10 Steamy Books That Would Make Excellent Television Soap Operas (Daytime Confidential)
Every time you refresh your page, while visiting one of Hollywood’s top industry websites, you’re likely to be reading a new article about a hot best seller being adapted for the big or small screen. Both daytime and primetime soap opera creators have long been inspired by the literary world.
Before it was a hit movie or televised guilty pleasure, Peyton Place was a scandalous tome by Grace Metalious. The classic 1960’s sudser later spun off to daytime in the early 70’s, via the short-lived daily serial Return to Peyton Place.
Flamingo Road and Rituals also started off as books. Irna Phillips‘ Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1967-73) may have been viewed as a spin-off from the movie of the same name, but both projects found their origin in Han Suyin‘s autobiographical novel A Many-Splendoured Thing.
This got me to thinking. Should daytime and primetime television executives start looking more to books to find the next big serialized dramas? Here are a few steamy reads I’d start with!
Jennifer Garner’s production company is already attached to adapt popular novelist Allison Winn Scotch‘s first self-published work as a feature film. I can’t help but hope the saga of self-exploration, featuring plucky heroine Willa Chandler-Golden, also finds its way onto the small screen at some point.
The daughter of a famed self-help guru, Willa finds herself needing some affirmations of her own, when her perfectly-crafted life starts to fall apart. She’s having trouble conceiving, she loses her job, an ex-boyfriend looks her up on Facebook and the husband she believed to be near perfect wants a break. I’d love to watch Willa attempt to chuck the rules for successful living her dad spelled out in Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control, to try and figure things out on her own in primetime.
Wishful Casting: One Life to Live and Guiding Light alum Gina Tognoni as Willa Chandler-Golden.
Read an excerpt of The Theory of Opposites by clicking here.
Not all soapy TV shows adapted from literature have to derive from fictional works. The writings of former “Maître d’ to the Stars” Abbe Diaz have done for the elite restaurant game what Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City did for Manolo Blahnik.
After Diaz published PX This, her inaugural diary of life working in New York City’s poshest restaurants, she was almost run out of town for serving up delightfully dishy treats about many of her A-list clientele,including Gwyneth Paltrow! The follow-up PX Me series tells how Diaz became “micro-famous” following the first book’s successful debut, leading to a fairy tale life married to someone who can afford to get her a seat at any table of her choosing.
PX Me would be the perfect cable dramedy, in the vein of SATC or Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, itself based on a non-fiction memoir. Thirteen episodes a season of food and gossip? Sign me up!
Wishful Casting: America Ferrera as Abbe.
For more of Diaz’s dishy diaries, click here!
Television execs are becoming much more comfortable green lighting stories about the LGBT community. Of course for every Will & Grace or Modern Family, there’s a The New Normal. HBO’s upcoming San Franciso dramedy, Looking, once again offers hope there will be room for sudsy, well-written stories about the gay experience.
If Hollywood is looking for a writer skilled in telling such stories, they need look no further than Frederick Smith. The educator has turned spinning sultry tales of love and lust in SoCal into quite the impressive side hustle.
Smith’s upcoming work, Play It Forward, dives into the world of black gay Hollywood, but it was Right Side of The Wrong Bed, his 2007 story of interracial love between a buttoned up Los Angeles buppie (black Yuppie) and a thuggish East L.A. Latino, that had me racing to the final chapter.
By adapting Right Side of the Wrong Bed for television, LOGO might finally make me forgive them for ending Sordid Lives so abruptly. I said they might.
Wishful Casting: Noah’s Arc‘s Darryl Stephens as Kenny Kane and Guiding Light and Revenge‘s EJ Bonilla as Jeremy Lopez.
No. 7: The Sweet Life by Francine Pascal
Remember Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the sun-kissed twins from Francine Pascal’s 1980’s era young adult books? Well, they’re all grown up, having orgasms, stealing husbands and charting successful careers in The Sweet Life and Sweet Valley Confidential, Pascal’s follow-ups to the juggernaut Sweet Valley High series.
Pascal, a former daytime soap opera writer, initially pitched Sweet Valley High as a daily soap. When she was shot down, she turned her story bible into one of the most successful teen book series of all time.
I say it’s time Jess, Liz, Lila and the rest of the gang found their way back onto the boob tube (Sweet Valley High ran as a syndicated TV series in the late 90’s). Come on Fox Television, how long has it been since you gave us a sexy soap set in the playgrounds of Southern California? The Sweet Life could be the next O.C.,Beverly Hills, 90210 or Melrose Place.
Wishful Casting: General Hospital’s Julie Marie Berman as Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.
Also check out Down For Whatever by Frederick Smith.
Few authors cause me to obsessively seek out their entire bodies of work, after reading just one novel. There was Jackie Collins, Terry McMillan, Sidney Sheldon and now Nicholas Coleridge. I was actually looking for a turgid pot boiler from Collins in the “C” section of Borders a few years back, when I discovered her fellow Brit Coleridge.
After reading the back flap of Pride and Avarice (published as Deadly Sins in the U.K.), I knew the book was for me. A modern day saga of two rival families duking it out over the right to reign supreme in a sprawling stretch of English countryside, Pride and Avarice is Dallas meets Gosford Park.
In one corner, there is Miles Straker, a famed PR strategist and consultant to London’s elite. Miles owns the massive estate Chawbury Manor. Imagine his horror when noveau riche grocery store owner Ross Clegg buys the neighboring estate.
Miles pulls stunts worthy of J.R. Ewing and Falcon Crest’s Angela Channing to run the Cleggs out of his beloved old money enclave. Meanwhile, the Clegg and Straker children simply can’t seem to stop shagging one another! This book was made for television. I know PBS loves their period pieces (and so do I), but this contemporary work would go great alongside Downton Abbey.
Wishful Casting: Days of Our Lives‘ Charles Shaughnessy as Miles Straker and Torchwood‘s John Barrowman as Ross Clegg.
No. 5: Reverend Curtis Black Series by Kimberla Lawson Roby
They don’t come any more trifling than no-good, fornicating Baptist preacher Reverend Curtis Black! So why can’t readers get enough of Kimberla Lawson Roby‘s irascible cad of a character?
Since his debut in 2000’s Casting The First Stone, the wolf in sheep’s clothing has starred in nine more of Roby’s popular novels about love, lust, corruption and betrayal in the black church. Okay, so the last time a novel showing Christians in a negative light was adapted for TV, it didn’t turn out so well (RIP, GCB). I think with the right balance of faith and flaws, an adaptation of Roby’s novels would have viewers catching the Holy Ghost and testifying about how addictive Curtis Black’s story is. BET or VH1 needs to have their people call Roby’s people.
Wishful Casting: Lamman Rucker as Reverend Curtis Black and Nia Long as Tanya Black.
If Jackie Collins is the Queen of Sudsy Novels, the late Sidney Sheldon was her King. From The Naked Face (1978) straight through 2004’s Are You Afraid of The Dark?, Sheldon put out one impossible-to-put-down book after another. It should come as no surprise a man who’d already “mastered the game” writing for Broadway, feature films and television would turn out such cinematic novels.
To be honest, Sheldon’s entire bibliography could serve as source materials for smash hit soap operas, but it is Master of the Game which made the cut for this particular list. The multi-generational journey of insurmountable heiress-turned-mogul Kate Blackwell kept me up late into the night when I first discovered it back in middle school. The book was turned into a miniseries in 1984, but I’d love to see it revisited as a summer event series for NBC or ABC. I can’t be the only one who misses sweeping sagas in primetime!
Wishful Casting: Ellen Burstyn as elderly Kate and Anne Heche as young Kate.
No. 3: Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins
Andy Cohen owes Jackie Collins some serious royalties. None of the debauchery, salacious scandals and sex-crazed shenanigans showcased on any of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Wherever reality serials can compare to the thinly-veiled zingers about the rich and the infamous Collins unveiled in her 1983 raunch classic Hollywood Wives.
The sordid, twisty relationships of aging matinee idol Ross Conti, upstart screen stud Buddy Hudson and vengeful agent Sadie LaSalle, serve as the perfect backdrop for a primetime or daytime soap. Throw in Elaine Conti, the well-healed klepto wife of Ross, and her venomous pack of frenemies and you’ve got a sudser that can go for decades!
Wishful Casting: Mark Valley as Ross Conti, General Hospital’s Bryan Craig as Buddy Hudson/Deke Andrews, Felicity Huffman as Sadie LaSalle, Michelle Stafford as Elaine Conti, The Young and the Restless‘ Hunter King as Angel Hudson, Pamela Anderson as Gina Germaine and Tamara Braun as Montana Gray.
No. 2: People Like Us by Dominick Dunne
What Jackie Collins did in revealing the secrets of the rich and wanton of Los Angeles, California, the late Dominick Dunne accomplished on the East Coast in People Like Us. Perhaps the ultimate fictional battle of Old vs. New Money, the book is memorable for its frank exploration of sexuality, class struggle and the desperation to keep one’s secrets.
Since ABC’s Revenge was only able to get a couple of decent, soapy seasons about the Hamptons set on the air, before actors started begging to be killed off, maybe the Mouse House should next look to Dunne for inspiration?
Wishful Casting: Days of Our Lives‘ Deidre Hall as Lil Altemus.
For a diehard fan of soaps and page-turners, there has been no better continuing literary saga than that of mobster Gino Santangelo and his wildly-beautiful, ball-busting daughter Lucky. Introduced in 1981’s Chances, the Santangelo crime family is the flip side of Mario Puzo’s ultra macho Corleones from The Godfather.
Much to Gino’s chagrin, it was his daughter Lucky (who got her own book in 1985)—not his tragic son Dario—who has proven time and time again to be the ultimate Lady Boss. Gino and Lucky’s stories have been adapted for television several times, most notably in NBC’s soapgasmic miniseries Lucky Chances.
I think ABC would be smart to revisit the Santangelos as part of their summer runs of sudsy micro-soaps. Would a modern day retelling of the Santangelos work in primetime? In the words of Lucky herself, bet on it!
Wishful Casting: Days of Our Lives‘ Kristian Alfonso as Lucky Santangelo and General Hospital‘s Roger Howarth as Lenny Golden.
Pre-order Confessions of a Wild Child: Lucky, The Early Years now!