As the television renaissance continues, several novels which would have one day been snatched up by film companies for adaptation are instead becoming TV miniseries or some even expanded to become a full-blown series. The decline in production of mid-budget films and talent flocking to the silver screen has led to this current state of affairs and Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects is the latest to get the miniseries treatment. After recently reading Sharp Objects I am eagerly anticipating the show which is set to start filming this March for a fall 2017/ early 2018 release date and I believe it could be the next big TV hit; here’s why:
Sharp Objects follows journalist Camille Preaker who returns to her small and atmospheric home town of Wind Gap, Missouri to investigate the disappearance of two young girls while also reuniting with her estranged family which opens old wounds, both real and figurative. Tonally the book is dark, and I’m talking really dark, with the plot undoubtedly macabre and at first I worried that the big wigs at the TV studios would want to tone down some parts of the book but thankfully I learnt it was HBO that is adapting the novel. HBO is the perfect place for Sharp Objects because they can actually show and explore the dark subject matter in a way other networks wouldn’t dare. Murder, self-harm, drug abuse and even more dark actions that I’m not going to spoil here are explored throughout the novel and I trust HBO can translate them to the screen in a confident and honest way which other shows have never managed while still being a punchy mystery.
While Sharp Objects has its own unique feel and pace it could piggyback its way to popularity with comparisons to other TV hits. It has the southern gothic feel of the masterful first season of HBO’s True Detective and theoretically they could rename the show True Detective season 3 if they wanted because of how similar, in parts, it feels to that show. I’m a big fan of cult series Twin Peaks and while it may just be because I watched the series again recently I felt a few Twin Peaks vibes in Sharp Objects, both narratively with the small-town murder investigation and the inclusion of a young FBI agent but also tonally in a couple of scenes with some of the older residents of Wind Gap. Conversations between Camille and these older women can quickly turn from soap opera style gossip to dark and serious and then to something wacky in just a few lines similar to the idiosyncratic nature of Twin Peaks. It’s up to the producers and writers how far they go with this tone but with Twin Peaks finally returning this year they may want to play it up to get the cross pollination of viewers.
There are two small words that HBO can use to immediate effect in attracting huge audiences to Sharp Objects: Gone Girl. Flynn’s third book Gone Girl was a phenomenon in the literary world, breaking records and introducing readers such as myself to a genre they had little previous interest in. Then followed David Fincher’s film adaptation of the novel which was fantastic and proved popular with audiences and critics alike. HBO only need to market the show as being from “the author of Gone Girl” or “the mind behind Gone Girl” if you want to get cheesy with it and the premiere will get good viewership. From then on, the quality of the narrative and characters will get them hooked. I hope Flynn is heavily involved in the eight-episode miniseries because her screenplay for Gone Girl was a great adaptation and I was excited to learn she was involved with the US version of the UK show Utopia for HBO before the project was cancelled.
So far only one actor has been cast in the show and they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with Amy Adams as lead Camille Preaker. The actress has just delivered two incredible performances in two fantastic films ‘Arrival’ and ‘Nocturnal Animals’ and, although being snubbed by the Oscars, is at the height of her talent and recognition (let’s forget about Batman V Superman for the time being). While reading the novel I was picturing Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Shilling as Camille but Adams is great casting and I can’t wait to hear who else is cast in the project. Camille’s mother Adora and half-sister Amma play vital roles and casting them is going to be tough considering the layers of both characters. With the show’s filming date fast approaching I’m sure we’ll get more details soon.
Since The Sopranos debuted in the late nineties television has been dominated by morally ambiguous middle-aged men. Breaking Bad, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, and my favourite show of all time Mad Men, all follow this formula. What began as a creative revolution has become the lowest common denominator and shows like Sharp Objects can change this. Not only is the lead character a woman but so are a large number of the supporting cast. They are not limited to being the wives and mistresses of criminals, they are the most interesting and dynamic and conflicted characters in the book and therefore the miniseries. I have no doubt that the series will rekindle the fire of the is it or isn’t it feminist debate that began with Gone Girl which is completely unnecessary. Sharp Objects features a range of female characters that are decent people right to the other end of the spectrum with some utterly venomous women. They are great characters in a compelling story that’s going to make for some great TV.
Are you excited for Sharp Objects? Read the book? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV on Twitter @kylebrrtt.