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Saturday, February 15, 2014

UPDATE! "Bitten": The TV Show vs. the Book

2001 Original Cover
    After viewing the first five episodes of the SyFy Channel's new show, Bitten, I decided to go back and reread the 2001 novel, just to check my memory of events and characters and to see exactly what changes were made in converting the book into a screenplay. I'm really glad to have done this reread, because it reinforced my belief that Kelley Armstrong is one of the top paranormal writers currently on the market today. In Bitten, she demonstrates her imaginative talent by presenting the reader with an intriguing plot, compelling action, spine-tingling suspense, and complex characters. My reread also served as proof to myself that my memories of the characters and plot elements were, for the most part, on the mark.   


2004 Reprint Cover
     For the most part, the seres is following the plot of the novel very closely, with the exception of a few changes in the sequence of events. One major difference is the large part that Philip (Elena's human boyfriend) plays in the TV show. In the novel, Philip is rarely seen at all. During most of the novel, Elena spends her time at Stonehaven. She is in Toronto briefly at the beginning and near the end, but even then, Philip is a minor presence, and his family members show up only in one early scene. Also, the book has no love scenes between Elena and Philip, but LOTS of sexy scenes between Elena and Clay—a huge difference from the TV show, which actually opens episode 1 with a Philip/Elena bedroom scene and which has no love scenes (so far) between Elena and Clay.   

     The preview for episode 6 (to be aired 2/17/14) has Elena returning to Toronto for Philip's sister's wedding. In the book, that doesn't happen. The preview also shows that Daniel Santos crashes the wedding to offer Elena a deal. That doesn't happen in the book either. 

Reprint Cover
with SyFy Logo
     Other than the Philip/Toronto discrepancy, the biggest difference between the show and the book is in the portrayal of Elena herself. In the novel, Elena is described as being "tall and rangy." She describes herself as being "difficult, temperamental, argumentative." Later, she describes her usual self as "snappish" and "willful." Since high school, she has lifted weights and worked out daily. In one scene, as Elena dresses up to lure one of the newly turned mutts to her she explains that she "needed to pull on the mask that worked best with werewolves: Elena the sexual predator. This didn't mean miniskirts, fishnets, and see-through blouses, namely because I didn't own any. And I didn't own any because they looked ridiculous on me. Skimpy tops, stiletto heels, and barely there bottoms made me look like a coltish fourteen-year-old playing dress up. Nature didn't bless me with curves and my lifestyle didn't let me develop extra padding. I was too tall, too thin, and too athletic to be any guy's idea of centerfold fodder." In that same scene, she describes the unfamiliar process of putting on make-up: "I…went back to my makeup, studying a jar of pink stuff and trying to remember whether it was for my lips or my cheeks."

TV Cast Photo
      TV Elena is so far removed from Novel Elena that her character ruins the show for me. TV Elena is a demure, petite, curvy fashionista with a soft, flirty personalty. Instead of being argumentative and willful, she comes off as a pouty and petulant sex kitten. Her nails are always manicured; her makeup is runway-model perfect; and she wears low-cut tops, skintight pants, and stiletto-heeled boots. Even worse, she simpers and casts coy, hooded glances when she wants to make a point. Novel Elena would never act that way. She always said exactly what was on her mind—clearly and brusquely—and let the chips fall where they may. When I read the OTHERWORLDS books, I always pictured Elena exactly as she was described—a tall, attractive, athletic, kick-ass heroine—a woman like Kate Beckett in Castle, Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU, Molly Parker in Killer Women, or even Ava Crowder in Justified or Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. TV Elena is so badly cast and so poorly played that I'm not sure that I'll keep watching the show. Elena is the heart of the OTHERWORLDS novels (especially the early ones). Unfortunately, TV Elena is, at best, an artificial heart—and that heart is not beating with the right rhythm to carry the show.

     The character of TV Clay is also problematic. He looks wolfy enough for the part (although Novel Clay is blond), but he doesn't have the smoldering just-below-the-surface rage that drives Novel Clay in every aspect of his life. In the book, Elena describes Clay like this: "For Clay, instinct ruled. He'd learned tricks he could employ if he had advance notice…But without such warning his temper took over and he'd explode, sometimes endangering the pack. No matter how smart he washis IQ was once measured at 160he couldn't control his instincts." TV Clay comes across belligerent and moody, but he doesn't radiate rage like Novel Clay. For Novel Clay, that always-simmering inner rage is the key element of his personalitythe thing that drives him to make a life-long series of wrong decisions that have had (and continue to have) disastrous consequences for himself and for his werewolf family. 

     Also missing from the show is the constant physical contact among the Stonehaven pack members. In the novel, they touch each other constantly as a means of showing familial affection. 

     One last difference of some importance is that the TV show doesn't provide enough exposition. We don't learn much about Clay's feral childhood in the Louisiana swampswhich shaped him into the troubled misfit that he is today.  "He'd been living in the swamps and tenements, eking out an existence killing rats and dogs and children.  At such an early age his Changes were uncontrollable and he vacillated continually between forms, reason having almost given way to madness….Jeremy had brought the boy home and tried to civilize him…" We also don't learn many details of Elena's troubled childhood in a series of foster homes and the abuse that she sufferedwhich made her into the assertive and aggressive person she is now. "By the age of seven Clay was a full werewolf with an inherent capacity for violence and a temper to match. By the same age my foster families had taught me how to hate, developing my own capacity for violence, though I'd been better at hiding it..." We don't learn anything at all about Jeremy, the pack leader who holds the group together. As far as I can recall, the TV show doesn't mention that he is a renowned artist. (I might be wrong on that, but if it was mentioned, it was just in passing.) Elena describes Jeremy as having "more talents than any person I knew….He could speak and translate in over a dozen languages, he could splint a broken bone so it healed as good as new, he could paint scenes I couldn't even imagine, and he could stop a two-hundred-pound charging wolf with a look."

     Here are a few more differences between the book and the show. Some of the changes have obviously been made to provide more racial and gender diversity within the cast of characters. I understand that writers of screenplays frequently make changes in print plots, and the ones that follow are relatively inconsequential, but worth noting nevertheless.

In the book…

   > Pete is killed in the town of Bear Valley when he, Jeremy, and Antonio are attacked by the mutts. Pete is the second of the good guys to die.

   > Logan is described as a "fair-haired bearded man" who lives in Albany. He is never seen in person in the bookonly heard from in a phone call to Elena.

   > The sheriff is a man.

   > The sheriff finds only one body on Stonehaven propertythe first woman to be murdered. The werewolves later find the body of a young boy, but Elena disposes of it without notifying the authorities. 

   > Although the citizens of Bear Valley distrust the Stonehaven inhabitants, there isn't much open hostility against them.

In the TV show...

   > Pete's body is left at Stonehaven's front gate. He is the first of the good guys to die.

   > Logan is a black man (for diversity's sake, I presume) who lives in Toronto.

   > The sheriff is a woman (for diversity).

   > The sheriff finds several bodies on Stonehaven property, including the first woman to be murdered, a young boy, and a man from Bear Valley.

   > The folks of Bear Valley distrust, dislike, and fear the Stonehaven inhabitants, and there are several scenes of hostility and fighting between the two groups.

     Click HERE for a reading-order list of titles in Armstrong's OTHERWORLD series, a brief overview of the world-buildig, and my reviews of the final two books in the series. Click HERE to read my original post about the TV show, Bitten.

5 comments:

  1. Please update!
    As a HARDCORE book fan I'm seeing ALOT of discrepancies (mostly minor) between the two.

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  2. *Spoilers of the whole first season*
    Got to say that despite of I liked the show because it is a well representation of the Otherworld scenario, some of the changes that were made only for the sake of audience disappointed me a lot. First, Logan character. In the book, I remember how all the pack talk about him and i always thought that it would have been cool read about him, however there is no need to give him a child and create a whole new alternative universe. And talking about alternative universe, who the heck thought it was a good idea to kill Antonio. Man, I liked him and Nick is one of my top favorite characters, he did not deserve that. Next, Malcom`s back? I mean he is not dead, alright, but the point of all second book (Stolen) is to unite with all the comunity and save themselves from humans. Gosh, I'm still trying to imagine the second season plot and I hope it is not a wreck. Though, thinking about Malcom as a prisioner in the lab would be funny. Finally, there were lots of Clayton and Elena moments i loved in the book, but one that for me was funny and cute is at the end of the book when Elena is in from of Philip house to get her stuff. I`m just disappointed that it is not in the show. I liked season one as a viewer, as a fan, i expected more.

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  3. As a fan of the series I have to say the show deviates tremendously from the book not just in subtle changes but in major plot rearranging. I cried when Logan died in the book and while I love the black dude who plays him in the show, the whole pregnant girlfriend thing is getting tired. The season finale left me confused as f*** as to what or where the show is going from here. I'm afraid it will ruin the books for me just like the Twilight actress cheating drama took some of the air out of my balloon for that series. I would love to continue watching because Clay and Elena onscreen was amazing to witness but for me there was way too much emphasis on Elena and Phillips relationship and not enough on Clay and Elena. It's a damn shame the writers of the show felt the actual story needed help by changing it. As for Elena's past, they brought in one of her molesters for some reason I still can't understand. OH well. The book is ALWAYS better!!! Except for Jurassic Park. That movie ROCKED!!

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  4. Biggest problem with the TV show is that they DON'T follow the books. Hello? They killed off Antonio! That turned me way off. This 3rd season is the last, for good reason, and I can barely watch. Poor Kelley, her name and books being associated with the garbage on TV is sinful. I'm only about halfway through the Otherworld series, and I truly enjoy it. Be sure to check Ms.Armstrong's website for the COMPLETE reading order- way more to it than the novels!

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  5. hmmmm its odd but i have read most of the otherworld novels and short stories and...Logan is actually black...when elena is in college and logan drops in...There is a lot of banter about logan having dreadlocks...i'm watching the second episoode thus far. I'm not impressed Jeremy is too touchy feely, Clay is missing his accent and overall greek god appeal, Elena is not hard but soft and cute. She should be a match for clay,, her voice should be stronger not sex kitten. Another great book series tarnished by syfy....

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