Monday, 18 October 2010

Thorne: Sleepyhead - review of episode 2


Thorne: Sleepyhead raises an interesting question. How long should a TV adaptation of a crime novel be? It's not really an academic question - it can made a great deal of difference to pace and suspense. The definitive TV tec show of recent times remains Inspector Morse, which began with each book turned into a single two hour show. Lewis follows the same pattern to this day, even though the screenplays have been original since TV ran out of Colin Dexter's originals many years ago.

Sometimes a novel may be squeezed into an hour - less if there have to be commercial breaks. Some years ago, one of the various TV deals relating to my books that never made it to the screen was based on the premise of 60 minutes per novel. It seemed a bit tight to me, but in the end it never got beyond the realm of theory.

Recently, DCI Banks turned a Peter Robinson novel into two hour-long episodes. The first seemed better than the second, which became a bit melodramatic. Thorne, however, turns Mark Billingham's book into three hour-long episodes. A bold move. The danger is that the story becomes very padded out if you aren't careful.

So far, however, so good. The second episode was fast-moving and pleasingly complex. It managed to hold my attention from start to finish, no mean feat on a somnolent Sunday evening. It's a good story, well translated to TV, and I'm enjoying it. Let's hope the final episode reaches the same standard.

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm glad that episode worked for you. You're right, too; the length of an episode is not academic - not when it comes to how to successfully translate a well-written book to screen. Three hours seems long, but it also seems to have been successful... And yes, Inspector Morse remains one of the best detective shows I've seen. I miss John Thaw...

Deb said...

I say two hours for a novel and one hour for a short story. These time restraints do mean that, when novels are adapted, many characters are either jettisoned or condensed; and, when short stories are adapted, there's a lot of padding (hello, writers of "The Poirot Mysteries"!), but I think these are the times that work best for viewing. Some of the Dalgliesh and Linley adaptations seemed to go on forever--and since we'd watch them in one-hour increments on "Mystery," I would sometimes lose the thread of what was happening from week-to-week, even though I'd read most of the books being adapted.

aguja said...

Mmm. Yes, length is important, but also needs flexibility. I cannot comment on the series as I do not receive it over here. I did love John Thaw as Morse, though, as he fitted so well into the rĂ´le.

Personally, if I am an absorbed specatator, I just surface at the end, no matter the length of time.

Anonymous said...

How long, indeed. I keep falling asleep during the Inspector Lewis episodes, but I am American and here all the tv shows are no longer than an hour.