8 TV Shows You Thought Were Original, But Were Actually Adaptations

These amazing TV shows weren't originals but adaptations from a book.

By Erika Hanson | Updated

netflix queen's gambit anya taylor-joy

Nothing on screen seems original these days. Almost everything “new” tends to actually be a remake of something from decades (or even years) ago. Oftentimes, great TV shows are mistaken as being original when they are versions of previous series, films, or novels. We’ve compiled a list of eight shows you may have thought were original but were actually adaptations from books.

Gossip Girl

The original Gossip Girl aired on The CW from 2007 to 2012. The popular teen drama was a hit for the network during its six-season run. But while many people know of the show even if they never watched it, few likely realize that it was an adaptation of novels written by Cecily von Ziegesar.

The original novel, Gossip Girl, was written in 2002 and was the basis for the tv show. Both the book series and the TV show adaptation gave viewers a look into the luxurious drama-filled life of teenagers growing up in the Upper East Side of New York City. However, the series strayed quite a bit from the book’s storyline and even portrayed main characters in a different light.

The Queen’s Gambit

Before Anya Taylor-Joy lent her voice to Princess Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, she made a household name for herself in the binge-worthy Netflix miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit. But long before the addicting TV show stole hours of sleep from us all, it was a novel penned in 1983 by Walter Tevis.

The novel of the same name had many attempts over the years to bring the story to the big screen. At one point, Heath Ledger was set to direct a film adaptation. But the story ultimately was brought to life in 2020 with the Netflix series.

The miniseries was praised for sticking to the novel, and much of the script (besides some comprehensive, in-depth chess explanations) was taken right from the pages of the novel.


Most know that the TV show Hannibal is an adaptation based on the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins famously brought to life in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. But both the film and series are based upon Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, penned in 1988.

Hannibal ran for three seasons, and it took inspiration from not only Harris’ Red Dragon but its follow-up books in the franchise, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, the TV show adaptation of the series was critically acclaimed, with Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the serial killer heavily lauded.

The 100

The 100 was one of The CW’s biggest hits in the last decade, with all seven seasons well-received. It was developed by Jason Rothenberg, but the post-apocalyptic TV show was actually an adaptation of YA novels by Kass Morgan.

Despite the show’s popularity, the storyline did stray far from the books. Many characters from Morgan’s novels are changed or completely omitted. In fact, fans of the TV show who want to dive into the books will be pleasantly surprised at how dissimilar the two stories are.


Dexter was easily Showtime’s biggest hit during its eight-season run on the network. But you might be surprised to know that the TV show is an adaptation of the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

Following the life of Dexter Morgan, a forensic technician by day and murderer by night, Dexter battles with his morality as he acts as a vigilante, taking down murderers and serving his own justice. The series followed the novel it’s based on very closely in season 1, but subsequent seasons crafted storylines beyond the book.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Ahead of its sixth and final season, people love to compare The Handmaid’s Tale to real-world issues surrounding women’s rights today, but the popular TV show is an adaptation of a book written decades ago. In 1985, Margaret Atwood wrote the novel of the same name, but the Hulu series again brought the book into mainstream popularity.

The first season followed the book’s storyline closely but gave the dystopian story a modern-day upgrade. But with only one book to pull from, the show further built upon Atwood’s world, much to viewers’ approval.

Orange is the New Black

Netflix’s Orange is the New Black tells the story of Piper Kerman and her real-life experience as a woman incarcerated. But not only is the hit TV show based on a real person, but it’s also an adaptation of Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.

The series took plenty of creative liberties in crafting the streamer’s longest-running original show. Much of what happens to Piper on the show is far different than her actual experience. Still, we’re glad Netflix made most of these changes, as it made for an entertaining comedy-drama.

Friday Night Lights

The movie Friday Night Lights won over our hearts in 2004 and again in 2006 with a TV show adaptation. For five seasons, the series was met with critical acclaim. But the sports drama isn’t just based on the former movie, but the 1990 book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger.

The book follows a small town in Texas where football is life. While it focuses on just one football season and a team’s road to the state championship, the show spanned a longer timeframe, with new high school football players introduced each new season.