I say, I say. I say. What is a TV Tie-in?
I don’t know. What is a TV Tie-in?
It’s what you do to a reluctant viewer who’d rather read a book.
Seriously though, folks, links between books and TV are getting so many and varied it’s difficult for us ordinary mortals to keep up. It wasn’t so bad when the traffic was all one way; ‘adapted from the book by… ‘ was reasonably straightforward. But now it seems to be going both ways at once and arriving simultaneously on screen and in bookshop, with no clear indication of where it came from. If we are to give eager young book buyers good advice we need to know what we are dealing with.
A look back over the past few months illustrates some of the variety.
Our John Willie by Catherine Cookson (Piccolo, 70p) was ‘dramatised’ by Valerie Georgeson – and very well she did it (even if Davy was too old). By episode two we were well into a straight adaptation of a good tale -and Catherine Cookson knows how to tell them. Going to the book from the serial, imagination equipped with the look of the period, you could involve yourself more deeply with the story and its relationships, which words reveal in greater complexity than pictures. Going to the serial from the book, you wouldn’t be outraged.
Little House on the Prairie (ITV – Puffin, 70p) is quite another matter. How can publishers or booksellers suggest this series has anything to do with the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories? New readers or viewers should be warned.
The ‘classic’ serial presents a different problem. If customers come rushing in asking for Dickens, Hardy and Jane Austen (Do they?), what then? The bookseller’s knowledge of the customer is vital. Can he cope? Will he be put off forever? Is this the moment for ‘edited for younger readers’?
More Television Adventures of Worzel Gummidge by Willis Ball and Keith Waterhouse (Puffin, 65p) is another animal. ‘Based on the characters created by Barbara Euphan Todd.’ But the title is honest and inside there is a clear reference to the forty-year-old originals. ‘You may be surprised to discover that in those days Aunt Sally was Worzel’s aunt instead of his sweetheart.’ That’s nothing to how surprised Earthy Mangold must be. She was his wife! Ah well, that’s television! What we have is the book of the series. The stories stick very closely to the scripts and are full of the kind of slapstick that films well but seldom transfers successfully to the printed page. Reading them offers little more than an action replay of the television. I wonder how the transition to Barbara Euphan Todd is made, if it is.
The action replay of course has great appeal – particularly if the original is exciting enough. Turpin and Swiftnick by Richard Carpenter (Armada, 70p) is a sequel to Dick Turpin and so has already proved its viewability and readability (100,000 sold). The book is full of action and incident, no hanging about for niceties like subtle characterisation. Short sentences, but long unfamiliar words which might make it difficult for some who could have found it a good read.
The latest development is Grange Hill Rules OK? (see Reviews and Doing Something with the Grange Hill Kids, page 26). Bob Leeson takes the characters off the screen and puts them into a book in a new story. This is a new kind of book because it relies on previous knowledge of the characters in another medium. There is no time wasted establishing them; it’s straight into the action. In the unlikely eventuality that your customer hasn’t seen the TV series, he’d better be warned.
Starting in April – Sundays BBC
The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown (Knight, 65p)
A new family serial in four episodes front a book that was wowing the stage-struck twenty-five years ago. It will be interesting to see how it travels (or is updated). Dinah Sheridan, mother from the film of The Railway Children, stars.
Black Jack – the film
Ken Loach’s film of the powerful Leon Garfield story (Puffin, 60p) hasn’t had a particularly easy passage to the screen. We hear it will be on limited release (late February, early March) in London and Yorkshire.
All Creatures Great and Small
The current series is based on Vet in a Spin and Vets Might Fly (both Pan, 80p). Fans will probably enjoy Christopher Timothy’s Vet Behind the Ears (Pan, 80p), his account of acting the part of James Herriot in the series.
Bagthorpes in Summer?
Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpes are a family of geniuses, ranging from eight-year-old Rosie, mathematician, swimmer and portrait painter extraordinary, to the redoubtable Grandma. Only Jack is the odd one out and his efforts to get some attention for him self form the plot of the first story, Ordinary Jack (75p). Next comes Absolute Zero (75p), with everyone gone competition mad, and then Bagthorpes Unlimited (85p), with the family determined to get into the Guinness Book of Records (all in Puffin). In Bagthorpes v. the World (Faber, £4.50) they are into self-sufficiency. ‘The Bagthorpes are eccentrics to a man and the stories are inventive, fast-moving and richly funny. They are due to reach the TV screen this summer. If they film half as well as they read, they should make compulsive viewing.
Gone but not forgotten
The Book Tower (smashing series) is over now but it’s left us good ideas to pinch for school or bookshop. For this series Yorkshire TV produced a delightful little Watcher’s Guide containing details of the books to be featured with columns (Good, Bad and Ace!) for individual rating. And how about emulating the Book Testers and getting kids to try out some practical books to see how good they are.
In view soon
Noah’s Castle by John Rowe Townsend (Puffin, 75p) Garfield’s Apprentices, Book 4 (Tom Titmarsh’s Devil, The Filthy Beast, The Enemy) now out in piccolo, 75p).