MANY blockbuster boxsets began life on the printed page. Bookworms argue telly is no match for the majesty of the written word, but can novels beat the allure of star names in TV adaptations?
GRANT ROLLINGS reveals the winners in the book vs boxset title fight.
Sherlock – read it
18 Benedict Cumberbatch first appeared on TV screens as Sherlock Holmes in 2010
BOXSET: First aired on BBC1, July 2010. Benedict Cumberbatch gives the famous sleuth a 21st Century slant in this ground-breaking series that is sometimes too smart for its own good.
WATCHING TIME: 19½ hours
BOOKS: Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels, starting with 1887’s A Study In Scarlet.
READING TIME: 10hrs 45mins.
18 The first of the Sherlock Holmes novels was published in 1887
Big Little Lies – read it
18 The TV adaptation has been criticised for ignoring some important subplots
BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, March 2017. An Emmy-winning murder mystery with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and, in season 2, Meryl Streep.
WATCHING TIME: 10hrs.
BOOK: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, July 2014. Humour is carefully woven into this tale of domestic abuse. Important subplots are totally ignored by the TV adaptation.
READING TIME: 9hrs.
18 Liane Moriarty’s novel was first published in 2014
Dexter – watch it
18 You would need to watch Dexter for four days straight if you wanted to get through all the episodesCredit: Handout
BOXSET: First aired on ITV1, February 2008. Michael C Hall is the vigilante serial killer by night and a police forensic scientist by day. He’s not as cold-hearted as the character in the book.
WATCHING TIME: 96hrs.
BOOKS: Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay, 2004, is the first of eight books about the murderous anti-hero. Lots of dark humour and more sinister than the TV series.
READING TIME: 40hrs.
18 It would take you a whopping 40 hours to read this novel
Handmaid’s Tale – read it
18 Handmaid’s Tale first aired on Channel 4 in 2017Credit: Channel 4
BOXSET: First aired on Channel 4, May 2017. Dystopian tale of a virtually infertile world where the few child-bearing women are raped by oppressive men. The book’s 1980s technology is updated for this screen adaptation.
WATCHING TIME: 26hrs.
BOOK: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, 1985. This modern literary classic won its author the Booker Prize.
READING TIME: 7hrs.
18 Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published over 30 years ago
Killing Eve – watch it
18 Fans have been captivated by Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh’s performancesCredit: BBC
BOXSET: First aired on BBC3, September 2018. Jodie Comer plays fashion-conscious hitwoman Villanelle and Sandra Oh is Eve Polastri – the agent on her trail. Fast-paced and quick-witted, it redefines mainstream telly by putting two women at the heart of the award-winning drama.
WATCHING TIME: 18hrs.
BOOK: Codename Villanelle, by Luke Jennings, 2014. Although this is an entertaining spy novel, it lacks the flair that screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame, brings to the TV version. We also learn everything about assassin Villanelle right at the start, whereas the TV adaptation is a slower, tantalising reveal.
READING TIME*: 3hrs 45mins* Reading time is based on the number of words in a book and average reading time of 250 words a minute.
18 The novel lacks the flair that screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame, brings to the TV version
You – read it
18 You has been on Netflix for less than a yearCredit: Free for editorial use
BOXSET: First aired on Netflix, Dec 2018. A messed-up modern romance with Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl playing a creepy stalker whose obsession takes a very dark turn.
WATCHING TIME: 10hrs.
BOOK: You, by Caroline Kepnes, 2014. Stalking victim Guinevere Beck is a much more rounded character than she is in the TV show.
READING TIME: 6hrs 30mins.
18 The novel would only take 6.5 hours to read
Sharp Objects – read it
18 Fans say the TV adaptation closely follows the novelCredit: Home Box Office
BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, July 2018. Amy Adams is self-harming reporter Camille Parker who is sent to her home town to investigate a child murder. Plot largely follows the novel.
WATCHING TIME: 6hrs 40mins
BOOK: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn, 2006. The Chilling debut from the Gone Girl author is hard to put down.
READING TIME: 5hrs.
18 You could read the book one hour and 40 minutes quicker than it would take you to watch the TV adaptation
Good Omens – read it
18 You could watch Good Omens in one afternoonCredit: PA:Press Association
BOXSET: First aired Amazon, May 2019. Michael Sheen’s angel and David Tennant’s demon link up to prevent the End of Times in this fantasy comedy. Archangel Gabriel has a much bigger role.
WATCHING TIME: 5½hrs.
BOOK: Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, 1990. Wild and imaginative take on biblical characters living in modern times.
READING TIME: 7½ hrs.
18 The novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was published in 1990
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Game of Thrones – watch it
18 The first episode of Game of Thrones aired on Sky Atlantic in 2011Credit: Alamy
BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, April 2011. The blockbuster fantasy brings adult content – blood and sex – to TV. It reflects the novels until the last three series, when it overtakes the five books.
WATCHING TIME: 70hrs, 15mins.
BOOKS: A Game of Thrones, 1996, is the first of the novels in George R R Martin’s much lauded, award-winning A Song Of Ice And Fire series.
READING TIME: 120hrs.
18 It would take the average person around 120 hours to read George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Killing Eve’s Villanelle’s best bits – from her kills to her sassy attitude