Watchmen TV: Good Idea, Bad Idea


TV Series

“There is an inverse relationship between imagination and money…” – Alan Moore

Over the past week, word has spread like wildfire that director Zack Snyder has met with HBO executives in a bid to create a Watchmen television show.

It hasn’t been confirmed that the show is actually going to be made; in fact, even if it is then it’s questionable whether it would be based on the original award-winning Watchmen comic book series (which Snyder already turned into a movie) or on the prequel series Before Watchmen. Regardless, it’s a topic which divides the fans.


Snyder’s track record with DC has been solid but mostly uninspiring, yet his movie adaptation of Watchmen in 2009 did look good – although purists will point to the plot being cut down and the changes which were made. In his defence, Snyder admitted that the film would have been made regardless and as a fan of the original story he tried to save it from being made worse. If Snyder were given a second shot he could still make it work, but how different could it be? Unless, that is, if he’s planning on adapting the prequel comics or wants to approach the whole thing with new ideas.

Likewise, DC has enjoyed some success over the last several years with their TV shows and the adult-oriented HBO would be a good platform for such a dark series. Since Watchmen is a stand-alone product, it wouldn’t need to overlap with any of the other shows and the vision of it could be more focused. It wasn’t a typical comic book series to begin with, and HBO isn’t a typical TV channel.

It all sounds like a good idea.

However, the debate over how Watchmen should be handled has been an issue with fans over the years – as well as with its original writer, Alan Moore. Notoriously negative about publisher DC Comics as well as refusing to have anything to do with Hollywood adaptations of his work, Moore has gone on record in the past about spitting venom on the film… and presumably the same applies for a TV show of it. From the man who has said that he despises the comic industry but will always love the comic medium, there’s almost no chance at all of his approval ever being given to any adaptation or spin-off.


Then there’s the critical success of the original Watchmen, which went on to be taught in universities and is the only comic book to make it onto Time’s 100 Best Novels list – alongside classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby. Simply put, Watchmen is the comic book which proved comic books weren’t just for kids. It’s something the fans have been proud of. The irony is that a Watchmen TV show may increase interest in the original series for some but it simultaneously dilutes what that series was for others.

It could be argued that Watchmen is just a comic book so why not treat it as such? It isn’t a graphic novel in the strict sense of the term, it was a comic book series that has since been collected as a trade paperback. It’s no different from Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen or even Sugar and Spike: it’s just another property DC owns, and they can choose to exploit it however they wish.

In recent years Watchmen has become a cash cow, with everything from video games and statues to bobble-head toys and a prequel series. It’s a product now, as well as being a great work of literature, and could just as easily be turned into Rorschach underwear and Doctor Manhattan juice-boxes. The merchandise hasn’t destroyed Watchmen’s credibility, just cheapened it somewhat, and a TV show won’t ruin it but it can never be as good as the original.

Watchmen may have been a comic book series, but that doesn’t mean it should necessarily be treated like all the others. While there’s no doubt that the platform would be right, and Snyder did a far better job with the film than many imagined possible, the question fans have to ask is if it’s a good idea or a bad one.

Unfortunately, for an entertainment industry which has proven itself almost bankrupt of originality lately and is looking for the next hit show, the answer to that question may not even matter.

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