The title of this article is, admittedly, a bit of a rhetorical question. For one thing, the novel has already been adapted by BBC, and after the massive success of the Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play, there was really no question as to whether or not adapting another JK Rowling piece would be a good idea, at least from a financial perspective.
But today I want to examine the real question — is it worth adapting?
If you are even the slightest bit acquainted with me, you would know that I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. My love for the series and for JK Rowling as an author really knows no bounds. However, when The Cuckoo’s Calling was released back in 2013 (originally published by Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) I was hesitant because I had been disappointed in the novel Rowling released the prior year, The Casual Vacancy, which I found to be a fine read but ultimately devoid of any magic — literal or otherwise. But I gave The Cuckoo’s Calling a shot because it was a detective story and man do I love detective stories!
When I ask whether The Cuckoo’s Calling is worth adapting for film/TV it’s because while it was an interesting book that enjoyed while relaxing by the pool, it doesn’t have anything that lends itself to particularly good television.
The Harry Potter series was a great adaptation because the books were so imaginative that there was a lot to work with in developing the visual design. The fun was in watching Rowling’s magical world come to life before your eyes.
And of course BBC already has an incredibly successful detective show in Sherlock, and part of the reason it has done so well is its stunning visual storytelling. The character of Sherlock Holmes has been around for ages and adapted for screen many times, but the thing that Sherlock does so well is provide viewers with a unique brand of cinematic storytelling. We finally got to see the amazing process that went through the mind of Sherlock Holmes when he looked at a crime scene.
Cormoran Strike, the detective in The Cuckoo’s Calling, doesn’t have Sherlock’s master deduction skills, and his ability to solve the crime has more to do with putting logical timelines together than seeing the situation differently. And yes, I will absolutely compare the two — They even gave Strike a peacoat! Whether that was conscious nod to the Sherlock-esque nature of all detective stories or not, it still further proves that this has all been done before, and likely better. BBC will have to watch their every step very carefully to avoid falling in the trope traps surrounding the genre.
Furthermore, though if you read any of the original Sherlock Holmes novels you would know who the culprit was in the show, Sherlock still did a great job of giving us characters that were fun to watch. We knew that Moriarty was the bad guy, but he was terrifying enough that we didn’t care.
Now, if you haven’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling and don’t plan to, then I would definetely say to watch the show because the story does have some interesting twists and it’s a classic Whodunit that’s fun to play along with. But if you have read it, it’s unlikely the show will provide anything new.
Of course, none of this is a criticism of the show — based on what I’ve seen, they cast great actors and BBC always has excellent cinematography, so that’s not really what I’m concerned with. My main issue is that the story itself doesn’t put come at the Detective Narrative with a new angle that would make for a dynamic adaptation. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a nice novel, and JK Rowling’s beautiful writing style got me through it, but on screen I think this story will come out rather two dimensional.
Tell Us: Did you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? Are you excited about the adaptation?