Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

A Magicians Fan’s Guide to Watching The Magicians

They’re showing the first episode of The Magicians tonight — it’s at 10pm on Syfy — and I thought I should post something ahead of time to kind of ease you through the transition. Because some things in the show are Not The Same.

For example: the characters are a few years older than in the books – they’re entering graduate school rather than college. Also in the books we don’t learn about Julia’s life and her world until the second book, but in the show she’s a major character from the start. And Janet’s name is Margo. Penny is way more badass than Penny in the books. Also there’s an extra Physical Kid whose name is Kady.

Some things from the books don’t happen, some things happen differently, and other things happen that are nowhere in the books. When you see this stuff you may find yourself asking, why, great triple-horned god, why?

The answer to all of this is basically, because of TV. It’s a different medium, and you tell stories differently there. Not everything translates directly.

That may sound a little glib. And believe me, there were a few changes that I got hung up on along the way (I didn’t write a word of the show, but I saw and weighed in on each script, and on rough cuts of the episodes). But you know what? After a while I got over it. The people who made it are mega-fans of the books, and whatever changes they made, they did it to get as much as they could of the feel and spirit of the books on screen. They are in very, very good faith.

I’m a huge fan of the show. I get psyched every time they send me a new episode to watch. It’s dark, it’s smart, it’s weird, and it’s very funny. It’s cool to see the magic on screen. The actors are acting their hearts out.

So give it a shot. There’s really nothing else like it on TV. I’ll be watching too.

p.s. Many people have asked if the episode tonight will be online somewhere. As far as I can tell it will not, so if you don’t have cable you’re out of luck. Come to think of it I don’t have cable. Fortunately I have a copy of the show, so I’ll watch along anyway.

114 comments on “A Magicians Fan’s Guide to Watching The Magicians

  1. Melissa Thornton says:

    Change is hard. I struggled to accept the finest of tweaks to the books. I watched the whole series and I feel like while it had a slow start, it picked up in rich scenery and delicious plot lines. I still wish that they focused a bit more on the bird migration to Fillory South, just because, HOW COOL, but I am willing to give it another season. In the meantime, I hope you are writing something equally as delicious for all of us to consume.

  2. KITEMAN says:


    The Magicians are my NEW ADDICTION!!! WOW!!!!!!

  3. Avo Manta says:

    I wonder if Shannara Chronicles would have been more popular if it had been made by SyFy rather then MTV trying to appeal to young audiences pining for Game of Thrones. I love magic, at least you actually see it in the Magicians

  4. Dave says:

    The show is awesome. I think it’s great that you (Lev) enjoy the show! I think it says something that you can enjoy a different take on something that you clearly put a lot of time into! I watched the show first bit now I’m reading the first book and when I have to put it down I can’t wait to et back to it! I’m also rewatching the show to catch the differences me see little niances that I missed that are me obvious in the book.

  5. P. Preston says:

    I just watched the SyFy adaptation of The Magicians. I really enjoyed reading the books, but I was very disappointed with the adaptation. It was not the plot variations that bothered me as much as the poor acting. By the time I had finished the last episode, I disliked each and every one of the characters and don’t plan to watch season two. I find it hard to believe you had any input at all. So sad.

  6. Krankshaft says:

    Loved the show. Ordered the trilogy on Amazon and couldn’t stop reading till I was done. The show scares me because the first season was good, but it could end up being another BBC Misfits, where the first two seasons are great, then you lose actors or writing goes Brakebills south on you. I just hope they put the scene with Mayakovsky from book three in the series. I wonder if he was named after Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky the Russian poet …

  7. Lisa says:

    Initially I started reading The Magician as the TV series started airing. Boy was I sooooo confused. As Mr. Grossman stated you don’t learn Julia’s story until book 2 so once I started on book 2 everything started to make more sense. I finally had to stop watching the series so I could finish the books as there is so much detail. I enjoyed the books immensely. Because of all the detail I started reading them again and as I guessed I’m picking up more that I missed first time reading. I’ve watched the series and completely understand the changes because it’s TV. I also would have liked to seen more of the migration to Brakebills South than what the TV series presented but that’s ok. I’m not sure why Janet’s name had to change to Margo or why Kady had to be added, but I am still enjoying and loving the TV series as much as I love the books, so far. I am definitely a fan!

  8. aloysius says:

    i missed the niffin alice and the way penny lost his hands was rather anticlimatic 🙁

  9. Steven Arcos says:

    I found it somewhat offensive when the solution to Elliot’s problems was presented as a heterosexual matrimony. He had been portrayed as a proud and confident if not troubled gay man – like all of the characters he carried a lot baggage. I was disappointed when, without much thought or concern, he was willing to give up his identity in order to “do something meaningful with his life.” Margo even warns him that he’ll never be able to be with anyone romantically ever again. This implies being gay is a choice – it is not – that causes misery and depression, and on a whim, anybody can just quit being gay, get married, and save yourself from an unfulfilling meaningless life.

    I read the books before watching the show and did not find this theme presented. Which really leaves me wondering why create this circumstance in the show? There are so many ways to have Elliot arrive to the same point without him renouncing his sexual identity. I loved the books! I really enjoyed the show, until this point. But now, I feel really let down.

  10. Eric Balingit says:

    Well I’m a little late to the game but so far so good. The writers have actually done a nice job of fitting the story into 45 minute segments. I like the books more mainly because they provide broader and more satisfying swings in the plot. But that doesn’t mean that the TV version isn’t attractive in its own right. 🙂

    You must be looking forward to season 2. I’m excited!

  11. Luciano Braga says:

    I`m reading book 2 and found about the TV series and started to watch online.
    The actor that plays Quentin is terrible, and the change all the history, it was better if they didn`t mention the books.
    I was doing an effort to watch, but I couldn`t pass episode 5, it`s just too lame…. Sorry but they ruined a great history.

  12. hisham harun says:

    I’m at episode 4 and I realise that while I do enjoy the show, at times the characters seem too whiny. “What’s wrong with the world? Why can’t everything be as right as rain? Why me? Why my dad?…” You feel like telling them, “suck it up and get a move on. Aren’t you the protagonists of the show?”

  13. Mel says:

    I didn’t know the books existed ’til I saw the first ads for the show, and when I decided I wanted to watch the show, I didn’t rush out, buy them, and read through them–very odd for me, since I’m usually pretty strict about reading source material before viewing adaptations.

    I found the first handful of episodes hard to swallow: too much pointless sex, too much whining, not fantastic acting or writing, etc. However, each episode got a little better, so I hung in there. By a certain episode (I don’t remember which one), I was genuinely enjoying it, though I could have really lived without the whole rape thing (I think rape is *way* overused as a device to create tension and drama, and I think it tends to thrust women into the role of damsel in distress, which as a woman who likes strong female characters, I have some issues with; all that said, sometimes it’s used less gratuitously than others, and sometimes it even works within the plot. Just on the whole, I’d really like to see it as a less frequently leaned upon device.)

    After the season ended, I got the books–and read through them pretty darn fast, because I enjoyed them that much. I could definitely find some nits to pick, but on the whole, I thought they were great–better than the series, for sure, and I ended up really liking the series (oh, and on the extremely slim off chance any of the actors read this comment, I’ll add that I thought the actors all settled into their roles and improved tremendously as the series went on).

    All that said, I can see quite easily why some of the changes that were made happened. Renaming Janet is an obvious one; Janet/Julia are a touch too close (though in a show, I think that would be less distracting than it actually was in the books). Some of the others have a lot to do with pacing and the like; some of the elements I liked best in the books would be hard to depict the same way in a visual format. Because I’m not a big fan of Julia (who seemed whiny to me and ended up with a heck of a “prize” if you will for not doing anything particularly great herself and mostly being stupid when she should have known better), I could have lived without her story going on simultaneously, but I can see why it made sense. So forth and so on.

    I guess the point (if I have one) of all this is that if you only gave the show a few episodes, you may possibly want to press on a bit; it does improve. And if you’re really just not inclined to enjoy an adaptation that deviates from its source material, then that’s OK, but you’ll likely just want to stay with the books. The books were never going to make sense translated one-to-one to the screen. That very rarely works well.

  14. Shaun Ackroyd says:

    Just watched the first season and it was fantastic. It was so good i rooted out the books and read them. I thought the series was excellent until i read the books and was blown away. They are now some of my favourite books now. I got half of my family reading them after describing it to them, they had to try it.

    As i watched the series first it didnt feel to lose anything but i must admit the filler episodes (Quentin in the asylum dream world….)that were no where in the books could have been replaced with some of the epic bits they left out. More on the south training camp etc… But hey it was still a very good season. Thanks to the makers for doing great on transferring it to the screen and helping me find it in the first place. Cant wait for Season two.

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