16 Surprising TV Shows That Were Actually Books First

I don’t know about you, but there’s something so exciting about reading the books before watching the TV show based off them. I mean, aside from the excuse to get angry at something when the show strays from the way the author wrote the books, you can actually see your favorite chapters acted out in scenes while you snuggle up to a bowl of buttery popcorn.

Fans sometimes forget that shows like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars were even books at all (though they usually remember when Spencer is the one with the evil twin and not Alison). But they’re not the only shows that had really great scenes and characters bound in a book before making it on screen – in fact, sometimes the TV show has completely outshone the books it was based on!

16. Emerald City

If the name is giving you serious flashbacks to your middle school rendition of The Wizard of Oz, here’s why: Emerald City and The Wizard of Us are both based on the Oz book series, which follows Dorothy Gale as she searches for the Wizard in — you guessed it — the Emerald City. Except in the show, instead of being 11 years old, Dorothy is 20 and Toto is actually a police dog.

15. Sherlock

If you couldn’t already guess from the name, Sherlock is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Despite being based on the same old detective we know and love, the TV show Sherlock Holmes is actually kind of different from his bookish counterpart, and you may pick up on some of those differences if you pay close attention. The Holmes from the books is more reserved and grew up in Victorian era England. But the Holmes in the TV series can be quite selfish and grew up in the 20th Century.

14. Dexter

If you’re unfamiliar with Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, well, you’ve got seven books worth of catching up to do. Fortunately, you don’t really need to read all the books in order to understand the show, since the show is actually mostly based on just the first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. The major differences between the two mostly consist of small character identity changes. In the first book, the main villain drove a produce truck, but in the show, the villain drove an ice truck — things like that you’ll probably hardly even miss.

13. Sex and the City

Getting to see all the extravagant fashion events that Carrie got invited to on TV is so much more satisfying than reading about them in the books, not going to lie. Not to mention the fact that seeing all of Carrie’s super cute outfits (yes, even the ones from when she was a high school student in The Carrie Diaries) made us want her closet for ourselves. Though some have said that Carrie’s adventures in the city as a teenager is highly unrelatable, the idea of life sometimes going awry — even for the extremely fashionable — isn’t. Both Sex and the City and The Carrie Diaries were based on books by Candace Bushnell. Here’s a twist: the OG SatC book was a collection of essays written by Candace and her friends… making the show based on a true story! Who knew!

12. Orange is the New Black

Okay, we’re about to completely blow your mind. Not only was everyone’s favorite prison drama a real page-turner before it came to Netflix, but there were some seriously major changes made when it became a show, and frankly we can’t even fathom what the series would’ve been like if some of these details were preserved. For starters, in the books, Piper and Alex weren’t in the same prison! Can you imagine the show without those sexy Chapman-Voss scenes? We won’t spoil the rest, so you may just have to read the book for yourself!

11. American Gods

American Gods, the TV show, is based on a book by the same name by Neil Gaiman. The series, starring Ricky Whittle and Emily Browning, blends together American life as we know it with historical and modern mythology. So far, there’s only one season with a second already ordered. It’s gained positive attention since its debut, so there’s a good possibility the show will have a good run on Starz.

10. Hannibal

If you prefer to see the blood and guts rather than just read the descriptions of them, Hannibal is the show for you. The show has been adapted from a novel called Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. However, only the characters and certain events were based off the source material. For the most part, Hannibal is a very separate story from that of Red Dragon.

9. Girlboss

Another TV show based on a book based on nonfictional events, Girlboss itself was also more of a biopic than FNL was. The TV show’s protagonist Sophia Marlowe is based on real-life girl boss Sophia Amoruso and her rise to fame after launching her trendy clothing website, Nasty Gal. The series was short-lived and only lasted for one season, at the end of which, Sophia launched the site and sells out on the first day. The show, however, doesn’t go in depth enough on the struggles faced by Sophia, and instead it places a much larger focus on her romantic relationships. Allegedly the show was canceled for fear that some of Amoruso’s real-life secrets would come out and affect viewership – which is the risk you run when making a show based on a real person and their story!

8. House of Cards

While the House of Cards TV show has similar plots to those of the trilogy on which it’s based by Michael Dobbs, there are still some pretty big differences. How about the fact that the main character Frank Underwood is actually named Francis Urquhart in the book, and he’s a Scottish aristocrat instead of a dude from South Carolina? Crazy. We’re sure the last season, now that Kevin Spacey has been ousted, will be vastly different from the source material with Frank not even being a central character!

7. Roswell

This cult-classic ’90s show is based on the young adult book series called Roswell High by Melinda Metz (who, fun fact: was a script writer on the series!). The show follows the lives of alien teens and their human friend at a fictional high school in New Mexico. It’s almost like Twilight, except with UFO’s instead of fancy Volvos. Vampires and werewolves are totally overrated anyway. Apparently, Roswell is getting the reboot treatment at The CW – but this time, the main character is an undocumented immigrant and her police officer crush is the alien from another planet! That’s some twist!

6. Bones

You’ve probably flipped through channels on TV and come across an episode of Bones at least a couple of times. The series follows an anthropologist with a knack for analyzing bones as she teams up with a colleague who’s great at solving crime mysteries. Starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, the show was incredibly successful during its whopping 12(!!!) season run. The series parallels the books pretty well — same laughs, same thrills — but the biggest difference is the setting: the show takes place in Washington D.C. and the books take place in Montreal.

5. Longmire

Longmire is a Western drama that focuses on the life of Sheriff Walt Longmire and his investigations. They’re based on the Walt Longmire Mysteries book series written by Craig Johnson. There are 19 books in the mystery novel series, and six seasons. Fans were livid when Netflix announced that the sixth seasdon would be its final one.

4. Boardwalk Empire

What’s interesting about Boardwalk Empire is that it’s set during the Prohibition Era and takes place in Atlantic City (ironic?). The show focuses on politicians who have some run-ins with local gangsters. It’s based on the New York Times Best-Seller Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. While the details in the book are pretty historically accurate, there’s nothing like seeing it all play out on the screen. There is some pretty impressive directing, costuming, and visual effects.

3. Mindhunter

Netflix’s instant 2017 hit Mindhunter followed the story of the FBIs criminal profiling in the 1970s, and it’s based on the non-fiction crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book details a former FBI agent’s dealings with criminals, but the TV series follows two agents as they develop the profiling system. Season two is on its way!

2. Fresh Off the Boat

Many see Fresh Off the Boat as a show similar to Modern Family and Black-ish, but it’s actually inspired by Eddie Huang’s autobiography titled Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir. The OG book encompasses Eddie’s early life and how he eventually became a food celebrity – and the show is actually the first American sitcom to star an Asian-American family! Making strides!

1. Friday Night Lights

The show was inspired by the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream and by the movie that came before it. It follows the story of a high school football team in Texas as they move toward state championships, but while the H. G. Bissinger book was non-fictional, the NBC TV show’s characters and events are, for the most part, fictional. That didn’t make it any less of a hit though! Many don’t even know that their favorite NBC show was a book first…

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