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TV Shelf-Life: Mining the New York Times Best-Seller List for Primetime Gold

October 20th, 2011 by Naivasha D Associate Producer

It’s no secret that Hollywood constantly struggles to find bankable ideas, and if we had any doubt, that remake of Footloose settled it. Producers have been scanning this year’s offering of bestselling novels for help (or literally The Help), and more than a few are already being cranked into screenplays. Let’s take a look at some of The New York Times’ recent bestsellers and do some serious speculation: If these stories ever see the TV or silver screen, who should star?


Shock Wave by James O. Born

Bill Tasker is a law enforcement agent in Florida recovering from a divorce and a scandal at work. While investigating a case involving black-market missiles, he is duped by a repairman who turns out to be a deadly killer with nefarious plans. He is aided in the case by his friend, Miami cop Derrick Sutter.

This book is a buddy action flick waiting to happen. We belong to the small and disappointed group of people who want to see more from from Bones’ TJ Thyne, who plays the constantly put-upon Hodgins. On Bones he spends most of his time acting exasperated at the women around him and making obtuse jokes about bugs, but we think he has the potential to carry a lead. As for his pal Derrick, it would be great to see Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt take on a real law enforcement role – somewhere within us, we want to see doofy Andy take his Bert Macklin, FBI impression to the next level:

Can You Keep a Secret by Sophia Kinsella

Emma Corrigan has a great boyfriend, a steady job, and big hopes for a promotion – things are looking good. Yet when she bungles a big meeting, a flustered Emma confesses her deepest, darkest secrets to a man sitting next to her – only to discover the good-looking stranger is the CEO of her company. The mistake sets Emma on a secretive, scandalous, and sexy path. Kinsella also wrote Confessions of a Shopaholic, which was turned into a movie starring Isla Fisher, and is only acceptable to be seen on an airplane.

Anna Faris would be great as Emma. Maybe we have her on the mind because of her recent turn hosting SNL, but she does have the cute and hapless act down.  Her last romantic comedy, What’s Your Number, got scathing reviews, but we still want to believe in this Scary Movie 2 alumna.

If she proves unpalatable, we think The Office’s Ellie Kemper, who plays Erin, could knock this out of the park. Again, cute and hapless.

As for the sexy CEO, let’s throw Paul Rudd into the mix. A romcom veteran like him might be able to soak up any residual Anna Faris signature awkwardness, and their appearances on SNL could give them something to talk about:

Lethal by Sandra Brown

Honor Gillette and her four-year old daughter are taken hostage by killing machine Lee Coburn, who is trying to decipher the identity of the Bookkeeper, a criminal mastermind who might have had something to do with Honor’s husband’s death two years earlier.

We’ve always kind of wanted to see Jesse Eisenberg play a serial killer. There’s something calculated about him – his abrupt movements, careful speech, and dead-pan demeanor.  Plus, if you saw The Social Network, you know what he can bring to a role.

This adaptation could be a great place for him to fulfill our vision. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch, but Julie Bowen from Modern Family could step into the role of Honor. Playing a harried, over-protective mom is her staple, but she’s great at it, and we’d like to see what she could do when the fictional stakes are a little higher than a broken step:

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Marina Sing, a reasearcher for a big pharama company, is sent into the deepest corner of the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague, who was sent in before her to check on the progress of Dr. Swenson, an unpredictable scientist on the verge of developing a world-changing fertility drug by studying a tribe of native people who continue to procreate until they die. She finds Dr Swenson’s camp, but begins to lose herself as she sheds her Western ideals and goes native.

We would definitely see this movie – throwing fertile tribal people into the usual mix of drugs and murder could make for some great entertainment. We wonder what Jennifer Connelly has been up to lately, and think she’d fit in well as Marina. Connelly has a mysterious, intellectual air about her in addition to her apparent penchant for standing on the ends of piers:

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria Jones ages out of the foster care system and becomes homeless, and unable to speak, expresses herself only through the Victorian language of flowers (dahlias for “dignity,” rhododendron for “beware”). Her secret knowledge lands her a job selling flowers, where she meets a mystery man who speaks her language and holds the key to her past.

Mia Wasikowska, who stunned audiences by coming out of nowhere to star in The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland, and Jane Eyre all in a row, is an obvious choice for a character like this. In Jane Eyre, she proved that she can do quiet, waifish, and resilient better than anyone: