SciFi channel started a new show in January 2007 called The Dresden Files, about a wizard PI in modern day Chicago. This is based on a series of books by Jim Butcher. I don’t know who got me into these books. I remember picking up a copy of the third book Grave Peril when visiting someone and having nothing to read. Despite being the third book in the series and only having time to read a chapter or so I was really impressed so I’ve been buying them since.

As usual for a TV show, even more than for a movie, there are significant differences between the book and the TV show. For one thing it’s relatively easy to do an information dump in a book, giving the basic background to a character, particularly when you’re writing hard boiled wise-guy PI stuff, which by tradition is always in the first person. A TV show usually needs to introduce things in a more spread out way, linked to each story of the week. A diversion from this is the utterly excellent NBC show Heroes which is a serial and started with an introduction to about eight characters and keeps adding more. There’s so many characters there that they have to tell you with subtitles which character they’re about to feature, which town they’re in now and what time frame we’re talking about (when you have someone with special powers able to travel in, stop, rewind time etc, then you have problems with flow that Douglas Adams appreciated with regard to the written word and verb tenses).

Anyway, back to The Dresden Files. They’ve actually kept, IMHO, a good amount of the “feel” of the books in the show, although my one big criticism is that the actor, while very good in the role, is too short. As a beanpole myself, one of the things I like about Harry Dresden in the book is his height. Still, they had to get an actor who could pull off the character and I think they did that very well. The social setup of the world is similar and they keep using elements of the books either as background pieces (the 3-eye drug which features in the first book has just made an appearance in episode 5). In many ways, I quite like this because it means that fans of the books don’t know all the answers to the mysteries in the TV show. Sometimes we have a heads up from the books and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the heads-up from the books acts as a red herring to solving the mystery on screen. I love it when shows can blindside me with a plot line which jumps out of left field and swerves all over the place while being completely self-consistent.

We’re only five episodes in, but I think this show is turning out to be well worth watching. Now I just have to hope it does well enough paired B2B with Battlestar Galactica on Sunday nights in the US to get renewed for a full season next year (BSG has been renewed for at least another half season, but no word on Dresden Files yet).