Based upon watching the first season of the show, then reading the first (of three) books in the series, several differences were glaringly apparent. BEWARE: this assessment does include spoilers for both the book and the television show- so read at your own risk!
The Characters’ Appearances
The beauty of reading a book before seeing an adaptation is that you can imagine “your” version of a character. In this case, I already knew how characters looked on screen, which was not always how they were written in the book. The instance with the greatest disparity is Lemuel. On screen, Lemuel is a tall black man with ebony skin and absolutely piercing blue eyes. In the original work, he was described as “white as snow.” The difference has no impact on the story itself, but it did force me to change my perception of the character as I was reading.
The Level of Drama
With a paranormal series of any medium, you come to expect a fair amount of action or drama. The television show has action in spades- from the first scene to the last, mysterious paranormal action abounds. In the book, that is not the case, especially in the case of Manfred’s “abilities.” He had one defined instance of psychic interaction in Midnight Crossroad. The level of psychic action in the show, Midnight, Texas, is exponentially greater. It makes for a more interesting storyline and really defines Manfred as a character. In fact, it makes the first book almost bland in comparison.
My favorite difference in paranormal happenings is the manifestation of Manfred’s grandmother, Xylda. She’s mentioned in passing in Midnight Crossroad, certainly. I’m sure she will appear contextually in the other two books in the series. However, in the show she is an outstanding, interactive ghost. Her presence adds another dimension to Manfred’s character and increases the “creep factor” of the paranormal mystery series substantially.
Both the book and the television show center on a group of “others” who, for their own individual reasons, don’t fit in with society at large. Both mediums deal with the group dynamics differently. In Midnight Crossroad, Harris portrays the characters as loners who interact with each other, yet maintain a private distance. In the show, the same group of people is individuals allied in an “us against the world” mentality. I see the appeal of both methods, but I believe the television version allows the audience to become more invested. After all, everyone wants to be part of a group, right?
More often than not, a movie or television show based on a book or series of books will not live up to the original source material. The adaptation of the first book in the Midnight, Texas series written by Charlaine Harris is a different case entirely. While the book feels like an introduction to this world, the show immerses you in it. With more interesting characters and subplots, the show, by far exceeds the appeal of its source material.