One of my friends told me about how he went to a signing of Jim Butcher’s during the run of the Dresden Files show (note lack of recommendation) running on Sy Fy (it may have been Sci Fi at the time) and mentioned the show when he got to his turn in line. My bud told me that Butcher’s response was phrased exceptionally carefully. Something like “I’m pleased that they like my books enough to try to make a show from them.”
Well, if you watched the show, you see all of the semiotics of Butcher’s statement.
So you may think that we’ll never see a show capture all of the little things that make Butcher’s books really fun. Well… we probably won’t. However! One of my friends pointed me to a show that he said was Dresden without the wizarding. Burn Notice.
I know! When I first heard that, I whipped my head around and said “what are you talking about, Willis?” and he explained to me all of the little things.
Dresden explains the intricacies of building a protection spell. Michael Westen explains the intricacies of building a perimeter. Dresden would explain how a fireball works, Westen explains where to put the explosives. There’s the supporting cast that doesn’t have 1:1 overlap with the books, but the high notes are hit… you’ve got the handler who keeps telling Michael that he’s going to get himself killed, you’ve got the friend (BRUCE FREAKIN’ CAMPBELL) who gets Michael in trouble under the excuse of bringing him work, you’ve got the love interest who is probably bad news… well, Michael has Mom who doesn’t really have an analogue in the Dresden books. She’s an awesome character though.
More importantly, they capture the most addictive thing about the Dresden books: the whole “little arc, big arc” thing. Every show is self-contained for the most part… except for maybe 4 or 5 minutes. Those 4 or 5 minutes are dedicated to the arc of the season. So you sit down for your 45 minute television show and you see the procedural work its way through: Person needs help, person convinces Michael to help, Michael has conversation with Gabrielle Anwar and BRUCE FREAKIN’ CAMPBELL, we get a brief tutorial on the best way to build a bug out of a kiddie cell phone and two good ones, we see Jeffrey Donovan affect a pretty good accent from somewhere exotic, we talk to Mom, we learn just the tiniest piece of the story pertaining to the storyline of why Michael got burned in the first place, the person gets helped, we run the credits… and you want to watch the next episode to find out where those 4 or 5 minutes take us next.
It’s a solid action/spy show but if you watch it as the Dresden show you’re never going to end up seeing? It magically turns into an awesome one.
So that’s my recommendation for you this week.