Mars Could Change the Film Industry

Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is the process in which individuals can donate money to people and organisations to help them achieve their goals. It has long been associated with the arts, specifically with unsigned musicians or filmmakers, who ask their fans to help fund their projects.

These funding websites, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, frequently reward donators with perks and rewards for their financial contributions.

In the past, these websites were predominantly used by those who were relatively unknown, but recently they have become a source of backing projects made by well known organisations and filmmakers.

Since the cancellation of television series Veronica Mars in 2007, fans have been campaigning for series creator Rob Thomas to make a film version of the show. Both Thomas and actress Kristen Bell had expressed their interest in doing so but Warner Brothers, the show’s production company, opted not to fund the project.

Following persistence from Thomas and Bell, Warner Brothers agreed that should they find a way to provide funding for the film, they would back it. The pair organised a profile on Kickstarter with an objective of raising $2,000,000, the highest ever goal on the website, to be reached by April 12th. At the time of writing this article, with 18 days left to go, they have surpassed their aim and $3,872,624 has been pledged.

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

With the target being reached, the production of the film will now happen, with contributors winning rewards including scripts, limited edition t-shirts, DVDs, signed posters, twitter follows, premiere tickets  and even a speaking role in the movie.

Due to the support of the Veronica Mars movie project, the rumour mill has been going wild with the possibility of other defunct television shows being able to make films through fan funding. Shows including Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Firefly are now all being rumoured for revival.

The biggest issue with the increased interest in fan funded films is the fact that, should these higher budget films be successful, it will be a more frequented method of covering production costs and smaller independent projects may get overlooked.

When big production companies are already involved with the film’s development, it does feel like an elaborate ploy for these corporations to earn extra money and it is a shame that people are likely to be more willing to contribute to these ventures than those with absolutely no means of funding their projects without extra support.

Furthermore, this method of funding changes the whole viewing experience for film fans. Rewards are there to ensure that financial contributors aren’t taken advantage of, but the process still holds great risk – what if the production doesn’t deliver with its promises and, more importantly, what if the fans who contribute towards the project aren’t happy with the final result?

Fans will be donating a lot of money to the film, what with the initial funding pledges, cinema trips and the purchase of dvds and merchandise, these contributors will therefore expect a lot from the final product and so they should.

I guess it comes down to Veronica Mars to set the precedent but, because of the media attention of the project and the persistence of fans, it seems likely to be a commercial success, which may mean film fans could soon have a more active role in the production of higher budget films, whether this is for the best or not.

My advice to the TOWIE producers…

By the looks of Twitter, I’m with the 90% of the British population who wishes they could un-see last night’s dreadful The Only Way Is Essex, better known as, live. It has been described as the ‘worst tv show ever’ by readers of The Sun and many fans have expressed how they were tempted to stop watching.

The thing that struck me though, is that it was the cast who were getting slated online. Although I’m in agreement that some are acting a little too big for their boots *cough* James ‘Arg’ Argent, I really don’t see how the failure of the live episode can fall into their hands.

The Arg Charity Show... it's all for charity!

The Arg Charity Show… it’s all for charity, apparently!

Whilst the message was clear – the ‘stars’ were putting on a charity show – there were no details anywhere with how fans could donate to their charity of choice, Breast Cancer Care, and although some may claim they raised awareness, no facts on the cancer were shared.

The show played out like a poorly executed version of The Muppet Show, except it wasn’t funny… It was plagued with poor edits and a lack of understanding of those behind the scenes that as they were shouting to the cast, the audience could hear them too. It is a credit to the post production staff of the regular shows that it is usually edited so smoothly. Last night we had to endure cutting people off mid-sentence and moving to a shot of two people looking at each other in silence – until we heard those behind the camera say “we’re rolling”.

Sam and Kirk have lots to discuss

Sam and Kirk sit in silence, until they are prompted by someone behind the camera to “talk about Lauren”

If last night’s show did anything, it made it clear just how constructed the storylines are. We heard producers prompting Sam and Kirk to “talk about Lauren” and it would appear the only people pressuring Joey to talk about marriage are those we don’t see on-screen. The poor boy was almost reduced to tears and the rumours online are saying it’s because he was being pressured to propose at the end of the show.

So, my advice to TOWIE producers – the live show clearly didn’t work, please don’t try it again, if you do, count your losses, it’s pretty clear the show last night was scripted and had been rehearsed, so don’t try to pretend it isn’t.

If you’re going to revolve it around a ‘talent’ show, don’t cut away from the acts, aren’t they what it’s all about? In fact, an even better route could be to put on a TOWIE pantomime, add an ‘Essex twist’ to a tale we all know.

The saving grace of the live show was, without a doubt, Kirk Norcross’ performance. He’s never mentioned that he could sing before so it was a shock when he said he was singing a jazz song, that’s usually Arg’s territory. In my opinion, and according to Twitter, he was the star of the night… It would be great to see a little rivalry between him and Arg over the performance.

But please, don’t try to go live again. I don’t think the nation can handle it….or Joey.

The live show appeared to upset Joey, who was seen crying to producers after the show

The live show appeared to upset Joey, who was seen crying to producers after the show

(All screenshots have been sourced from ITV Player, if you dare to watch the episode again, it’s available here for the next month.)

I’m a “Celebrity”, Let Me Tarnish My Career

I’m enjoying this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, although I have to admit, a week in, I still can’t name the full line-up. That is what is infuriating about these “celebrity” shows, they end up centering on one individual who provides the most entertainment and controversy.

This year’s edition might as well be called “The Helen Flanagan Show” as little has been seen of any of the other contestants. In fact, I forgot Linda Robson was even in the jungle until a quick Google Search.

Every year it seems to be the same story – the public find one individual who just cannot stand to complete the Bushtucker Trials, or do so with a lot of fuss. Who can forget the Gillian McKeith episodes? She was the first person in the history of I’m a Celeb to refuse a live task… after “fainting”.

As frustrating as it can be to watch Flanagan refuse to complete the trials, which staff have been preparing for months, I can’t help but feel bad for her. It has been revealed that she left Coronation Street due to depression and suffering from extreme panic attacks, which is worrying as before each trial she has expressed how she feels anxious and is seen getting worked up about how the other camp mates will feel about her should she fail. There has been speculation that she has been faking her fear to gain public attention, however, considering her parents have spoken about their concern for her, I can’t see this being true. I doubt the negative press and twitter attention will make her feel good about herself upon leaving the jungle either.

I’ve always had issues with actors and actresses going on shows like this and Celebrity Big BrotherIt doesn’t seem to be an issue with soap stars, as long as they are content staying in the same role. But with Flanagan having left Coronation Street over a year ago and not acting since, I can’t see producers fighting over her having seen her admit she is a “drama queen” with “diva antics”. In fact, one high profile writer, Noel Clarke, has already hinted he wouldn’t be interested in working with her due to her involvement with the show.

Despite a few I’m a Celeb successes, like Myleene Klass, Joe Swash and Stacey Solomon, you have to wonder, for some of the other contestants, is it always worth it?

 

 

Review: The L.A. Candy Series by Lauren Conrad

Lauren Conrad – reality television star, fashion designer and now author?

 

Los Angeles is all about hot clubs, cute guys, designer … everything. Nineteen-year-old Jane Roberts and her BFF, Scarlett, can’t wait to start living it up. And when a TV producer wants them to star in a “reality version of Sex and the City,” they can hardly believe their luck. Their own show? Yes, please!

Soon Jane is television’s hottest star and she’s lapping up the VIP treatment with her entourage of new pals. But those same friends are also angling for a piece of her spotlight. In a city filled with people chasing their dreams, it’s not long before Jane realises that everyone wants something from her and nothing is what it seems to be.

Any regular readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of reality television, so when I found out Lauren Conrad, star of my favourite reality shows Laguna Beach and The Hills, was releasing a fictional book series based on a group of girls who are discovered in LA to star on new reality show LA Candy I had to try it out.

Sure, she claims it’s fictional, but the girls in the book share very similar characteristics to those that have appeared in the shows’ with Conrad and she has admitted herself she “relates” to lead character Jane Roberts. Surely then, it’s not a coincidence that the character Jane is featured in many situations and scenarios that have been encountered by Conrad herself since being in the public eye.

Many cynics will say that Conrad did have a collaborator when writing the books, but many public figures do these days. My biggest complaint about all three of the books in the series is that they provide only a quick read. (I managed to read one of them over two days) However, the reads are entertaining and enjoyable none-the-less. The popularity of the series is also shown through the amount of book sales, the first book in the series was number 1 in the New York Times Bestseller list.

It will never be said that this book series is a great work of fiction, but it is fair to say that it is filled with characters that you can relate to and a world in which you can immerse yourself in, you really do relate to the characters.

My favourite character is Scarlett Harp, Jane’s best friend, as you really see her character develop throughout the series. She falls in love for the first time, deals with friendship issues in dignified way and is supportive of the other characters. The sickingly sweet Gaby provides the light-hearted entertainment as a ditzy airhead who eventually gets sucked into the Hollywood scene. The final “star” of LA Candy is Madison, a girl desperate for the limelight at any cost, literally, as she has spent thousands on plastic surgery to perfect her look, although she doesn’t go unnoticed by all the ghosts from her past …

I would definitely recommend this book to any fan of reality television as it gives a great insight into the behind-the-scenes elements of filming reality television, such as how to shoot different angles of the same event and also the problem the girls’ have with the microphones and how they can’t ever really get away from the ever-watching producers of the show.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Click on the photos to buy these Lauren Conrad books:

Reality TV – How Real Is It?

The Simple Life, The Only Way Is Essex and The Hills. Just three examples of reality television that have been major successes. But how real are these “reality” shows? Paris Hilton, one of the stars of The Simple Life has been quoted as saying:

Paris Hilton: Not So Simple?

‘The Simple Life’ is a reality show and people might assume it’s real. But it’s fake. All reality shows are fake basically. When you have a camera on you, you are not going to act yourself. Before I started the show I thought I’d make a character like the movies ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Clueless’ mixed together, with a rich girl all-in-one. Even my voice is different and the way I dress is different from me in real life. It’s a character I like to play. I think it’s carefree and happy. The public think they know me but they really don’t.”

Hilton raises the key point that people who star in reality shows want to be liked by the audiences and therefore play upon characteristics that are stereotyped of their persona. Of course, to anyone who has ever watched The Simple Life, it is clear that it isn’t real and certain parts may be scripted.

The Only Way Is Essex Disclaimer

The more recent UK reality show, The Only Way is Essex, states that while the “people in the show are real, some of what they do has been set up”. This does make you wonder how much of what you see on these supposed “reality” shows is actually real. Are the focal relationships shown in the show real? Are the amazing job offers real? Do these people actually own the businesses they claim to? And if scenes are set up, should it have been portrayed as a reality show?

Perhaps the most popular reality show was MTV’s The Hills, running for six seasons, it was constantly scrutinised over how real it really was. As the people featured in the show were in the public eye, especially in America, there were elements of their lives that were not in the show, but were known to be true. Examples of this are cast member Brody Jenner‘s relationship with singer Avril Lavigne and Lauren Conrad‘s relationship with actor Kyle Howard. Since leaving the show Conrad has released a book series titled L.A. Candy, which is based on a group of girls staring in a reality show. It is suggested through the narrative of the book that the reason certain relationships were not shown on The Hills was because the stars significant others did not sign release forms and did not want to be featured on the show.

The most interesting feature of The Hills though, is the ending of the final series. Whether the show is real or not, you have to hand it to the show’s creator Adam DiVello, amongst all the controversy surrounding  the show’s realism, the ending is truly inspired.