Best Shows to Watch if You Love Books

Christina Knight | May 3, 2018

If the one thing that can tear you away from reading a book is a great show about literature, then get your bookmark ready for a new eight-part series about the power of books and the joy of reading.

The Great American Read, beginning Tuesday, May 22 at 8 p.m., uncovers America’s 100 most-loved novels and the people who love them, including prominent authors and guests. THIRTEEN will also present film adaptations of beloved classic novels as well as documentaries on literary giants. Keep track of the best shows to watch on THIRTEEN with this schedule of literary programs for book lovers. Don’t forget to share your favorite novel with us.

May Broadcasts and Streaming

Little Women on Masterpiece (2018)

Little Women, the classic novel by American author Louisa May Alcott, is on the list of America’s 100 most-loved novels. An immediate success when it was first published in 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the novel follows sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they grow from children into young women. Alcott based the Marches on her own sisters, and Jo – a writer who resists society’s expectations of a young woman – on herself.

The film adaptation Little Women on Masterpiece starring Emily Watson, Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury airs on two consecutive Sundays.

Prime time:
May 13, 8-9 p.m. Part 1 and May 20, 8-10 p.m. Part 2
Late night: May 14, 1-2 a.m. Part 1 and May 21, 1-3 a.m. Part 2
Streaming: Stream episodes for two weeks after broadcast. THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream the entire production for a longer period, starting May 13.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis in a scene from the film The Age of Innocence.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis in a scene from the film The Age of Innocence.

Stay in for the movies on Saturday nights. The broadcast-only program Reel 13 Classics brings the Oscar-winning 1993 film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence (1920). Known for detailing the careful manners and bad behavior of upper crust society, Wharton set the love story and societal critique in 1870s New York City. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. Other stars include Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Miriam Margolyes.

Prime time: May 19, 9-11:25 p.m.
Late night: May 19, 1:10-3:35 a.m.

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Married Life (2007)

Film still from the film Married Life.

Film still from the film Married Life.

The plot of this film adaptation: An adulterous man schemes to murder his wife instead of putting her through a divorce. The tale of marital infidelity and criminal responses to desire was originally born in the mind of an international spy. British crime writer John Bingham once worked for MI5, the security service of the United Kingdom, before becoming an author. He himself served as the inspiration for his MI5 co-worker John Le Carre’s famous character, George Smiley. Though little known today, Bingham’s novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven (1953) was adapted into The Tender Poisoner for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962 and into Married Life (2007), starring Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan.

The film airs on Saturday night’s Reel 13 Indies. On the Reel 13 site, you can watch short films, check the schedule, read the blog, and share your thoughts and critiques with other film fans.

Prime time: May 19, 11:25 p.m.-1:05 a.m.
Late night: May 20, 3:35-5:15 a.m.

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

The author of Little Women was raised among reformers and Transcendentalists, an intellectual protege of Emerson and Hawthorne and Thoreau. Alcott was a free thinker with democratic ideals and progressive values about women – a worldly careerist of sorts. Most surprising is that she led, under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, a literary double life, penning scandalous, sensational works featuring murderers, cross-dressers, and opium addicts. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, the American Masters documentary and dramatization starring Elizabeth Marvel (Homeland, House of Cards) and featuring Jane Alexander, tells the story of this remarkable woman’s quest to rescue her family from poverty and to find wealth, fame and happiness for herself.

Prime time: May 20, 10:05-11:35 p.m.
Late night: May 21, 3-4:30 a.m.
Streaming: Stream now through June 17, 2018. THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream for a longer period.

Orchard House: Home of Little Women

Orchard House

Orchard House, the home of the Alcott family in Concord, Massachusetts.

Orchard House is the 350-year-old home in Concord, Massachusetts where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868. She labored at the novel at a desk that her father made especially for her. Hosted by Orchard House Executive Director Jan Turnquist, this documentary combines archival photographs, excerpts from personal papers, and interviews with scholars and fans to reveal the powerful historical, literary, and very human elements of this home and the people who lived there. While you’re reading Little Women from The Great American Read list, you can visit Orchard House, a National Historic Landmark, on a guided a tour.

Late night: May 20, 11:35 p.m.-12:05 a.m.; May 21, 4:30-5 a.m.

The Great American Read: Kick Off

Hosted by 14-time Emmy Award-winning host Meredith Vieira, this literary series explores the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels. Topics investigated include how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. The eight-part series kicks off May 22, giving you plenty of time to read up on its featured book titles before returning for seven weekly episodes on September 11. Stay up to date with literary programs and events between May and October on THIRTEEN’s Great American Read page.

Prime time: May 22, 8-10 p.m. and May 27, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
Late night: May 23, 1-3 a.m.
Streaming: Stream now.

June Broadcasts

The Remains of the Day (1993)

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in promotional image for the film Remains of the Day

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in promotional image for the film Remains of the Day.

Devotees of Downton Abbey should not miss Reel 13 Classics: The Remains of the Day on Saturday, June 9. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Emma Thompson), this stellar film directed by James Ivory was adapted from the Booker Prize-winning 1989 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Butler Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is fastidious in his care-taking duties in the manor house of aristocrat Lord Darlington, for whom he maintains loyal devotion. Stevens’ foil is the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who arrives in the mid-1930s and attempts to establish a personal relationship with him, even a romantic one. But Stevens is all work and no play, incapable of acknowledging his own emotions in any aspect of his life. His pride in his work and association with Lord Darlington is deeply undercut when the reputation of the aristocrat, a Nazi sympathizer, is ruined during World War II.

Ishiguro was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, being cited by the Swedish Academy as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” That citation certainly speaks to his novel and this film.

Prime time: June 9, 9-11:20 p.m.
Late night: June 9, 12:50-3:10 a.m.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is English author Jane Austen’s gentle parody of gothic fiction– the first novel she completed, in 1803, but first published posthumously in 1817. In the film adaptation, Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) plays the romance addict Catherine Morland. Invited to a medieval country house that appeals to her most lurid fantasies, she forms a close friendship with the younger son on the estate, Henry Tilney (JJ Feild of Captain America), but their budding romance is mysteriously cut short. Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice (1813) is on The Great American Read’s list of America’s 100 best-loved novels.

Prime time: June 10, 8-9:35 p.m.
Late night: June 11, 1-2:35 a.m.
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream Northanger Abbey now.

Death Comes to Pemberley

The Masterpiece murder mystery imagines life six years into the marriage of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, characters from Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice (1813). However this is not a Jane Austen book adaptation; that credit goes to crime writer P.D. James, who pays homage to Austen in the bestselling whodunit. There are plenty of familiar faces in Death Comes to Pemberley, including Matthew Rhys (The Americans, The Post) as Mr. Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin (The Bletchley Circle) as Elizabeth Bennet. Ginger-haired James Norton (Grantchester) plays Henry Alveston, who is wooing Darcy’s sister Georgiana, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, whom we’ve come to know as the red-haired Demelza in Poldark. Elizabeth’s sisters include Lydia, played by Jenna Coleman (the queen herself in Victoria).

Prime time marathon: June 10, 9:35-11 p.m. Part 1 and 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Part 2
Late night marathon: June 11, 2:35-4 a.m. Part 1 and 4-5:30 a.m. Part 2
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream Death Comes to Pemberley now.

Poldark – Masterpiece, Season 2

The benevolent and unlucky tin mine owner Poldark is the invention of author Winston Graham (1908 – 2003), who wrote 12 Poldark novels between 1945 and 2002, all set on the coast of Cornwall in England. Poldark on Masterpiece stars Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. Season 2 picks up moments after the Season 1 cliffhanger which, coincidentally, took place on an actual cliff. Ross Poldark is dragged away to Truro jail on trumped up charges of wrecking and murder as his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) sobs.

Prime time: Episode 1 June 17, 7-9 p.m.; Episode 2 June 24, 8-9 p.m.
Late night: Episode 1 June 18, 3-5 a.m.; Episode 2 June 25, 2:30-3:30 a.m.
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream three seasons of Poldark now.

Miss Marple

Julia McKenzie plays Miss Marple on episodes of Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery!

Julia McKenzie plays Miss Marple on episodes of Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery!

The great mystery writer Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and her fellow English countryman Shakespeare! Her fictional character Miss Marple is an elderly, unmarried woman who features in 12 of Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories. Miss Marple (played by Julia McKenzie on Masterpiece Mystery! adaptations) often finds herself at the center of trouble — a witness to betrayals, poisonings and all manner of mayhem. Knitting needles in hand and a cup of tea always at the ready, Marple quietly earns confidence while uncovering secrets and exposing killers. On June 17, THIRTEEN airs the Masterpiece Mystery! installment Miss Marple Season 7: Greenshaw’s Folly. Greenshaw’s Folly is one of Christie’s short stories. The author appears on The Great American Read list with her novel And Then There Were None.

Late night: June 17, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

The Thin Man (1934)

Promotional still for the 1934 film The Thin Man starring William Powell, Myrna Loy and dog Asta (Skippy).

Stay in Saturday night for Reel 13 Classics: The Thin Man (1934). Nominated for four Oscars, the light-hearted whodunit centers on detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy) as they investigate a murder case, mostly for the fun of it. The film is one of six in the Thin Man series, which was born from a single story by crime writer Dashiell Hammett, originally published in the December 1933.

Prime time: June 23, 9-10:50 p.m.
Late night: 12:40-2:30 a.m.

This page on THIRTEEN’s schedule of literary programs for book lovers will be updated regularly as part of The Great American Read. See our Schedule page for our entire broadcast schedule.