You might be surprised to learn that some very famous novelists have put their writing talents to crafting episodic television. Not just famous in some cases, but among the biggest best-selling novelists of all time. Or, in some cases, writers of fiction that places them amongst the most influential novelists of the 20th century. Or, at the very least, writers of iconic novels who wrote for TV series that just don’t seem to have quite the same literary credibility.
Joseph Heller: “McHale’s Navy”
In what has to be a case of surreal black humor almost on par with the contents of his most famous novel, Joseph Heller actually penned an episode of the 1960s military comedy “McHale’s Navy.” Before they reached a new generation as Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway teamed up on a World War II P.T. boat in “McHale’s Navy.” Almost exactly one year to the day after “Catch-22” was published, the episode titled “P.T. 73, Where are You” aired with the teleplay credit going to Joseph Heller. The title was inspired by the name of one of the most maligned sitcoms in TV history, “Car 54, Where are You?” The plot was about the loss of that P.T. boat and the desperate search for a replacement so that the crew could take advantage of the promise of week’s leave.
Stephen King: “The X-Files”
Stephen King writing an episode of “The X-Files” makes far more sense than Joseph Heller writing for “McHale’s Navy.” “Chinga” is the title of a monster-of-the-week investigation for Mulder and Scully–mainly Scully–that touches upon the history of witch persecution in New England while also expanding to include one of the most reliable plot devices in the horror field: the possessed doll. Stephen King’s contribution to the legacy of “The X-Files” monster of the week has all the hallmarks of his more literary pursuits. A great beginning, an interesting mixture of premises and a somewhat disappointing ending.
Suzanne Collins: “Little Bear”
Before she hit it big with “The Hunger Games” series of novels, Suzanne Collins was making a living writing for children’s TV on shows such as “Clarissa Explains It All” and “The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.” Collins also wrote for “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” That’s all fine and dandy and each of those shows has something to recommend them on their own. But far more impressive to me, personally, is that Suzanne Collins penned a couple of episodes of “Little Bear.” My kids grew up watching this show and we still love it. Especially the character of Duck. What is interesting is that one of the segments on the episode that is credited to Suzanne Collins is about Mitzi. Mitzi was one of Little Bear’s friends, a cunning little monkey who quickly established herself as the Scrappy-Doo of the show. Can’t help but wonder if Suzanne Collins played a major role in the development of Mitzi. Of all the characters on “Little Bear” that selfish little monkey would see the most at home in the world of “The Hunger Games.”