In the era of Peak TV, it’s no surprise that adaptations of books have had great success on the small screen, and with The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies both achieving pop culture landmark status, the book business is booming on television. Here are some of the biggest adaptations coming in 2019.
Please note that release dates may be subject to change.
The Underground Railroad
This is by far the adaptation I am most looking forward to, but it’s a bit of a question mark for 2019 since at this time it’s still in pre-production–so we may end up waiting until 2020 for it to be finished. Underground Railroad is Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, Oprah-approved novel about Cora, who escapes slavery via the Underground Railroad (in this book imagined as a literal railroad operating underground). In each place she visits, she encounters a unique situation with a unique perspective on race relations in America during the era. The episodic structure of the novel will probably lend itself to a series well.
The kicker? Barry Jenkins, the man who directed Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, is at the helm. That’s the exclamation point on this project, and the reason I really can’t wait to see how it turns out. (2019? on Amazon Prime)
Catch-22 used to be one of my favorite novels, and while it’s not usually in my top ten anymore, it tends to hover somewhere in the top twenty. So you would think that I would be excited to see it adapted as a limited series for TV, but instead, I’m basically the thoughtful face emoji about it. The book is a wild satire that is frequently outlandishly farcical. That works on the page but is extremely difficult to adapt (note: I have not seen the film adaptation from 1970 either). I believe it can be done, but I’m wary.
The good news is that Catch-22 has longtime creative partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov behind it–and Clooney will also act in it. They’ve been hit and miss with their projects, but here’s hoping this is more Good Night and Good Luck than The Monuments Men. (Spring 2019 on Hulu)
His Dark Materials
While this will most likely be releasing later in 2019, there seems to be some thought that it might be pushed back to 2020. Produced through a joint effort with the BBC and HBO, it’s already been greenlit for a second season–so whenever it does air, you can count on it being around for a while. The 2007 adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman’s classic YA adventure series, The Golden Compass, was a massive failure both critically and commercially, so here’s hoping they get it right this time around. Maybe a series will give the story the room it needs to grow properly. (2019 on HBO)
This is another book that is difficult to imagine as an adaptation because like Catch-22, it is highly farcical in nature. It’s also one of the funniest books I’ve read, though, following an angel and a devil who team up to thwart the apocalypse since they’ve gotten rather comfortable on earth.
Unlike Catch-22, we have a trailer for Good Omens and… I’m not so sure, guys. I’m still hopeful that they’ll get it right (Michael Sheen and David Tennant seem well-cast as the angel and demon, respectively), but nothing lands particularly well in the teaser. So maybe let’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst. (2019 on Amazon Prime)
The ABC Murders
I think Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels are ripe for a Peak TV adaptation, so I’m cautiously excited for this series. Why cautiously? Because I’m not convinced by the casting of John Malkovich as the lead detective. Malkovich is great, but nothing about him reminds one of the almost excessively refined Belgian detective with a flair for humor. The fact that he doesn’t even have Hercule Poirot’s signature mustache (trading it in for a demure goatee) is probably not a good sign that this adaptation understands who Poirot is. Maybe it will be an entertaining spin on the classic–the trailer looks good, if you ignore who the main character is supposed to be–so all we can do is wait and see, I suppose. (February 1 on Amazon Prime)
Damon Lindeloff, creator behind Lost and The Leftovers, takes a crack at the groundbreaking comic by Alan Moore that was previously adapted into the middling 2009 film that seems to have been almost completely forgotten over the decade since its release. I’m not a big fan of the original comic to be honest, so I’m not inclined to fanboy out over this announcement, but it will be interesting to see how the story fares in the structure of a TV series. (2019 on HBO)
I had never heard of the book Lovecraft Country before, but Jordan Peele of Get Out fame is directing this adaptation, so color me interested. Not convinced? J.J. Abrams is producing through his production company, Bad Robot. Boom. It combines the style of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror with fantasy in telling the story of a road trip to locate a missing person in Jim Crow-era America. That sounds fascinating. (2019 on HBO)