Bibliophile reviews the book to TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather

A friend who was in Britain over the holidays brought back videotapes with Sky’s long-awaited adaptation of Hogfather and we watched them together on Sunday.

While I am firmly of the opinion that the Discworld books deserve bigger budgets and better special effects than usually offered by television, I will say that for a television adaptation this is pretty good. The look and ambience are just right, and most of the casting is good. Michelle Dockery was an excellent Susan, and Marc Warren was genuinely creepy as Teatime, although not as creepy as he could have been had he spoken in a slightly more normal voice. The childlike voice and speech patterns and American accent grated on my nerves the whole time and made the character seem too exaggerated. Ian Richardson did a good job of speaking for Death, and the wizards seemed to have jumped straight out of Paul Kidby’s paintings of them. Just about the only bit of casting I was unhappy with was Nobby, who was played by Nicholas Tennant, who was not made to look sufficiently ugly to be a convincing Nobby (a man who has to carry around a certificate to prove he is indeed human and not a monkey or a misshapen dwarf).

Pratchett purists will have missed certain things from the books, like Foul Ole Ron and company, the mud and boots incident, the old man and the king and at least a sight of the Librarian. However, there were plenty of other small scenes and touches that made it from book to film and which will have delighted the fans while sometimes confusing people who have never read a Discworld book. The adaptation was in fact remarkably faithful to the book.

The adaptation is good – for television – and while I would have preferred better special effects, I doubt it could have been done better on a TV budget.

My only big complaint is that because it was shown on Sky One, there were several long advertising breaks (my friend having been too lazy to pause the recording while the ads played) and I found my concentration being broken every 15-20 minutes with adverts for indigestion remedies and furniture sales. But I hear the DVD is coming out at Easter and it will be fun to watch it uninterrupted. Or perhaps I will save my money and begin a campaign to have it shown on Icelandic state TV, which does not have advertising breaks in the middle of programs.

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