I'm going to assume that you're all big fans of Terry Pratchett and have read his masterpiece, Going Postal. If you haven't, consider this a spoiler warning. I'm going to talk about the book and the recent television adaptation, there may well be an impassioned rant. You have been warned.
Sky One recently did an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's discworld novel Going Postal for TV which has recently been released on DVD. I bought the special edition post haste and sat down to watch it with barely controlled glee. This is one of my favourite discworld novels, the characters are all fascinating, the comedy both hilarious and insightful as only Terry Pratchett knows how and the story is grab-you-by-the...appendage-of-choice fantastic. An adaptation for television created in close collaboration with the master himself, well, this is the stuff of dreams. This wasn't the first that Sky One had done, they had also made Hogfather which was very enjoyable and stayed mostly true to the book.
With my hopes suitably high I, as mentioned above, sat down to watch. Initially it seemed that they would stay true to the book which, combined with some stunning visuals and an in-the-flesh Sergeant Angua, made me really pleased...and then they took this masterpiece and utterly destroyed it with a cruelty enhanced by the hope that had been initially engendered!
Bastards! The protagonist, Moist Von Lipwig (yes, he's heard every possible joke) is a complex and charming character who's grossly simplified in this televisual excretion and worse still a story of magnificent depth is reduced to a dumbed down made-for-TV farce that farts in the general direction of the book from which it was snatched!
Sir Terry, I am moved to ask, what on earth were you all thinking?! You got it so right the first time, why have you reduced it to such a dumb and dumber moronfest?! Reacher Gilt is supposed to be a rakishly charming, master con-artiste but is reduced to a barely sane blithering idiot whose hammed performance made watching him a problem for this Jewish boy, I don't do ham!
The relationship between Moist and Adora, which in the book is a subtle and refreshingly realistic one is made into a will-they-won't-they ride reminiscent of the worst that Hollywood would throw at us. Even more insulting you chuck in an unsubtle and patronising message about the dangers of smoking!
I realise that changes are going to be made when adapting a novel for the screen but this was an utter annihilation of what should have become an instant classic. It should have been serialised into around 6 episodes so that the true depth of the story could be appreciated by all. Of course I also realise that there was not unlimited funds and so characters and parts had to be cut, but the cut parts were replaced with such banal simplicity! Moist is told to win the race or be hanged, what the hell?! Do you really imagine your audience to be so pathetic? Must you try to pull on all the most cliched levers to get people interested, whatever happened to trusting your audience? And so subtlety and nuance are sacrificed on the altar of 'drama' aimed at the lowest common denominator!
I started to read the book again shortly after finishing the DVD, I needed to restore my sense of the story as it should have been. It has only highlighted for me what a terrible shame, a waste, this tv adaptation has been. The book is replete with powerful and emotive themes that are completely missing in the film or have been changed into an unsubtle morality lecture for the deeply stupid.
I could honestly go on and on about what was wrong with this...mess but I think my point is fairly clear. On a more positive note, honourable mention must go to Andrew Sach's excellent portrayal of Junior Postman Groat and generally speaking the casting was spot on. Charles Dance as Vetinari was a master stroke (dyed black hair would have cinched it), Richard Coyle as Moist is perfect and Claire Foy's Adora Belle Dearheart seemed to jump off the page and onto the screen. It's just a shame that such talent was wasted on a pale, pale shadow of a great story.