Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Greatest Book-Based TV Mini-Series

Australian author Colleen McCullough recently passed away.  She is best known for penning The Thorn Birds, a book that’s sold over 30 million copies and was turned into a classic television mini-series in 1983.  In case you never saw it, it starred Richard Chamberlain as a priest who had an affair.  Christopher Plummer and Rachel Ward were also in it.

The 500-plus-pages translated into 10 attention-getting hours of screen time.  The series was a big event and stirred the nation.  It always seems more people watch a televised version or movie depiction of a book than read the book.  Why is that?

Months before the hardcover debut of The Thorn Birds was released, Avon Books paid what was then a record for paperback rights - $1.9 million.  The multi-generational saga spans from 1915 to 1969.  When the farmer’s daughter falls in lust – and love – for the Roman Catholic priest, all hell breaks loose.

What were some of the best or highest-rated television mini-series of all time?

I would propose the king is Roots.  Then Rich Man, Poor Man.  Then The Thorn Birds.  All of them were books first. 

Is the TV mini-series still alive and well?  What was the last big one?

Over the years there have been huge ones, like North and South, Band of Brothers, John Adams, Shogun, the Winds of War, Jesus of Nazareth, I, Claudius, and Lonesome Dove.

See a pattern?  Often it is a book that’s behind the biggest mini-series on television.  The subject matter seems to revolve around war, history, or a family saga.  Maybe that’s the kind of book that you should write if you want to hit it big on TV.

I think TV should make a mini-series on these subjects:

King: The life of MLK, Jr.
9/11: When War Came Home
Melted: The not-so future depiction of a global meltdown due to the environment

Ok, so I wouldn’t make the best TV producer, but I’m sure such ideas are being tossed around by network honchos.  

Or they’ll just wait for a good book to come along and convert it into something for TV.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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