Severance Makers Adapting One Of The Most Controversial Books

By Michileen Martin | Updated

grapes of wrath series

The same production company that helped bring the hit science fiction thriller series Severance to AppleTV+ is turning its eye on some new projects, including a show adapting one of the most controversial books of all time. Deadline reports that the production company Fifth Season is taking John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath and turning it into a TV series. This would mark the first time the story has been brought to the screen since the year after the novel was published, when Henry Fonda starred as the hero Tom Joad.

The Grapes of Wrath series will be written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, who was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for his 2021 drama The White Tiger. Fifth Season’s President of TV Development and Production, Joe Hipps, says that the series, like the novel, will be set in Depression-era Oklahoma. He says, however, that Bahrani has “interesting ideas” about using music to help keep the story current.

Along with the upcoming The Grapes of Wrath and Severance, Fifth Season is becoming known for selling successful series to a growing number of combatants in the streaming wars. Their work includes Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, HBO Max’s Tokyo Vice, Peacock’s Wolf Like Me, and Apple TV+‘s recently concluded See.

grapes of wrath series
Amy Adams in Arrival (2016)

At the same time that Fifth Season announced the upcoming Grapes of Wrath series, it also announced work on an adaptation of a much more recent novel. The company is working on an adaptation of the 2022 novel The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh, with Amy Adams (Arrival) attached to star. In the source material, a man, who writes obituaries for a living, begins researching his wife’s life when she’s diagnosed with a horrible illness; slowly discovering much of what she’s told him about her past is untrue.

Set in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the 1930s, the heroes of The Grapes of Wrath are oppressed and exploited workers paid starvation wages for backbreaking work. Things get bad enough that preacher Jim Casy dares to form a labor union; something that was much more controversial in 1939 than it is today (and it isn’t like everyone loves unions now). As a result, the novel faced a lot more censorship than The Grapes of Wrath series will likely endure.

The same year it was published, The Grapes of Wrath was hit with a series of bans all over the United States. The novel was banned in parts of California, Missouri, and New York in 1939 and it would continue to attract censorship for decades as late as the 1990s. It’s even been banned in such distant locales as Ireland and Turkey.

We don’t know when you can expect to watch The Grapes of Wrath series. As for Season 2 of Fifth Season’s hit Severance, there’s no official word, though either 2023 or 2024 seem likely. We did recently learn that Gwendoline Christine of Game of Thrones fame has been recruited to appear in Season 2.