I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do latch on to the HBO-style epic series, like Rome, The Walking Dead (it’s AMC, I know, calm down), Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers etc. etc. As such, I believe I am destined to be a TV/movie producer, what with my total lack of qualifications and awesome ideas and non-existent experience. See what you think; if nothing else, you’ll hopefully agree that these are better ideas than more money being pumped into rubbish like Jersey Shore and its franchises of thick people drinking and humping each other (and these are celebrities these days…the world is finished). Some of these are things I’d like to see in new series, and others are expansions of already existing shows. Enjoy. Or don’t.
1. Quartered Safe Out Here – an adaptation of Fraser’s memoirs.
If you haven’t read George MacDonald Fraser’s recollections of his wartime military service, order it off of Amazon immediately. This is not the work of a professional soldier glorifying in his service, but instead the memoirs of a young man fighting in WW2 who was conscripted and forced to go to war. George MacDonald Fraser was also one of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century, and is comparable in my mind only to P. G. Wodehouse; interestingly enough, both men were mutual admirers of each other’s work. So there.
This book is also significant since it deals with that little-known theatre of conflict of the Second World War, namely the Burmese Campaign. A British Empire army made up of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Gurkhas and East Africans fought together against the Japanese, driving them out of India and back through Burma. Most people don’t even know that there was fighting in that part of the world, let alone on such a massive scale with so many strategically significant (but forgotten) battles. Would the Americans have had so much hard-won success against the Japanese if a massive bulk of their army wasn’t tied up in India and Burma? Likely not. Burma was one of Britain’s greatest victories of the war, and it pains me that people only really remember the Battle of Britain, Stalingrad and D-Day.
Anyway, the book is so beautifully and masterfully written than it’s a must-read even if you’re not into military history. Actually, it’s a book really far more about the human spirit than it is about war or history; Fraser does, after all, report on exactly what he saw and experienced, so it doesn’t read like an Anthony Beevor history book.
I think this would make a fine Band of Brothers-style TV series…but it would be devoid of all the things about Band of Brothers which annoyed me, namely things like the British all being posh useless cannon fodder and Easy Company being unstoppable All-American killing machines, whom the Germans cannot possibly stand against. Hollywood re-writing history has been a disaster for everyone, America included.
2. Some sort of Harry Potter mini-series.
If you’ve looked at J. K. Rowling’s works outside of the Harry Potter universe, perhaps you’ll agree with me that she is best left to wands, wizards and witches. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; after all, Tolkien never did anything outside of Middle-Earth of note, and I don’t think George Martin will be remembered for anything other than A Song of Ice and Fire, however much work he put into Hollywood back in the ’80s and his sci-fi novels.
Like almost anyone else on this planet, I’m a Harry Potter fan, and like almost everyone else I was left wanting slightly more from the universe which Rowling spent years weaving together. In fact, I’m such a die-hard I even logged onto the Pottermore website after having had the dangled carrot of new content being promised, but to be honest an interactive website will never be the same as a book. If you read the last book or watched the last film (of course you did, what am I saying?) then perhaps you too would have thought we’d see some kind of spin-off from the main series dealing with Harry’s offspring. And why not? Another Tri-Wizard tournament? That could be cool…set against the legacies of the events in the other books…hey, Rowling, if you don’t want to write it, I will. I’ll say yes to a few million quid writing about how young James Potter uses his invisibility cloak to have a wank in the girls’ changing rooms. Although to be honest, I feel it’s only a matter of time before J. K. Rowling returns to the series in order to fund the construction of her cloud base.
3. Something about the American Eagle Squadrons.
Despite my annoyance of how every World War Two film is about how the Americans won the war for the rest of us, there was a host of American war heroes who are rather unsung these days, probably because their own self-sacrifice makes the rest of America look bad. As you know, the Americans didn’t join the war until it was already half-way done, but a group of Americans left their homeland in 1940 to volunteer for the Royal Air Force, long before the US was provoked into joining the war after Pearl Harbour.
These men were a collection of US Army pilots who had resigned their commissions and those who’d never flown a plane in their life, who all travelled to Britain to volunteer their services for the RAF. Dubbed the ‘Eagle Squadrons’, they wore distinctive British uniforms with Eagle shoulder flashes symbolising their American identity and were a fully-fledged part of the RAF, until the US joined the war and they were (sadly, I think) incorporated into the US Army Air Forces, losing their distinctive uniforms, ranks and squadron number.
We’ve all seen movies wherein the Americans won the war and saved the world, whether it’s in Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Pearl Harbour, A Bridge Too Far…I could go on. I think it’s about time the Eagle Squadrons, the first American heroes, had their sacrifice properly honoured, especially as the closest we’ve ever come is Henley, a secondary character in The Great Escape. Sort it out, America.
4. Some kind of Stargate comeback.
As much as I love the franchise, there comes a time when aliens who supposedly live billions of lightyears away are speaking English like were born and bred in Kent wears a little thin, as do the more ‘alien aliens’ who basically wore a lot of makeup in scary costumes. The special effects got better as time went on and things became more convincing, but it wasn’t until the newer and grittier Stargate Universe came about that we got a sense of things being truly alien and ‘out-there’. Quite why they cancelled it I don’t know, but the franchise surely isn’t finished yet and MGM would be fools to abandon it.
5. An expanded The Walking Dead.
This is probably one of my favourite recent TV shows, and yes, I’m fully aware that they did make a few mini-shorts of expanded content which dealt with the lives of people outside of the main cast. But even then, we’ve only ever seen what’s going in Georgia, USA. If you were Rick Grimes and his friends, wouldn’t you want to travel as far as possible? My Southern US geography isn’t great, but by Season 3 I was under the impression that Rick’s hometown was a little more than just a few hours’ drive away. They claim that in Season 4 we’ll see something different, but I doubt it.
What I’d like to see is something like a submarine crew, deep under the water and spared from the zombie apocalypse…or (dare I say it, America?) at least life on the other side of the world. Maybe they’ll look into it, but I doubt it.
6. The life and times of Jack Aubrey.
I actually hesitated to put that one down, since I honestly wonder whether there is enough interest in Patrick O’Brian’s flagship (ha! Get it? Probably not) character; after all, despite the brilliant performance by Russell Crowe as Jack in 2003’s Master and Commander, it was never expanded into a franchise. However, it strikes me as odd how things have changed over the last ten years. Why, when I was at school, if anyone dared to admit that he read comic books (which, incidentally, I never did) he would be teased and bullied mercilessly as being a sad-act, a geek etc. But now things like Iron Man and The Avengers are positively cool. What the hell happened? I hate society, I really do.
O’Brian’s novels are considered Jane Austen for men, and with good reason. They’re awesome. Who doesn’t want a ten-part HBO miniseries about ships being blown up, sword fights and wenches? It worked with Rome. However, since Jack is portrayed as an officer of the Royal Navy fighting the French, Spanish and Americans during Napoleon’s wars, I can’t see Hollywood going for it somewhat. A pity.
7. A decent medieval drama.
This is mostly untapped territory within Hollywood, which is something I’ve always wondered at, especially as so much money is pumped into series like Game of Thrones and real world history is no less interesting. Since the medieval spans such a great time with scandal, drama and violence taking place from England to Jerusalem, I think there’d be more than room enough for some kind of HBO-style series. Kingdom of Heaven didn’t quite hit the mark.
I’ve already discussed George MacDonald Fraser’s wartime service and his Quartered Safe Out Here autobiography, but Flashman was his most famous brainchild, and if you haven’t read the books, you simply haven’t lived. The wit and humour is rivalled only within the works of Wodehouse, but the historical accuracy gave me more of an education than RGS Worcester ever could.
The titular character is an alleged Victorian war hero, who is in fact a coward, bully and willing to hump any female within arm’s reach. The books are historical fiction, comedy and thriller all blended into one, and while I would love to see the books adapted to screen, I appreciate that it would be difficult to get the wit and humour to translate effectively, since in the books it largely depends upon Fraser’s masterful command of the English language. Perhaps the best way to do it would be to copy the style of Peep Show, wherein the characters’ thoughts are expressed privately through inner monologues (and thank you to Natia for recommending that, I honestly hadn’t considered it but it seems the best way to me). There was a 70s adaptation of the second book, but it didn’t utilise this style, and since one was unable to hear Flashman’s workings, it didn’t come close to the style or excellence of the books. Small wonder no other efforts were attempted.
9. Mr. American
This is another work of George MacDonald Fraser’s, who you have probably already gathered was a hero of mine. This book concerns the life of a mysterious American Western gunfighter who comes to England in 1910 having struck gold in Nevada. The story follows him as he traces the roots of his family before they left with colonists to live in the New World, as well as his previous life as a gunfighter, bank robber and train-robber coming back to haunt him even amongst the quiet settings of Norfolk and his billionaire fortune. As he enters London high society, he fraternises with the king and leading statesmen of the day, all against the backdrop of the world steadily approaching World War I. The story ends in 1914 as the country goes to war. Fraser’s character Flashman appears as an old man in a supporting role to the story, sagely predicting the outcome of the war and the consequences that will lead to World War 2.
Said like that, the story sounds unbelievable and ridiculous, but I don’t have Fraser’s gift for making the unbelievable sound credible. I highly recommend you read the novel, but after having finished Flashman; then you can fully appreciate the old general’s input.
10. Some adaptation of Andy McNab’s books.
These books are a lot cleverer than they’re given credit for, and would probably end up looking like a less dramatic and more gritty version of the Jason Bourne films. Still, it’s something I’d want to see, since most of the plots are relevant to contemporary world events rather than being specific to a character like the Bourne franchise is. I’ve read that Hollywood are considering making the first book in the series into a film, but I imagine it’s a no-go since it concerns a terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda in Washington…and it was written before 9/11. Besides, the later books were better, anyway. Plenty of topics such as drugs, human trafficking, corruption in South America and the post-Soviet states…can’t go wrong with any of that.
So there you have it. The end. Leave your comments. Or don’t.