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Privileged: Novel vs. TV Series, Which Is Worse?

September 19th, 2008 9:10am EDT
PrivilegedPrivileged is based on a novel titled How to Teach the Filthy Rich by Zoey Dean. It is your typical fish out of water story. Megan, a recent Yale graduate loses her job at a celebrity magazine because she has no interest in writing about celebrities. The worst part of her losing her job isn't the actual unemployment so much as the timing. The night before she's fired, her apartment burns down. Megan's boss suggests that she take another job, that of the tutor for spoiled twin heiresses in Palm Beach. The heiresses are Rose and Sage Baker, and their grandmother Laurel is willing to pay off Megan's college debt on the condition that her granddaughters get into Duke University. As a nice little motivation for her grandchildren, Laurel threatens to disinherit them if they don't. Now Megan and the girls all have something to lose. Megan realizes that she has to dress and talk like the girls if she wants to have any influence over them, and the twins begin to let her into their lives.

PrivilegedThe CW is not known for character-driven programming. Their last book to TV adaptation was Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl has one thing Privileged doesn't-rich girls that you want to watch. On the pages of the novel, Rose and Sage Baker are fully realized. They are horrible enough to talk protagonist Megan Smith into skinny-dipping in order to expose her naked to all of their friends. They use the way she looks against her until she begins to hide her real personality. When we first meet them on the television pilot, they're just indifferent. Megan tries to motivate them to study and they ignore her. It's not until the episode is almost over that we see any of the depths of meanness of the controlling twin Sage. The TV Sage briefly manages to get Megan fired and invites Megan's estranged younger sister to a charity event.

The twins aren't the only ones that have not benefited from a switch from page to the small screen. In the novel, Megan is the kind of protagonist you can relate to. She's smart but not taking herself too serious. Onscreen she's more slapstick than heartfelt. Megan's back-story also undergoes dramatic changes. On Privileged, Megan is a native to Palm Beach and has an estranged boyfriend-stealing sister and alcoholic father. The biggest problem with the sister storyline is that this was originally how Megan managed to connect to the less secure twin Rose. They bonded over having older sisters that they felt they couldn't live up to. Since the twins aren't so mean, now, I'm sure they'll find an even more obvious way for the girls to bond.

The show has managed to extend its longevity by getting rid of certain things that weren't crucial to begin with. Megan's sweet but boring boyfriend is gone and replaced with two slightly more interesting suitors. The competition between the poor boy and the rich kid isn't new but neither is anything else on this show. Television is becoming overrun with rich kids and luxury lifestyles. A plus to making the Baker twins slightly younger means it could be awhile before Megan has to leave Palm Beach. Privileged is still relying too much on old teen drama formulas for it too feel original, but at least the novel provides plenty of good and bad material to draw from.

Lauren Attaway
Story by Lauren Attaway

Starpulse contributing writer


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