Top Ten Books That Would Make Good TV

  1. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens. I think this is actually already a TV series – I mean, I doubt there’s a single Dickens novel that isn’t – but I haven’t managed to get my hands on it. It’s almost a truism to observe that Dickens is perfect for a TV series’ episodic, sprawling structure – certainly Our Mutual Friend needs more space than a film can give it.
  2. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien. I had to think about this one a bit (and it’s never going to happen in any case, the Tolkien Estate being notoriously tight-fisted with the rights), but it’s an episodic narrative with a vast cast of characters and a number of narrative strands. It would be like Game of Thrones but without all the rape.
  3. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. I cannot imagine any TV producer being brave enough to take on Perdido Street Station, with its particular brand of squicky violence and unromanticised reality, but I wish they would. The pulpy plot elements, the rambly narrative, the overbearingly Gothic-steampunk city of New Crobuzon? Yes, yes, yes.
  4. Saga – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I don’t know why, I just think the high-speed zaniness of the graphic novels would transfer well to TV. (Maybe like Doctor Who but without all the sexism?) It makes a lot of play with different kinds of pop culture and the role they play in public dissent, too, which would be interesting to consider in a TV show.
  5. Bleeding Edge – Thomas Pynchon. Obviously, there’s a lot in Pynchon that couldn’t be captured visually, but that’s the case with pretty much everything else on this list too. But I can see a TV version of Bleeding Edge playing out like Dirk Gently, almost.
  6. Paradise Lost – John Milton. What? Paradise Lost would look fantastic on TV, all fire and brimstone and war in Heaven, and it has some pretty compelling characters too. If you can have Shakespeare on TV, you can have Milton.
  7. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers. Yes! It would be like Firefly but with aliens and fewer guns.
  8. Palimpsest – Catherynne M. Valente. I just read this, and it would make a terrible film but a great TV series (though I suppose it’s quite short). You could do a lot with the city of Palimpsest itself, and intertwining that with the characters in the real world would work really well on TV.
  9. Robot Dreams – Isaac Asimov. You know what would be good? A Twilight Zone-style anthology series featuring Asimov’s short stories, which all have that kind of conceptual twist you got in Twilight Zone episodes, when it turned out the person narrating the story was dead or something. Obviously, not that tone of twist, but structurally it’s the same thing.
  10. Temeraire – Naomi Novik. All the Regency society manoeuvrings are like a soap anyway. It would just have dragons in it too.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Casualty: Once There Was A Way Home Part 2

“Nothing changes; nothing ever will.”

Les Miserables

Here we are again, for my second visit to Holby City’s Casualty department this summer. Such fun, as Miranda’s mother might say.

This week in Soapland, Jamie tries to save a gay asylum seeker from deportation, Tess considers her future at Holby, and new doctor Lily learns a valuable lesson about patient empathy.

All in a day’s work for the ED team. Nothing ever changes, does it? There is even the obligatory high-speed car crash which apparently happens every episode, and is clearly therefore intended as an object lesson: Don’t Drive Distracted, People of Britain! Or you will crash and die, or (which is worse) Be a Burden to Our Overworked Health Service!

The fact that Holby City ED bears absolutely no resemblance to any ED in the country is apparently irrelevant here. And that pretty much the same thing happens every week, in different guises, with the occasional explosion thrown in to shake the cast up a bit. This is true even in so-called two-parters like this one. Things change only to stay the same, which is, I suppose, the point. It is the mainstay of Saturday-night television (sadly): once you have been disappointed by Steven Moffat’s latest Doctor Who-related monstrosity, disturbed by news of bloody revolution in Egypt, and forced to turn over from The X Factor for reasons of wanting to punch Simon Cowell’s pimply face, there is always Casualty, where you know exactly what to expect. (Also you can stretch an episode out into a decent-length blog post as a last resort.)

Casualty: Letting Go

“You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories.”

John Green

It was inevitable, really. At some point in the summer holidays there was going to be at least one review of Casualty. So. Here it is.

It seems much has been happening in Soapland over the last couple of months.

Actually, it doesn’t. The only perceptible difference is the appearance of a Doctor Ash, but since I do vaguely remember him from Easter I’m not sure that even counts. Other than that, all the usual Soapland rules apply: family members involved in separate accidents end up in the same room, apparently entirely by coincidence, and enact a Revelatory Reunion; doctors blatantly ignore the shortage of beds in the average emergency department and then shout at other doctors who point this out; Family Problems leak into the workplace. Because Soapland hospitals work differently to the ones in the real world.

I don’t think there’s anything more to say, really.

Casualty: With and Without You

“The past is another country. They do things differently there.”

L.P. Hartley

What? There wasn’t anything else on, OK?

This week at Soapland’s most famous hospital: the woman who got blown up in Sherlock miraculously returns with nothing worse than a fractured hip, and Jeff has to mediate an argument between a friend and his wife.

Oh, and the fire department have apparently obtained one of those bio-scanner thingies that Luke Skywalker uses in Star Wars.

There’s really not a lot else I can say about Casualty. It is, of course, entirely unrealistic. If these people were treating me, I’d be very worried indeed.

But that is Soapland for you. It is, as they say, another country.

I do apologise for today’s lacklustre post. There really is nothing on at the moment. Bring on Doctor Who, I say.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

“Hard to see, the dark side is.”


Ah yes. We’re back to the old favourites. In fact, The Phantom Menace is a fallback, because there is never any good telly on any more. It also represents the beginning of a failed Star Wars marathon. We got bogged down in episode two, but I’ll save that rant for another post.

The Phantom Menace is technically episode one, but it’s newer than episode four, because of the unique order in which the Star Wars films were made. Essentially, the original three were so popular that George Lucas made a prequel trilogy. The Phantom Menace is therefore the first of the prequel trilogy. With me so far?

The evil Trade Federation invades the peaceful planet of Naboo in what appears to be a dispute over trade routes but is actually part of a grand plan by the dark side of the Force. A couple of Jedi knights rescue the queen of Naboo so that she can plead her case before the Galactic Senate in Coruscant, the planet-city.

The Phantom Menace is really amazingly political. In the slow bureaucracy of the Senate there are echoes of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, as well as the Roman Republic and the rise of Hitler. Now tell me Star Wars is frivolous and meaningless.

Am I overthinking this?

One of the annoying things about this film is the fact that there are multiple high points. At the end of the pod race, you think “Surely it’s finished now?” No; we move on to the battle of Naboo. “Now has it finished?” No; there’s the Epic Duel between Darth Maul and the Jedi. There’s not really any one event that the film builds up to, rather a string of equally climactic events. And there’s no one character upon which the film focuses: Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Quai-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Senator Palpatine, Jar Jar Binks all spin in and out of focus without any central point of reference. The result is a film that definitely feels like part of a trilogy: there’s little internal coherence, and you can tell that it needs the next films to tie up the loose ends. Contrast this with A New Hope (episode four), which makes a perfectly good stand-alone but can still lead neatly into a sequel.

And I’m slightly puzzled by Hugh Quarshie. British viewers might know him better as Ric Griffin from Holby City, but he has a supporting role as a Naboo guard captain or some such. My question is this: what is he doing in a British soap, of all things, when he had a not insignificant role in Star Wars, one of the biggest films ever? Seems like an odd career move.

The Phantom Menace is all right, but I’d much rather watch the originals. If you’ve never watched Star Wars, start with A New Hope. It’s much better.


“Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?”

George Carlin

Well, you know that you’re really dredging the bottom of the barrel when all you can think of to blog about is last week’s Casualty, which I’m sure you’re not that interested in. (Preposition At End of Sentence – yes, I can grammar-spot too.) But it is a good target for sarcasm, so that’s something.

We open with an object lesson for young people everywhere: “If only I hadn’t smoked for fifty years,” from an old grandad who dies a few minutes later. The only possible explanation for this that I can think of, since it doesn’t serve any plot purpose, is to scare impressionable young people off smoking: If You Smoke, You Will Die! And the BBC says it doesn’t do product placement! I wonder if Niquitin sales have suddenly spiked…

Then we get to the proper plot, if there is such a thing in Soapland. An exhausted taxi driver crashes into some hay bales; the pregnant woman he’s ferrying to the hospital (surprise) scares off an angry bull; Pregnant Woman’s husband, a swimming coach, hurries to the hospital, causing his young pupil to hit her head and nearly drown, so she, too, has to go to the hospital. Is it just me, or does everyone who even mentions a hospital in Soapland fall suddenly, critically ill? In another, parallel storyline, a man demanding to speak to Zoe about his son’s death spontaneously collapses…proof that Holby actually causes more accidents than it saves. Anyway, don’t you just know it, the whole Pregnant Woman triangle ends up in the same room (taxi driver who is also Young Pupil’s father; Swimming Coach who is having an affair with Young Pupil; Pregnant Woman married to Swimming Coach), where Pregnant Woman promptly proceeds to have a baby. What? Hold on a minute. Why does she need to have it in Resus.? Surely they have enough time to move her up to Gynaecology or whatever? Oh, wait, I forgot another rule of Soapland: having a baby takes 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. Silly me. How did I forget?

Like I said, good target for sarcasm. It’s so unbelievably stupid.

Coronation Street – Live!

“He’d been wrong, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower.”

Terry Pratchett

Yes, Constant Reader, for the first time ever, The English Student is bringing you a review…in real time!

Yes, I am that bored.

(Excuse me while I finish my Fruit Pastilles ice lolly.)

Right. Back on “the street”.

Oh, Michelle is accusing Fake Ryan of lying…what a surprise. Welcome, once again, to Soapland, where people are incredibly, incurably stupid. Steve has only just fired Fake Ryan. Finally. One of the only good things about Soapland is that, eventually, all secrets come out, and the bad people get their comeuppance. Hurrah!

Talking of secrets coming out: Thingy (you know, the garage person whose name I forget. Tina’s boyfriend.) has just revealed Kirsty and Tyrone’s secret. Now that’s a storyline that needs to end. I know I have said this before, but I feel it needs reiterating: there are no normal relationships (or pregnancies, for that matter) in Soapland. Ever. Kirsty is pregnant, therefore, ipso facto, she is bonkers. That is the Soapland message.

For all that, however, you have to admit it is mildly amusing. For example, this offering from Sean:

“So you and him are going to be having a kiss and a cuddle on dead Lesley’s sofa?”

Ah, the wonders of Soapland. We may deride it, despise it and deny it, but in the end we’ll  always come back to it. More’s the pity.


“Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.”

Terry Pratchett

Well, since we’ve had two visits to Holby City Hospital and none to its Emergency Department, I thought I’d amend that. So here is a post from Casualty, the original show that spawned Holby City.

The episode in question is entitled “Cuckoo’s Nest”, presumably in a reference to the patient with amnesia (apparently a fairly common complaint in Holby) posing as a candidate for a woman’s long-lost son. Or something. Sound familiar? Well, it would if you watch BBC Breakfast regularly, because it is almost exactly the same plot as that featuring in a new film called The Imposter, which was recently discussed on the Breakfast show. Now there’s a coincidence. Anyway, the amnesia storyline was cut off somewhat cursorily, given that most patient storylines are wound up by the end of the episode. Was the amnesiac a con artist, or was he really looking for his family? Will we ever know? Very few patients carry over to the next episode, so I suspect the answer to the last question is no. It was as if the producer had said, “Well, we’ve already got 50 minutes of film, let’s just stop there. Nobody will notice.”

Talking of editorial holes, there was yet another case this week of different family members showing up in the same hospital, all unknowing. A lot of the plotlines in Casualty seem to be generated by this kind of scenario: enemies shouting abuse at each other, parent and child reunited, deathbed blackmail. Good old hospital drama tropes. Welcome back to the surrealism of Soapland.

Oh, but I did enjoy the Dylan-and-baby storyline. Dylan is definitely one of my favourite characters: he’s always good for a laugh.

Chaos in Holby…

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein


Oh dear God, I’m writing another post about Holby City.

Never mind, we’re here now, so On With The Show!

Holby City Hospital was this week under review by the new “business manager” (see, I even remembered the name) George Binns, about whom I wrote last week. I said he would be fun. He was fun. Funny, as well. Cheers everything up a bit. That woman with stomach cancer is dying? Never mind, there’s a Binns scene round the corner.

You could kind of predict what was going to happen on the business side of things. Michael Spence had the brainwave of trying to convince management to give the ward more money by…pretending… he…could…manage? I’m sorry, but that’s just the stupidest idea ever. And, I’m sorry, Michael, but allocating hospital funds is not the same as giving a bank loan.

What else? The Rare Diseases Referral Policy goes on with a patient suffering from early menopause. Unqualified people do stupid things unsupervised. (Stabbing someone with a blood syringe? Really?) Doctors let ill people treat patients. Apparently we are back in Soapland, that alternative reality populated by couples who can’t have normal marriages, people who never sleep and events that have absolutely no relation to real life. Other locations in Soapland include Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks.

There is no way to escape it. So…ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Soapland.

Holby City

“If you work in a hospital, you can’t easily fake call in sick to work. Oh, you’re sick? Well why don’t you come in to work and we’ll have a look at it.”

Jarod Kintz

I don’t really “watch” Holby City. That is, I don’t set out to watch it. I would much rather watch Lewis or even How I Met Your Mother. However, since the rest of my family do watch Holby City, I kind of get dragged along for the ride.

My favourite thing about last night’s episode (for some reason called “You and Me”) was the new efficiency person, George Binns who had some fancy job title that I can’t be bothered to remember and is played by Leander Deeny, apparently. “What’s he going to be when he grows up?” said Ric Griffin, and that, for me, sums Binns’ character up perfectly. He’s going to be fun. You can just tell.

One of the things that always gets me about Holby is the fact that they seem to have a new rare disease every week. What? Why? How? Is there some kind of referral policy in operation at Holby? “All patients with rare diseases to be transferred to Keller ward”? Because the thing about rare diseases is that, well, they are rare. They probably don’t pop up every week.

And I find it highly unlikely that anyone would let an obviously ill doctor operate on a patient. It just wouldn’t happen.

Here’s an interesting article about how realistic Holby actually is. Enjoy.