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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Preview: Gavin and Stacey’s US Remake – Us and Them

Cast of 'Us and Them' [Image: Independent]

Cast of ‘Us and Them’ [Image: Independent]

The pilot of the American Gavin and Stacey adaptation, Us and Them, has officially been picked up by Fox TV.

I previously wrote about the remake, originally under the working title of Friends and Family, over on Yuppee Magazine but the trailer for the pilot has finally arrived:

Some things are clear from the trailer, there are new jokes but the general plot remains the same – a pair of young lovers start a relationship whilst dealing with their eccentric families. Gavin (Jason Ritter) is now a city slicker from New York and Stacey (Alexis Bledel) is from small town Pennsylvania.

Whilst adaptations are always exciting to watch, part of the beauty of Gavin and Stacey was the simplicity of its scripting. Catchphrases from the show weaseled their way into common phrasing and whilst the representations of characters were stereotypical, they were always relateable.

I think the main contribution to the success of the remake in America will be how viewers warm to the characters. In the original version of the show all of the characters were likeable and hilarious so hopefully with Ruth Jones and James Corden on board as executive producers this will be the case with the remake.

I’m excited to see the show when it airs but as a huge fan of the original I can’t help but be dubious about how it will translate on American television and whether it will do the show justice. I know that this has been the general feeling amongst UK viewers (and even American fans who have watched the original series) but others have expressed their excitement on social media at seeing the show being reinvigorated, stating it will fill the void left when Gavin and Stacey finished.

What are your thoughts based on the trailer? Will it be a tidy remake or a big mistake?

Why the world is going gaga for Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga features creative levels and challenges building on the traditional match-three formula

There has been an invasion of games on Facebook in recent years. From Farmville to Bejeweled, the inclusion of game apps on the social networking site has had a Marmite effect – you love them or hate them.

The game of the moment is undoubtedly Candy Crush Saga. Following months of resisting signing up, I am now hooked.

Candy Crush Saga is just like Bejeweled before it but with added twists. To advance each level, the player is tasked with different challenges. Not only do you have to get high scores, but you need to unblock certain squares or drop certain tokens to the bottom of the grid.

Interaction is important in Candy Crush Saga – you need to engage with your Facebook friends in order to advance or pay a small fee to unlock more levels. Whilst there was once a sense of “oh god another game request” when you logged into Facebook, now people are writing statuses asking for help and it’s incredible to see the amount of people playing via the on-screen map.

There are a number of reasons why Candy Crush Saga has remained one of the top played games virally over the last few months:

It’s Goal Orientated

Candy Crush Saga has its own narrative and doesn’t follow the same formula with every level. Whilst you might be against the clock on one level, the next will challenge you to break chained blocks of ice to free candy pieces. These differences stop the game from becoming monotonous and intrigues the player to wonder what challenges will appear next.

It Allows Synced Platforms

The game doesn’t standalone on Facebook as it is also a downloadable app. One of the biggest problems with gaming apps on Facebook is that they don’t captivate users to a full extent – not everyone logs into Facebook everyday and if they do, they might not have time to play a game. By creating the app to connect with smartphones, users are able to sync their accounts so that they can engage with their Facebook friends without ever having to log into a computer. If they have a spare five minutes, they’re far more likely to play on their mobile.

The Game Map

Competitiveness is a natural aspect of life, so Candy Crush very cleverly includes a game map. Players will want to get further than their friends and will want to beat the high scores displayed, what better way to motivate them than including their friends profile picture over the level they’re on?

It’s Not Endless Gameplay

Most would see this as a fault, but I think it encourages a return to play. Each player only has five lives at a time. If they run out, they can pay for more or ask their Facebook friends to send some but if they want to wait an hour or so, the lives will return. This not only encourages competitiveness to advance but motivates yourself to progress in the next five lives.

What are your thoughts on Candy Crush Saga? Do you love the app or do you hate the influx of requests?

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – From Page to Screen

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThis feature contains some brief spoilers from both the book and the film adaptation of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a huge success when released in the cinema last year. It is no surprise that the screenplay is faithful to the book, as both were written by incredible writer Stephen Chbosky.

Although an over-used phrase, the book is truly a coming-of-age story that focuses heavily on the disillusionment so frequently felt by teenagers. The plot revolves around Charlie, an apprehensive freshman starting the new school year. He has communication issues and struggles to connect with people following the suicide of his best friend, Michael, the year before the novel begins.

Charlie initially struggles to connect with his family and explains that the only family member he has ever felt close to was his aunt Helen, who died when he was younger.

I read the book for the first time last year when the film was announced and was so captivated by Chbosky’s writing style that I managed to read the whole thing in a day. It’s uniquely written through a series of letters to an undisclosed person meaning that Charlie’s first-person narrative is honest and he doesn’t hold back. As the novel is written in this way, it is so easy to find yourself empathising with Charlie.

There are many themes to the novel, from abusive relationships and sexuality to drugs and adolescence. However, I felt the main theme was loss. Charlie is not only suffering from the loss of his best friend, but also the loss of his youth and, as the novel goes on, his innocence.

Throughout the story, we see Charlie befriend the eccentric Patrick and Sam and adapt to his new, more social, life. Patrick is openly gay and secretly dating popular quarterback, Brad. Sam is his step-sister and has a troubled past, Charlie is immediately besotted with her, but feels he isn’t good enough to do anything about it.

Initially, Charlie is heavily juxtaposed to Patrick. Patrick is over-the-top and obnoxiously loud to teachers whereas Charlie doesn’t have the confidence to participate in classes. As the plot develops and Charlie feels more comfortable with his new friends he gains more confidence and feels free to voice his true opinions.

The novel features many great quotes

The film adaptation of the novel has been a long time coming. The novel was first published in 1999 and has gained a cult following since. It is considered a modern classic by many and features some amazing quotes, including one of my personal favourites “we accept the love we think we deserve”.

The film is extremely faithful to the original novel, which I feel is because Chbosky adapted the script himself. Chbosky has stated in the past that the novel is semi-autobiographical and he can relate to Charlie which may play a part in why the characters do not digress from their original representations.

Usually I find film adaptations don’t live up to the novels they are based on and whilst I still think in this case the novel is better than the film, there isn’t much in it at all.

I think one strength of the film adaptation is that the characters are established much quicker than in the book. When initially reading about Patrick and Sam, I wasn’t sure what kind of people they were as I was only finding out about them at the same speed as Charlie, but as soon as you see the pair on-screen, you understand they are eccentric outcasts.

Logan Lerman is fabulous as wallflower Charlie, especially during party scenes, where he portrays Charlie’s naivety brilliantly. One stand out scene is when Charlie has started dating one of Sam’s friends Mary-Elizabeth. During a game of Truth of Dare? Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, but instead of choosing Mary-Elizabeth, he chooses Sam. Lerman’s performance when he realises the mistake he has made is great, as Charlie is slowly seeing himself turn back into a recluse as his friends stay away from him.

Emma Watson is also surprisingly good as Sam in the film. Although at times her American accent leaves a lot to be desired, her performance is much better than that in any of the Harry Potter films and after seeing the film, I believe she has the potential to continue as a successful actress for a very long time.

However, it is Ezra Miller’s portrayal of Patrick which is truly exceptional. He is able to go from over-the-top clown to emotionally vulnerable in a matter of seconds and you understand why the character is able to draw so many people in. One outstanding scene is when he is confronting Brad about their affair in front of his friends. The dispute turns violent and Patrick completely breaks down. It is no surprise that Miller received a number of accolades for the role.

The production of the film is also well done. Music is a big part of the book and this is conveyed on-screen as the film has an excellent soundtrack. Additionally the editing is extremely clever, with many sound bridges used for transitions, particularly as Charlie recollects about his past. This allows the audience to see the links he makes in order to remember these events.

My only issue with the film itself is that I think it hints too heavily at the films climatic twist, something which was quite shocking and unexpected in the book. However, I often find this to be the case with adaptations.

Overall, I would highly recommend both the novel and the film, but would suggest reading the book first in order to fully embrace and understand Charlie as a character.

 

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings PlaybookAs soon as I saw the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook, I knew it was my kind of film. Although it didn’t give much away, the amazing cast – including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro – sold it to me right away. So much so, that I went against my rule of always trying to read novels before watching their film adaptations.

Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he is released from a mental health facility into his parent’s (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) care. Pat suffers from bipolar disorder and was hospitalised after finding out his wife, Nikki, was having an affair with a colleague, whom he proceeded to nearly beat to death. He believes that if he finds enough silver linings in his life he will win Nikki back.

At a dinner, he meets his friend Ronnie’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, a young widow, (Jennifer Lawrence) for the first time. The two soon develop a friendship, with Tiffany offering to give Nikki a letter from Pat if he will be her dance partner in an upcoming competition that her husband never wanted to go to.

As Pat and Tiffany bond on-screen, Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry is undeniable. However, the film is by no means the typical romantic-comedy you might expect. It is more of a romantic-drama with a few comedic moments. It is clear that David O. Russell, the director and writer of the screenplay, had a distinct vision with the film.

O. Russell has stated that he was so heavily invested in the screenplay because his 18-year-old son Matthew has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As I watched Silver Linings Playbook, it struck me how well those with mental illnesses are represented and I think it’s a testament to the outstanding script so clearly based on personal experiences of the issues portrayed on-screen.

As I’ve already mentioned, the cast of the film is absolutely outstanding, but none shine quite like Bradley Cooper. I wasn’t expecting much from Cooper, as I hadn’t seen him in such a dramatic role before, but in his performance as Pat he shows the perfect combination of vulnerability, emotion and humour. I think Jennifer Lawrence’s statement that his performance ‘broke her heart then put it back together again‘ is spot on and, in my opinion, Cooper deserves all the awards he is nominated for in this role.

Silver Linings Playbook features outstanding performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Silver Linings Playbook features outstanding performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

A stand-out scene for me is the first meeting of Pat and Tiffany (much of which is seen in the trailer at the end of this review). Both Cooper and Lawrence display such quick wit in the scene and it flows so naturally. Both of their characters social struggles are obvious and they aren’t immediately comfortable in each others company as is so often the case, to the audience their meeting is plausible as being the first. The film is written so perfectly that the gradual development of their friendship is believable and so endearing to watch as a viewer.

The supporting cast are also great, with there being no weak links. Chris Tucker plays Danny, a friend of Pat’s from the psychiatric unit, who is obsessed with his hair and looking for any legal loopholes that will get him out of the facility. Jacki Weaver plays Pat’s mother, Dolores, with such raw emotion and compassion and Robert De Niro is amazing as Pat’s father, who resorts to bookmaking to earn money and suffers from OCD tenancies.

I think one of the funniest scenes, and the one that makes me believe we will be seeing Jennifer Lawrence on-screen for years to come, is when Tiffany argues with Pat Snr. in the middle of a gathering, dismissing his OCD beliefs that Pat needs to be at home when American Football is on in order for his team to win. There’s something about seeing a 22 year-old Lawrence talking down Robert De Niro which is hilarious and it’s a beautifully portrayed moment when Pat Snr. begins to acknowledge that Tiffany shouldn’t be judged because of her issues and where he finally believes in his son.

Whilst the plot is predictable, the incredible performances by the cast are reason alone to see this film. The character relationships are intriguing to watch and you genuinely root for Pat and Tiffany, not just to have a relationship but to be content as individuals and find the silver linings they both deserve.

Rating: ****

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: