4:00 pm EDT, June 21, 2019

YA movie adaptations that should’ve been TV shows

What if your favorite book-to-film adaptations had been television shows instead? We’re exploring which ones would’ve made for the perfect series.

When you first hear that your favorite book series is being turned into a movie, there’s that initial mix of excitement and terror. On the one hand, it could be awesome to see the story come to life, but on the other hand…what if they mess it up?

Movies are a fantastic medium, but they’re limited in a lot of ways. The biggest restriction is time. You have roughly two hours to get everything from a full-length novel into a film, making sure you don’t forget anything important. If that full-length novel happens to be 700 pages or longer, you could be in big trouble!

Even film franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games recognized this issue. All three of these series split the final book into two separate movies. This was probably in part to milk audiences for more money, but it’s also because they wanted to ensure they got the ending right.

But what would’ve happened if any of these YA movie adaptations had been television series instead? You could have 10+ hours to work with a single book’s arc instead of just two, which leaves much more room to play with the nuances of the story. You might even have room to expand the world and explore plotlines outside of what was in the source material.

If moving to television is good enough for His Dark Materials and The Lord of the Rings, then it’s good enough for some of our other favorite YA book-to-film adaptations.

I’m picking six of the biggest YA movie adaptations in recent years to explore the idea that they would’ve made a better television series. Fair warning: It might make you long for what could have been.

‘Harry Potter’

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Harry Potter would make for a great TV show. In fact, many fans are still calling for a Harry Potter reboot as a television series. The movies brought a lot to the table, but they had to cut so much material because they just didn’t have time to explore it all. While it would certainly be strange to see the series redone and cast with different actors, I don’t think fans would be complaining if they could get their hands on a show that examined the series in depth.

Not only would a Harry Potter TV show be able to delve into all the dropped plot lines from the movies, it would also be able to explore daily life inside Hogwarts. Rather than brief glimpses of their classes, you could sit down, stay a while, and let the series enrich your view of the Harry Potter world.

Unfortunately, the series would be quite the undertaking. You’d need a minimum of seven seasons to do it all justice. I feel like you could easily do twice that if you really wanted to dig your heels in, but that probably wouldn’t be the smartest choice. Not every show can last 14+ seasons, and Harry Potter fans have a reputation for being a little pedantic. They’d either need to have the most intense roadmap in television history, or they’d have to stick with seven or eight seasons max.


Honestly, this might be my favorite choice for turning a YA movie adaptation into a television series. Imagine how insane people would’ve gone for a Twilight television show! Weekly doses of Edward and Jacob? Yes, please! In hindsight, the movies aren’t the greatest, but this was when YA movie adaptations were just starting to gain traction. We’ve learned a lot since then, and all of that knowledge could be applied to a Twilight TV show.

The first book in the series doesn’t leave much room for world building, but it would provide ample space for character development and really delving into the relationship between Edward and Bella. We could see more of their daily interactions and really enjoy that wonderful slow burn. In later books, the world opens up, and the series would be able to explore so much more outside of Bella’s little bubble in Forks, Washington.

You could easily get a good four or five seasons out of a Twilight TV show. These days, that’s a solid run for any series. It would also be ripe for any spinoffs in case they wanted to explore other groups across the world. There’s a lot to delve into here, and even though vampires on television is nothing new, Twilight still feels a step removed from most of the standard fare.

‘Percy Jackson’

My love for Percy Jackson knows no bounds, and it deserves its time in the sun. The movie adaptations of Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters failed miserably, which only further proves we need to see this series as a TV show. It could even be animated!

Believe it or not, there’s even more to explore here than in Harry Potter. There are currently three series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Trials of Apollo), each with five books, set directly in the Percy Jackson world. On top of that, each of Rick’s other mythological series (The Kane Chronicles and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) are set in the same world, though the main characters don’t interact too often.

You’d really have to choose your battles with a Percy Jackson television series. There’s enough material in each book for a single season without it feeling overloaded, but there’s also plenty of room to roam outside the confines of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. If the creative team wanted to do more, they certainly could, with spinoffs and crossovers definitely on the table. Think Arrow-verse but with Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythology.


Divergent is still a little bit of an open wound for me. I read and loved the first book, but had trouble with the second and never even touched the third. The first movie wasn’t a terrible adaptation, but it didn’t quite hook me like the book did. Alternatively, I enjoyed Insurgent, but not enough to go see the Allegiant adaptation when it hit theaters. Everything went downhill from there when Ascendant was canceled.

The idea of ending the Divergent movie series with a television show adaptation was a shitty move on the studio’s part, and I don’t blame the actors for calling them out for breach of contract and letting the whole thing die. That said, if they had started off with a Divergent TV show, we’d be in a much different boat. Like all the other options on this list, there’s a whole world to explore here.

Imagine being able to see the day-to-day lives of Dauntless in the first season, with Tris struggling to fit in at every turn. You’ve got action, romance, and plenty of mystery to keep things interesting. Four to five seasons would probably be enough for this series, but the end (at least from what I’ve heard) could leave room to go beyond what we see in the books.

‘The Hunger Games’

Unlike a lot of the other choices on this list, the movies of the Hunger Games franchise were pretty solid from start to finish. Many fans still think they didn’t need to split the final book into two movies, but it was nice to hang out with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss for another year before everything wrapped up.

Just like with Harry Potter, I feel like recasting these roles would be strange at first, but with the right actress leading the charge, it’s probably something we could all get used to. I’m particularly interested in seeing the intricacies of the Hunger Games play out week to week. This could really blur the lines of drama, action, and horror, leading to a unique blend of genres and one of the more thrilling shows on television.

The first two books would translate pretty well to the first two seasons of a Hunger Games TV show, but anything after that would be fair game. Between the rebellion taking off and their eventual onslaught on the Capitol, you could easily milk two seasons or more. The show could change from an action-heavy drama to a political thriller with ease. A closer look at the districts and everything going on outside Katniss’ purview would give the creators extra material to work with.

‘Maze Runner’

I’m a much bigger fan of the Maze Runner movie adaptations than I am of the actual books, but even I think it would be interesting to see these translated into a television show. Much like Twilight, the Maze Runner series starts with a pretty narrow focus and then opens up in subsequent books. The movies were solid but not spectacular, and they still had to deal with the time constraints presented whenever you make a book-to-film adaptation.

The first season of a Maze Runner TV show would be able to explore the day-to-day life of the Gladers in a much more intimate manner. You’d be able to ramp up the mystery while simultaneously keeping the action and horror of the maze at a steady pace. Interpersonal relationships would be important here, and there’d be as much room for internal conflict as there would be for external opposition. After that, you could focus on the rebellion and what it’s like to live both inside and outside of the The Last City.

This series could wrap up everything in a solid three seasons. A tighter storyline would benefit the source material and keep you on the edge of your seat every week. There’s an interesting opportunity for a twist, however. They could add more material by exploring the backstories of beloved characters like Newt or Brenda, either starting at a time well before Thomas enters the maze or cutting away to the rebellion while he’s still trapped inside WCKD’s little experiment. As long as they kept an eye on their pacing, it’d probably be possible to milk another season out of this.

What YA movie adaptations do you wish had been TV shows instead?

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