So, I finally manged to watch the first episode of SciFi’s adaptation of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, called The Dresden Files. My first reaction? ‘Meh’. Seriously, there wasn’t too much here to get excited about. A lot of the fun in reading the books is in Butcher’s writing, as Harry describes the action, the scenes and what he’s thinking. That doesn’t translate well to TV, and it shows. Apart from one scene between Harry and Murphy in the diner (Murphy: “Tell me the first thought in your head”. Harry: “The first thought? My car’s still booted.”), The rest of the episode didn’t feel like a Dresden story.
Maybe that’s because the producers ‘had’ to make some creative changes to make it work for television. Now, I can understand changes to switch from first-person to third-person, but they changed the entire backstory of Harry, his childhood, relationship with his Mother, and current status with the Council. And it’s not even close. By making these changes, they have changed the Dresden character dramatically from the books, thus ensuring that the writers will have to rely on their own ideas for future shows, and not use the books as source. I really don’t see the reason why such wholesale changes were needed. The stories, as written, would make great TV. SciFi had the opportunity to do HBO one better. They could have taken each book, and made 3 or 4 episodes out of each one. That would give them at least 2 SciFi seasons worth of episodes, and given Butcher more time to write more books. Plus, SciFi would have done something that hasn’t really been done before. Alas, it was not meant to be.
The other thing that really bugged me was Bob. Bob, in the books, is a snarky, sarcastic elemental/demon who really enjoys living it up, when he gets the chance. In the show, they changed Bob into this pompous, pretentious character who thinks he’s constantly performing as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Just stop, please. Bob is funny. Bob isn’t King Lear.
I’d rate The Dresden Files as a 2 out of 5. The pilot really didn’t have enough time to flesh out much of the characters. Maybe the show will get better. For now, its part of my weekly DVR rotation, but that will change in a hurry if it doesn’t improve.