TV… My Three Favourite TV Adaptations from Books



Three 1980s mini series I adore that were adapted from books…


The last of my Wandering Through the Shelves for 2022 July posts has three of my favourites.



This is the next of my 2022 posts for this weekly entertainment-themed challenge from Wandering Through the Shelves.  For my second and my final post for July, the challenge was to pick three of my favourite books which were adapted for the telly.

The three mini-series, I’ve selected to illustrate this topic are The Thorn Birds (1983), Deceptions (1985) and If Tomorrow Comes (1986)… But first a disclaimer, I did read these books as a teen but only after seeing these mini-series. I am saying this as there is something definitely more guilty pleasure about these 1980s bonkbuster adaptations if you watch them first as an impressionable teenager…  

More about this blog’s 2022 blogging challenge is found HERE… and this page also includes the blogger’s final challenges for this year if you are now keen to join this fun collaboration.

…. welcome to Thursday Movie Picks a weekly series where you share your movie picks each Thursday. The rules are simple: based on the theme of the week pick three to five movies and tell us why you picked them.

All my weekly contributions for 2022 are found HERE…  and my and others’ contributions for this particular topic are HERE.


The Thorn Birds (1983)

The Thorn Birds (1983). Trailer. Subtitulado al español, cynthia180msncom

This much acclaimed and much loved mini-series was based on the bonkbuster and bestseller of the same name and was written by Aussie author Colleen McCullough. It has an impressive cast list with in no particular order, Richard Chamberlain, Mare Winningham, Jean Simmons, Christopher Plummer, Barbara Stanwyck and Rachel Ward. The only authentic Aussie in the cast was Bryan Brown (later the star of Cocktail (1988)) before you go Neighbours (1985-22) cast spotting… which is what I’d planned to do, before learning this mini-series was filmed in California when writing this post.

The saga tells of a forbidden on-off love story between an ambitious Irish priest and a younger woman. And the trailer now does seem much more creepy. Naturally, this story has a few heartwarming, dramatic and tragic family storylines – read tropes – for her family was thrown into this 10-hour saga. This means they cross paths throughout their lives more often than Jason Statham and the Fast and Furious cast. This mini-series begins in the 1920s and ends in the early 1960s.

It all kicks off as a very young Meggie Cleary and her family move from New Zealand to a large Australian sheep station owned by her aunt, the super-rich, Mary Carson. As a kid, Meggie Cleary grows up –  to be played by Rachel Ward – the local and disgraced priest Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain) is there for her through some bad times at home and at school. Meggie grows up to be a lovely young lady and it seems has always had a bit of a crush on this priest (but then it is totty for a certain age, Richard Chamberlain for the whole of this saga with an increasing amount of old man make-up throughout).

Meggie’s aunt Mary Carson (Barbara Stanwyck) also loves him and Ralph repeatedly turns down Mary’s attempts to seduce him. Mary grows jealous of Meggie’s closeness with Ralph and asks him which he’d choose if given the choice of Meggie or the role of a Cardinal. This is after Mary realises that he has he’s now got feelings for young Maggie. So what’s a priest to do?

Then, in answer to his prayers (probably literally), this older woman rues revenge on him for not loving her. So she offers to help his career by leaving her estate to the Roman Catholic church and naming him as executor of a substantial amount of money. So then he will be pardoned for his past… and can move up in the church world. But this comes with a catch, as she tells him this is in exchange for him not pursuing the now 17-year-old, Meggie. Then she dies.

So Ralph chooses the church. This is even after Meggie and he snog, and she admits she loves him and he seems attracted to her. Bastard. This pair of star-crossed lovers are drawn romantically together again and again during tragic times over the decades, and he progresses through the ranks with a papal ambition… and she appears to move on, fall in love and get married…

Ralph and Meggie finally do the deed, after the Archbishop Vittorio di Contini-Verchese – I do love the names of mini-series’ characters – gives Ralph some time off to decide what he wants to do and sends him off to find himself. Just like the nun did with Maria Von Trapp (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music (1965). This is all kind of ironic as Archbishop Vittorio di Contini-Verchese is played by the actor who played Captain Von Trapp himself (Christopher Plummer). But to tell you more would mean a major spoiler that I haven’t mentioned yet… 

However, what I can tell you is reading more about the behind the scenes story, has an off-set love story for you romantics out there. Like The Legacy (1978) led to the on-screen couple Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott falling in love for real… this mini-series led to the romance between Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown. This pair married the same year this mini-series was released. And I am happy to announce are still Mr and Mrs Bryan Brown.

And it seems that who’s who of Hollywood was considered for this cast. Considered for the role of Ralph was Tristan Rogers star of The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) and for Mary Carson, Audrey Hepburn was on the shortlist. Actresses campaigning for the Meggie were as diverse as Lynne Frederick and Michelle Pfeiffer.

And if you are wondering what the title refers to, this quote from the mini-series says it all… and you will probably only get the relevance of this as the credits roll… or the musical (which was also adapted from this book in 2009) ends… 

Ralph de Bricassart: [telling the legend of the thorn bird to Meggie] There’s a story… a legend, about a bird that sings just once in its life. From the moment it leaves its nest, it searches for a thorn tree… and never rests until it’s found one. And then it sings… more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. And singing, it impales itself on the longest, sharpest thorn. But, as it dies, it rises above its own agony, to outsing the lark and the nightingale. The thorn bird pays its life for just one song, but the whole world stills to listen, and God in his heaven smiles.

Young Meggie Cleary: What does it mean, Father?

Ralph de Bricassart: That the best… is bought only at the cost of great pain.


Deceptions (1985)

Trailer: “Deceptions” (1985) swe: “Dubbelroller”, VHS kanal1

Based on the bonkbuster of the same name by Judith Michaels, Stefanie Powers has a dual role in this glam and fantasy mini-series. Stefanie stars alongside Gina Lollobrigida, Jeremy Brett, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Wanamaker, Joan Sims and the poor man’s Tom Skerritt, Barry Bostwick. Stefanie plays both identical twins, Sabrina and Stephanie.

It’s an explosive story literally from the start, as the on-screen action begins with the untimely death of the life of the party and international sensation, Sabrina. This is as her yacht blows up with her and her lover, and her apparent on-boat dance troupe in it, and its murder… and then its flashback time.

We learn that Sabrina is the one who is friends with royalty and hob nobs with the rich and famous… Meanwhile, her twin Stephanie is fed up living a “dowdy” life as the unhappily married wife and mother, with two kids and an unfulfilled career. Then by the power of flashback, we discover these two sisters met up for their birthday party in Venice organised by Sabrina’s gal pal, Princess Alessandra. Then they decide to swap lives in The Parent Trap (1961) for the adults’ storyline, and they both took on each other’s lives planning to swap back again at a later date.

So dowdy Stephanie glams up and lives it up jet-setting around the world as “Sabrina”. Meanwhile, as “Stephanie”, Sabrina becomes a bit more glam and pushy and her husband (Bostwick) “falls for her all over these again” little realising he was making advances on his sister-in-law… Then Stephanie (but really Sabrina) is involved in a car accident.

This means the twins can’t swap back and then even more tragedy strikes. So after fessing up about her real identity, to her sister’s husband Sabrina goes full tilt Jennifer Hart (see Hart to Hart (1979-84) – well both are played by Stefanie Powers – and she investigates her sister’s murder and we discover is related to some shady doings…

This is another TV classic that I rediscovered on DVD, in the bargain bin in a second-hand DVD shop over here… It really is a joy to watch with Stephanie Powers dominating the always unbelievable yet compelling storyline. It’s complete with ethical dilemmas of the bonkbuster kind such as if your twin’s husband makes sexual advances to you thinking you his wife, should you do it? And should you have a fling with your sister’s old flame if he thinks you are the woman who broke his heart?

And this twin mistaken identities theme was also kind of adapted for the Aussie soap, Neighbours. This was when Paul Robinson married one Alessi twin, Christine and slept with her twin sister, Caroline. This was in a storyline that most boys now men of a certain age remember where Paul then had a fling with his sister-in-law.

Back to Stefanie Powers, in the 1980s she was the Queen of the mini-series to Richard Chamberlain’s King. We – as in Darlin Husband and I  (and others) watched her – usually with our grandmother – in either this mini-series, Hollywood Wives (1985), Mistral’s Daughter (1984) and even more. She also appeared in even more TV Movies and Hart to Hart in this decade.. and so it seemed Stefanie was never off the telly. But with only two episodes, this mini-series is real binge TV…


If Tomorrow Comes (1986)

1986 If Tomorrow Comes TV Mini-Series Commercial, CRT Afterglow

This mini-series was based on the novel by Sidney Sheldon, writer for I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70), and Hart to Hart.  It has an Irish actor in an early role, as a French detective, and therefore one not to be taken too seriously. This actor also had the honour of appearing in a few more mini-series at this time before he hit the big time and goes by the name of Liam Neeson.

Darlin Husband and I spent a full hour looking out for his performance as Blackie O’Neill in one of the never ending mini-series based on the A Woman of Substance saga and then noticed him after he snogged Deborah Kerr. After some detective work, we discovered he was heavily made up as an old man with a beard. Neeson looked more like Fidel Castro, than a mini-series bonkbuster love interest and we stopped watching it after that.

Anyway, If Tomorrow Comes is also in my DVD collection and as a kid, I bought the book, with more details HERE in my 80s Crushes post. This is as I developed a major crush on this show’s leading totty, Tom Berenger about this time. The series also has more recognisable faces from 1980s films,  Jeffrey Jones – see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – and Jack Weston – see Dirty Dancing (1987) in the cast.

The story tells about Tracy Whitney (Madolyn Smith Osborne) who is framed by a gangster for “a crime she didn’t do” and then imprisoned for 15 years. This naturally is after she tries to avenge her mother’s death, and the reasons for this kind involve this gangster. In jail, Tracy loses a baby and her superrich fiance…  and so in time, Tracy tries to escape the prison. But then she saves the life of the prison governor’s daughter, is given a pardon and is released from jail seeking revenge.

After she tries to move on with her life she can’t shake her prison past. She meets the enigmatic Gunther Hartog (not Antony Quayle), and as his protege, she learns on the job. This is as she begins a life of international theft. During a job. she meets the charming and handsome con man, Jeff Stevens (Berenger) and the pair later must team up for a job…

Then it’s all glamour, glitz and more wigs than the Jennings donned in The Americans (2013-2018). No series like this would be complete without romance so this inevitably blossoms between Tracy and Jeff. Meanwhile, an unhinged insurance investigator, Daniel Cooper (David Keith) with a past is on their trail… as is the French police headed by one Insp. André Trignant (Neeson)…

Other reviews of books  – as adapted to TV – includes All Creatures Great and Small(1978-2005), Canterbury Tales (2003), Dallas (1978-91), Dr Cook’s Garden (1971), Hotel (1983-88), The Lady and the Highwayman (1989), Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001), Murder is Easy (1982), Murder with Mirrors (1985), Outlander (2014-), Ray Bradbury Theatre (1986) withThe Screaming Woman, S2 Ep 2 and The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone S3 Ep 7, The Scapegoat (2012), Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping (1973), Strong Medicine (1986) and Wolfe Hall (2014). 

If you are now in the mood for a follow-up to these books and miniseries…  The Thorn Birds did have a sequel starring Richard Chamberlain and Amanda Donohoe as Meggie. This was due to a time jump in the story with The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years (1996) filling in this story.

For those who loved If Tomorrow Comes, you will be happy (??) to know that someone out there did too and wrote a sequel novel – and therefore possible fan fiction?? –  to this book which as far as I know hasn’t been made into a streaming sensation. Last, by no means least, Deceptions didn’t have a sequel or a reunion movie but Stefanie returned to remake Hart to Hart did eight times in TV reunion movies.

I recommend just watch and wallow in those 1980s mini-series from start to finish over a day or a weekend. But do remember to watch with cake as this is always a must as you know there’s nothing worse than getting crumbs everywhere when you read the book…


Don’t forget to read the other contributions for this topic on Wandering Through the Shelves link up HERE.

And tune in October for the next of these posts…





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