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Adapt This: “Bluesman” by Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo


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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from various comic creators and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo (NBM Publishing)

The Premise: After being framed for a murder he didn’t commit, blues musician Lem Taylor is forced to trek across Arkansas during the late ’20s, desperately trying to avoid the police and an angry mob that see the color of skin as proof of his guilt.

The Pitch: Bluesman combines the most compelling elements of a period piece set in the deep South in the heat of vicious segregation with a chase story that has its main character fleeing across the state via foot, truck, and train. The story is structured in three sections of four chapters each — like a traditional 12-bar blues song — which also lends itself nicely to a television miniseries format.

Ideally, an adaptation of Bluesman would take the form of a cable miniseries, able to plumb the racially heated depths of that time in American history, and refrain from pulling any punches with the realities of what a black man trekking across the state was likely to encounter. Set the entire tale against a soundtrack of classic blues songs of the era, and you’ll have a road-trip story unlike any other.

While an adaptation of Bluesman would certainly require a strong, capable male lead for the role of Lem Taylor — who should also be able to carry a tune — there’s a great cast of supporting characters that can offer talented actors a chance to shine. The story is far from an ensemble film, but it does offer some nice, meaty roles for its supporting cast to chew on and make their own.

One element of the story that should certainly appeal to an interested network is the fact that, despite being set in the ’20s, there are very few set pieces that will require much de-aging and tampering. Although Lem Taylor treks across the state, the dangers he faces along the way force him off the major roads and into the fields and farmlands of Arkansas. On the rare occasions that he’s forced into the city, much of the action takes place indoors — leaving little need to create a full-scale 1920s thoroughfare.

As I mentioned earlier, the structure of the story also makes for an easy transition from page to screen — not only because of its three-act architecture, but also due to its growing sense of spectacle as the tale goes on. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t read it yet, Bluesman offers a fairly impressive finale that serves as a truly epic conclusion to Lem’s journey.

The Closing Argument: Put the Bluesman adaptation into the hands of a capable director who understands how to make the best of the cable-miniseries format, and there’s the potential for a great blend of heart-wrenching drama and soul-stirring music, and a road trip that’s equal parts pursuit of the American Dream and life-or-death survival.

This Week’s Guest Recommendation: Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III

“I’d watch an adaptation of anything Warren Ellis, but the one with the most screen potential is Desolation Jones, his series with J.H. Williams III that starred a quirky former British secret agent/science experiment available for the craziest private investigations (such as cases involving the lost pornography of Adolf Hitler). With elements of modern noir and police procedurals, plus an oddball personality akin to ‘House,’ Desolation Jones would make an amazing TV series. And did I mention the Hitler porn?”

Brian Truitt, Entertainment Reporter at USA TODAY and Associate Editor at USA WEEKEND magazine.

Would “Bluesman” make a good television miniseries? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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