Will The ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ TV Adaptation Live Up To JK Rowling Fans’ Expectations?

Matthew Loffhagen
BBC
(Photo: BBC)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first novel in the Cormoran Strike series of crime novels by Robert Galbraith, is unique in that its release was wholly unremarkable.

The book came out, was sold in very small quantities, and then faded into obscurity.

Then, some devious person leaked the author’s true identity – Robert Galbraith didn’t exist at all. He was, instead, JK Rowling, using the literary equivalent of polyjuice potion.

And so, naturally, the book became an instant big hit, with fans of Rowling’s more well-known works rushing to discover this hidden gem. It’s safe to say that, had Robert Galbraith’s true identity remained a secret, we would never have ended up with the live action television adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling.

All of this history being as it is, the new TV show has some big shoes to fill. Ostensibly cut from the same cloth as other grim, Scandinavian-inspired British crime drama like Broadchurch, the new series will instead mostly be compared to Warner Bros’ Harry Potter movies.

How accurate is The Cuckoo’s Calling to the plot of the book? How well does the story squish into this new format when compared with the choppy Potter films?

Is Tom Burke a better Cormoran Strike than Daniel Radcliffe is a Harry Potter? Which adaptation does the best job of communicating the world of the books, while making necessary changes for a visual art medium?

Is the story toned down? Do new characters and story points distract from the original plot of the book? Is this or that element of the show different to how readers imagined it in their heads, and is it at least more faithful than some of the bizarre changes to the Potter stories?

Which adaptation features the best use of a giant spider?

(We assume Harry Potter will win that one, but it all depends on just how faithful The Cuckoo’s Calling is when changed for television.)

The difference between an adaptation of a secret JK Rowling novel, and the novel itself, is that Rowling wasn’t writing with any kind of expectation. The Cuckoo’s Calling was an opportunity for the acclaimed writer to try something new and different, under the guise of anonymity, without the pressure of the Harry Potter legacy hanging over her head.

The TV version of The Cuckoo’s Calling has no such luxury. This will be, for almost all members of its audience, the gritty crime drama alternative to Harry Potter. It’s an association that can’t be shaken, and it could end up seriously hurting the show’s reception as a whole.

But, then, what’s the point of making a TV adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling if not to ride on the Harry Potter coattails? This entire project exists because of the fame surrounding its author, and any comparison that’s drawn between this and the Warner Bros Harry Potter movies are wholly justified.

Here’s hoping, then, that the whole endeavour proves worthwhile.

Either way, The Cuckoo’s Calling can’t possibly be as gratuitously dark, gritty, and joyless as The Half-Blood Prince movie, and people seem to like that well enough!

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