Best TV Shows Based On Showtime Books (So Far)

I’m not going to lie… creating this list was a pretty dark look at Showtime’s offerings. Although some of their shows are not based on books like yellow jackets and Ziwe are some of the most entertaining shows on streaming, the book adaptation department is definitely lacking. Many options come from ethically prickly writers like former FBI heads, or the shows themselves just aren’t good. When putting together these lists (including for Starz, AppleTV+, and Hulu), I look at what a good show is and what other people think of it as well. However, in all this mess, a few great shows have always prevailed, including one of my all-time favorite limited series.

Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn (Image: Picador USA)
(Picador USA)

The show Patrick Melrosewith Benedict Cumberbatch, is a five-part miniseries based on the five semi-autobiographical short stories (It doesn’t matter, Bad news, Breastmilk, A little hopeand At last) by British author Edward St. Aubyn. Each episode follows a different novel, and in total they span decades.

By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this cycle of ambitious novels dissects the English upper class. Edward St. Aubyn offers his reader the often dark, funny and disgusting world of privilege as we follow the story of abuse, addiction and recovery of Patrick Melrose, from the age of five to the start of mature age.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Image: Riverhead Books)
(Riverhead Books)

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in Kansas Territory in 1856 – a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces – when legendary abolitionist John Brown arrives. When an argument between Brown and Henry’s master turns violent, Henry is forced out of town – along with Brown, who believes Henry is a girl and his lucky charm.

Over the next few months, Henry, whom Brown dubs Little Onion, conceals his true identity to stay alive. Eventually, Brown drags him into the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, one of the great catalysts of the Civil War. A captivating blend of story and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The good lord bird is both a thrilling adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

If you have Showtime or plan to use a trial, this show is a must. No, if, and, or but. (Yes, it’s the aforementioned title that remains one of my all-time favorite limited series.)

Assorted gothic literature from the 1800s by various authors

Four Norton Edition classics by Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Louis Stevenson and Bram Stoker.  Image: Norton Classic Edition.
(Norton)
  • Dorian Gray’s photo by Oscar Wilde
  • Prometheus (a.k.a Frankenstein) by Mary Shelley
  • Dracula by Bram Stocker
  • Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Misfortune of Virtue by the Marquis de Sade

show time dreadful penny uses popular characters created in the 1800s now in the public domain. These characters are given new origin stories set in Victorian London in this psychological thriller. The Penny Dreadfuls were cheap and entertaining British literature (similar to zines) and the phrase is a pejorative term similar to “pulp fiction” (but from the 1800s). Sweeney Todd’s story was popularized by terrible circulation. After the success of dreadful pennyShowtime created a 2020 spin-off series, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which features a similar tone but the characters and magical folklore are influenced by 1930s Los Angeles.

House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn.  (Image: Enterprise Plus.)
(Business Plus)

Once upon a time in Corporate America there was a group of men and women who received huge fees for telling organizations what they were doing wrong and how to improve. These men and women promised everything and delivered nothing, claimed to be experts when they were not, sometimes ruined careers, and at best, wasted time, energy and huge sums of money. They called themselves management consultants….

Welcome to the world of Martin Kihn, a former Emmy(R) Award-nominated stand-up comedian and TV writer who decided to “go straight” and earn his MBA at a prestigious Ivy League college. In HOUSE OF LIES, he cheekily recounts his first two years as a newly minted management consultant: showcasing his struggles with misguided advice, senseless arrogance and bloody power struggles. Hey, it’s all part of a day’s work and it pays really well!

Diary of a call girl by Belle De Jour / Anonymous (Image: Grand Central Publishing)
(Grand Central Publishing)

Belle couldn’t find a job after college. His impressive degree wasn’t paying his rent or buying his food. But after a fantastic threesome with a very wealthy couple that gave her a ton of money, Belle realized she could earn more than anyone she knew – by becoming a call girl. The rest is history. Belle became a London worker in her twenties – and had the audacity to write about it – anonymously.

The diary of shocking candor and clarity she put on the internet became a sensation in London. She shares her entire journey in the world of high-priced escorts, including fascinating and explicit information about her job and her clients, her various boyfriends, and a taboo lifestyle that has to be read to be believed. The witty observations, shocking revelations, and hilarious storylines deliver like the best fiction and deliver a thrilling reading experience like no other.

(featured image: Showtime)

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