‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ shows how an adaptation can hit the wrong note

The popular book seemed the perfect fit for a live-action adaptation. Why, then, does the show fall flat?

Shanjida Nowshin Chowdhury
Published : 3 May 2023, 01:30 PM
Updated : 3 May 2023, 01:30 PM

The following article contains spoilers for the book Daisy Jones & The Six and its TV adaptation. 

Following the colossal success of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid became a household name in the online book community. Her works had the gossipy fun of delving into the scandalous lives of the rich and famous, but had characters that were specific and nuanced enough to hook readers.

2019’s Daisy Jones & The Six is no exception. Fans couldn’t get enough of the story of a 1970s rock band, modelled on the legendary Fleetwood Mac, that fell apart due to drug use, love triangles, and intra-band conflict. The most distinctive part of the novel is the decision to present the story entirely through dialogue, framed as interviews for a documentary. 

Because of this unusual stylistic choice, many felt Daisy Jones & The Six was more of a script than a novel. Though the book enjoyed tremendous success, the fandom almost unanimously agreed that the story needed an audio-visual adaptation to truly thrive.

When Amazon Prime first announced a 10-episode limited series adapting the book, it was met with exuberant excitement. But, after the show came out in March, it was clear the excitement was a bit premature.

To be fair to the show, many parts actually work pretty well. The music – always a difficult thing to nail down for fictional bands – did an excellent job of capturing the sound of Daisy Jones & The Six as described in the book, despite the differing lyrics. The production design was also extremely faithful to the novel, with great attention paid to the costumes, the make-up, and the sets. Even much of the casting is on point. When judged on looks alone, it’s clear a lot of effort went into realising Reid’s world. 

Sadly, the dedication to the source material ends with the aesthetics. It’s often said that a good adaptation elevates the original source material by changing it in line with the needs of a different medium. The Amazon series deviates from the book, but many of its changes fail.

The biggest problem is the altered dynamics between the characters, which often rob them of their complexity and ambiguity. 

Take the central love triangle between Daisy, Billy, and Billy’s wife Camila. In the book, the attraction between Daisy and Billy explores the idea of emotional cheating, wrestling with the question of whether passion is more important than stability in a romantic relationship.

The fact that Daisy and Billy never take the leap beyond the emotional threshold of their relationship allows the love triangle to exist in a grey area that inspires deliberation and debate. But in the show, their relationship is much more overtly physical. By reducing their connection to simple adultery, the show removes a layer of intrigue from the story and detracts from the core themes of the book. 

The relationship between Daisy and Camila, the other two spokes of the triangle, is also spoiled by the decision to bring them together in a forced sense of solidarity and sisterhood.

In the book, the two characters don’t interact much. This separation helps to build suspense about what will happen when they confront the unspoken tension between them. And that tension pays off in a final scene where Camila very calmly gives Daisy the reality check that ultimately saves her life. 

The series decides to make the two friends early on. The choice seems sincere at first, but it doesn’t develop beyond the basic platitudes of ‘girls supporting girls’. The superficial nature of this change becomes clear in the final episode where, instead of the emotionally charged and empathetic exchange from the book, it ends with an argument that lacks depth and maturity. 

The book doesn’t have the same friendship between the two characters the series does, but what exists is ultimately stronger – respect, understanding, and empathy – not just as women, but as human beings. 

Ultimately, Amazon’s Daisy Jones & The Six is neither the best nor the worst book adaptation to exist. In its own way, the show is still quite enjoyable. But, in translating the words to the screen, the show lost much of their emotional complexity and gravity. It lost the essence of what made the book special in the first place. As someone who read the book, I can’t help being disappointed at the unrealised potential. 

This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.