Still a relatively new player on the scene, Paramount Television is looking for that big project to make its mark on Hollywood. And it might have found it, looking to adapt Robert A. Heinlein’s famous Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time ever on television.
Paramount has joined forces with Universal Cable Productions to adapt the book for Syfy, which could land on the cable channel’s schedule as early as 2018.
Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Syfy who now runs all of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter she has a special connection to the 1961 classic.
“From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn’t just a science-fiction masterpiece, it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever. The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today’s world. As a fan I can’t wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event.”
Heinlein’s book was controversial from the moment it was published, primarily because of the free-love society it promoted for its human-turned-Martian visitor experiencing life on Earth. In fact, Stranger pre-dates the hippie movement while, as some claimed, predicting it was going to happen. By 1962, it was the first science-fiction novel to end up on the New York Times best-sellers list.
The book also would influence another craze that would hit in the 1970s and 1980s – waterbeds. Such furniture did not become commercially available until 1971, but Heinlein included waterbeds in his book, likely inspiring their creation in the first place. Stranger wasn’t the first time Heinlein talked about his waterbed, however. It also has mentions in previous novels as far back as 1942’s Beyond This Horizon.
For those who might not be familiar with the story, its protagonist is Valentine Michael Smith who comes to Earth as a young adult after being born on Mars and raised by Martians.
The novel explores his interactions with – and eventual transformation of – terrestrial culture. It predicted many of the movements and messages of the 1960s – from free love and hippie communes to organized attempts at world peace.
This is the third time Paramount and Universal have worked together in recent years. The two also collaborated on Shooter for USA, which premiered Tuesday starring Ryan Phillippe, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Omar Epps. Pendergast is another series the two are working on, and is still under development, with the hopes of it landing on Spike TV.
Amy Powell, the president of Paramount Television, also talked about a personal connection to Stranger in a Strange Land in a statement.
“This novel has resonated with me since college and there’s a reason it has continued to find new fans for over 40 years. Syfy’s understanding of imaginative and futuristic programming is unmatched, making them an ideal partner for this series.”
Paramount Television has had to basically start from scratch in recent years. The former company that carried the name is now owned by CBS Corp., which was taken during the Viacom split of 2006. Paramount resurrected the company with the hopes of adapting some of its film library to television, beginning with Beverly Hills Cop which would eventually die in the pilot stage.
Heinlein was 80 when he died in 1988, and always maintained that the book that gave us terms like “grok” was not science-fiction, even if people did grok Spock a few years later. Heinlein’s correspondence with his agent was published in his 1989 autobiography Grumbles From the Grave where he talked about what Stranger was actually intended to be.
“This story is … satire on religion and sex. It is not science-fiction by any stretch of the imagination. If I cut out religion and sex, I am very much afraid that I will end with a non-alcoholic martini.”
The correspondence was from Heinlein’s attempts to not have his original novel abridged, something his widow Virginia Heinlein corrected that in 1991 with the release of his original uncut manuscript.
Heinlein’s estate has been busy recently. Not only is Syfy preparing a Stranger in a Strange Land series, but Sony Entertainment announced last week it was planning a new version of the author’s Starship Troopers.
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