Book-to-TV: Game of Thrones


Game of Thrones: book and television sensation. But how does the TV show compare to the books? What are the similarities and differences, and how do readers feel about this? Some of our staff got together to discuss these epic novels and the sensational TV series.
AJ: The Game of Thrones books I didn’t like because I didn’t like everyone’s story, but you couldn’t just skip the stories you didn’t like because they overlapped so much. Of course, I only read the first two books and a teeny bit of book 3, so I can’t really discuss too much of the differences. One thing I really hated was how in the show they made Tyrion into a comic relief on the battlefield when in the books he was kind of a bad-ass. In the show he gets knocked out seconds into the first battle he’s in & gets carried back to the camp on a wagon. In the books, he was killing along with the rest of them. Also, I don’t like how they downplayed the scarring on his face after the battle at Helm’s Deep. He was supposed to be missing half his nose for crying out loud! That was my biggest beef in the book-to-show for Game of Thrones.

Debbi: I’ve read all the Game of Thrones books and am one season behind on the show.  I think overall it is one of the best book to TV efforts I’ve ever seen. I was worried when the project was announced because I love A Song of Fire and Ice.  The casting is superb and I think the script writers did a really good job at picking the scenes to include in the show.  Although they seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time with Dani’s political plot points. Of course….dragons!… So I suppose I see their point. I agree with AJ about Tyrion. He is a hero…a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless and I think the show has always glossed over the fact that he was born with multiple physical birth defects, not just dwarfism. His story in the books is one of not playing to stereotype and rising above and beyond what anyone thought he could or would aspire to. Tyrion is a leader, a schemer, a loyal friend when push cones to shove and a fearless soldier.  I’m sure an ugly hero was just too hard for HBO to take and so we get a good-looking but flawed hero. Playing him as comic relief is a grave disservice to the truth depths of the man.

AJ: My husband tells me that Catlyn in the books came back as some kind of zombie, but I guess they weren’t including that in the show. Was that good in the books?

Debbi: Actually, it was sort of lame and hard to follow. She does take revenge though, which was kind of good. I do think they chose what they kept well. The stuff, like Catlyn coming back didn’t really enhance the main story line…. It was just a fun little side story.

AJ: Ugh the side stories were what stopped me from reading the books. I was only interested in certain characters’ story lines, and you can’t skip the boring ones because it all ties in. I guess I just didn’t like the format.

Debbi: Martin is really wordy and I think his style turned a lot of readers off. Which is too bad because the story overall is great. The show distills it down and makes it accessible which is probably why I find it such a successful adaptation.

AJ: I think the show makes the politics more interesting. It doesn’t go as in-depth as the books, so today’s non-political viewers (like myself) can just enjoy the murder & mayhem lol

Debbi: Yes, I agree completely. Nerd that I am, I loved the politics behind all the actions taken.

Jenni: I’ve read all of the books but Lady Stoneheart only makes a brief appearance.

Debbi: Exactly….not something that changes the story line. I really do think the producers of the TV show did a good job paring down Martin’s story. I kind of hate that they added sex that wasn’t in the books to spice things up for HBO I guess. It doesn’t really affect the stories but it does kind of cheapen them.

AJ: Yeah, but I think it’s one of those “sex sells” things. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of guys that watch the show for the mammary glands.

Debbi: I’m sure and it doesn’t ruin anything for me, but still. I did like that they moved up Theon’s story line to help keep him relevent until he reappears.

AJ: Again, only read a two-and-a-tenth of the books, so I don’t know his book story line past when he fakes the deaths of Bran and the youngest Stark (whose name I can’t remember because he was such a non-character except for the temper tantrums).

Debbi: He gets captured and tortured in later books, they moved it up to keep the actor (I’m fairly certain this would be part of that move).

AJ: I see. It was a decent story in the show (of course, now we all know how much I love a good torture story! Lol). Kept the pace going. Not sure how I felt about the Bolton/Sansa thing they did in the show. Seemed a bit much, but I don’t know how it went down in the books. Does anyone else think that the sex on Game of Thrones would be just as effective if they shot it so the nudity didn’t show? I feel like there are a few actors/actresses on the show who seem to have no nudity in their contracts, because their scenes are shot so it’s off-screen. I just wonder if it would have the impact it does if they filmed it without the nudity, like a network show. Thoughts?

Annie: For me, I don’t watch Game of Thrones mostly because I don’t want to see the nudity so I think it would be. I’ve never thought the nudity was necessary but that may just be because I refuse to watch It. It doesn’t seem to keep most viewers away though.

AJ: I think being on HBO helps with the viewership. Also, some people are drawn to that. But do I think all that nudity is necessary to tell the story? Not really. It works to get them ratings, though. I think at this point they’re kind of stuck. They can’t tone it down or omit it entirely because then they would lose all the viewers who watch for the titillation.

Debbi: I think the need to reference the sexual relationships and perhaps shoot the sex scenes like they do for censored network TV, in order to yell the story.  That said, I don’t think they need nearly the amount of nudity or blatant sex that they currently show. I’m sure HBO is ramping it up to draw viewers. It’s kind of sad that anyone has to do that.

Erica: Agreed. To all of it.

Jenni: There’s way more nudity on the show than in the books. I could definitely do without all of it.

Debbi: It’s the HBO way.

AJ: What about the physical violence? There sure is plenty of it in the books, but should more of it be off-screen as well? I mean, Ned Stark and Stannis Baratheon both met gruesome deaths, yet these were not directly filmed. The camera cut off the worst of it. Other characters, however, were not so lucky. Their deaths were on-screen, and bloody. The gorier, the better. Now, I know that today’s generation is kind of desensitized to this violence, but could HBO stand to cut back on their displaying of such?

Debbi: I think that you’re right about the over sensationalization in general on network TV, as well as movies, games and HBO. That said, I think stories like Game of Thrones that are about war and bloody political battles need to show the horrors of real conflict. If we kept violence down in general HBO, et al, wouldn’t have to continue to get so extreme to get the point across. Make sense?

AJ: Yeah. Not that I mind the violence, per se.

Well, there you have it. While most of us liked the story line changes made in the TV show, by and large we didn’t care much for the gratuitous nudity (which has become a staple in the premium-network show). Game of Thrones: books for the lovers of politics, TV show for the lovers of, er, lovers.

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