05 November 2008

Book to TV: "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls" vs. "Privileged"

Because of my weakness for teen shows and the dearth of intriguing shows on TV this season, I have become a fan of Privileged on the CW. A few episodes in, I learned that it was based on a book called How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean. I was looking for something light to read and I wasn't sure if I was going to stick with the TV show so I checked out the book from the library to see how it ends.

The show is quite a bit different from the book. I know that movies and TV shows rarely stay 100% true to their source material, but this is the first time I've seen a show that has strayed this much from the original. The creators of Privileged kept the basic concept (a college graduate takes a job as personal tutor to a pair of rich girls and tries to get them into Duke University) but so much surrounding it has changed.

The biggest change is with the main character, Megan Smith. In the book, Megan is a sarcastic plain Jane with a photographic memory. Her father is a college professor who is still married to her mother and they live a happy, down-to-earth, crunchy granola life in New Hampshire. Her sister Lily is a beautiful stage actress who is the toast of New York and is nothing but sweet to Megan. By contrast, the Megan in the TV show is the super-sweet one. She always tries to see the good in people. Her parents split up and she grew up with her alcoholic father. Her sister Lily is a party girl who lies and steals to get what she wants. She works in a low-budget beauty salon.

The other surprise was how much more sex and bad language there was in the book than in the TV show. I get the "bad Mami" award of the month for handing How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls to my 15-year-old M without reading it first. Since I had already watched several episodes of Privileged and deemed it safe for M to watch if she chose to, I thought the book would be fine. As I said, I actually checked it out for myself but I was in the middle of another book and she was looking for something to read. She read about half of it and decided to stop. Imagine my surprise when I read it and realized what I handed to her! It isn't erotica, but I might have waited a couple years before handing it to my daughter.

Do I like the show or the book better? I like aspects of both of them. The slightly neurotic-but-sweet Megan plays better on TV than the sarcastic one would have. However, I dislike the broken home angle. I can say that finishing the novel hasn't ruined my enjoyment of the show.

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