Wednesday, July 21, 2021


I have now viewed all episodes of the first series of THE WATCH and below is my revised review and conclusions...

As a whole, if you don't go in with expectations of THE WATCH being anything like the books, the show's okay, a solid bit of entertainment without being particularly memorable.

After completing the series, I watched an interview on YouTube with creator and lead writer Simon Allen and one of the producers, where they kept going on about how great Sir Terry's novels were and what great characters he had created. This is of course true, but they failed to mention their adaptation is so far removed from GUARDS GUARDS as to be almost unrecognisable and that is where and why the show fails.

Alarm bells started to ring for me when Simon suggested the novel GUARDS GUARDS didn't lend itself to an eight episode series adaptation, even though he delivered exactly that, albeit a pale, greatly diluted imitation that wasn't a patch on the original source novel. Missing was the strength of character of Lady Sybil, the leadership of career copper Captain Vimes, the hapless and delightfully comic duo of Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs, the tongue-in-cheek references, the often darkly sarcastic and self-deprecating humour and the colourfully rich world Sir Terry created for his characters to inhabit. What we actually ended up with was a sanitised view, wiped (almost) clean of everything that made Sir Terry's GUARDS GUARDS so brilliant in the first place.

It felt out of character for Captain Vimes to stumble accidentally and apologetically through the story, with Corporal Cheery instead positioned as the one with all the answers, leading, explaining and handholding the rest of THE WATCH through to the conclusion of the case. This is in contrast to Sir Terry's Watch novels, where although Vimes may have his faults he uses his copper's instincts to lead the Watch to get their man/woman/dragon ... eventually! THE WATCH's Vimes was a little more pitiful and pathetic, often muddled and barely able to make a decision without help or prompt from Corporal Cheery.

It was puzzling as to why when Simon and the producer went to great efforts to constantly praise and refer to Sir Terry's genius, they then decided to disregard the vast majority of GUARDS GUARDS. It seemed odd to me, that they were in one breath trying to sell it as one of Sir Terry's greatest works and in the next telling us they were only 'inspired' by it to deliver something so radically different, completely missing or deliberately ignoring the importance of the audience's expectation.

And 'expectation' is the keyword here. There was already a built-in audience of millions of fans for Vimes and the Night's Watch, all of whom had expectations of what a TV adaptation of the novels would deliver. If the show had delivered on that expectation then the series would have been a runaway hit. But it didn't and the adaptation lost its audience before the show was even aired, which is why I suspect it has appeared on iPlayer rather than episodically on primetime BBC One.

If you adapt such a renowned and well-loved work, or any work for that matter, you have to make sure you deliver on what the audience is expecting, with maybe a few twists and turns along the way to freshen things up and play with that expectation. THE WATCH fell woefully short of this, alienating its audience from the outset, making it almost impossible to recover from the negative word of mouth it generated. As I said above, the show is okay and reasonably entertaining, but when you ignore and alienate your target audience you will always be doomed to failure.

Happy writing!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

hi Dominic,

Yes I have been amazed how so many times a TV series does not live up to the book its taken from. Obviously, there is always a shortfall in moving from novel to screen in what you can fit within the TV series and the necessary edits. However, too often the dramatised TV series bears no semblance to the much loved story with character intentions and plot sacrificed to reach for ideas presumably intended for a younger/different audience