by Deborah Harter Williams
Too often our favorite literary sleuths, lawyers and LEOs (law enforcement officers) don’t make the jump to TV and movies with their personalities intact. John Sandford’s Certain Prey is a recent cringe-inducing example in spite of Mark Harmon in the leading role. The movie version of Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski is long remembered as a betrayal of the true nature of the character, and while Rizzoli & Isles and Bones are BoBs (based on books) the producers have taken major liberties with the originals, to the disgruntlement of some reader/viewers. Several authors have gone on record (Sue Grafton — a former TV writer herself) as saying they will never sell the TV rights to their books for just this reason.
To be fair, it’s not easy to capture on screen a persona honed and adapted in the imaginations of millions of readers. Into this treacherous territory comes TNT and their TV movie experiment adapting a half-dozen accomplished mystery writers to the screen. Each has a strong track record and established characters. TNT has responded by recruiting some impressive acting talent.
There is something here for everyone, kicking off with Scott Turow’s Innocent (the 20-years-later sequel to Presumed Innocent). Bill Pullman takes on the Harrison Ford/Rusty Sabich role, with Marcia Gay Harden as his wife and Alfred Molina as friend and defense attorney. Throw in Richard Schiff (West Wing) and you’ve got a winning cast.
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 9 p.m.
Sandra Brown’s Ricochet gets support from the always easy to watch John Corbett as police detective Duncan Hatcher investigating corrupt judge Gary Cole, in atmosphere-rich Savannah. Queen of the page-turners, Brown throws in dangerous romance (the detective’s affair with the judge’s wife) and diverting byplay with Hatcher’s female blue-collar partner. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 9 p.m.
Lisa Gardner’s Boston Detective D.D. Warren comes to life in Hide, starring Carla Gugino. A great cop as Karen Sisco, Cugino has kid, gen-x and serious adult cred with performances in Spy Kids, Watchmen, Righteous Kill (with Pacino and DeNiro) and Entourage, and will bring talent, looks and intelligence to the role. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 9 p.m.
Richard North Patterson’s courtroom dramas have been best sellers since 1979. In Silent Witness (based on the 1997 book), Dermot Mulroney plays defense attorney Tony Lord who is called on to defend an old friend. Returning to his hometown forces him to face his memories of his murdered high school sweetheart. Judd Hirsch also stars.
Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 9 p.m.
April Smith will have little to complain about if The Good Morning Killer doesn’t depict FBI Special Agent Ana Gray according to her vision. That’s because she is adapting her own novel and writing the script as well as executive producing. Catherine Bell (Army Wives/The Good Witch/JAG) stars with William DeVane and Titus Welliver (Glen Child of the Good Wife). Cole Hauser has the role of the hunky police detective.
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 9 p.m.
Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol offer a lighter touch with the TV Movie treatment of their first book together, Deck the Halls. The sleuths are former cleaning woman Alvirah Meegan, portrayed by Kathy Najimy (unforgettable in Sister Act), and Detective Regan Reilly (Scottie Thompson). The inimitable Jane Alexander plays Regan’s mother, mystery writer Nora Regan Reilly. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 9 p.m.
Will TNT deliver the characters with from-the-book fidelity? Will these characters be as successful on TV? And, is it true as they advertise that TNT “knows drama”? The evidence in the mystery genre (The Closer, Leverage, Rizzoli and Isles and Saving Grace) suggests that perhaps they do. I’m certainly going to tune in and see.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.