still fro the 1980 mini series of Shogun

‘Shōgun’ Has Been Adapted Once Before, and We’re Desperate to Watch It

We are currently living in a time of exceptional television, as very clearly evidenced by the presence of shows like Shōgun on our screens. This is not, however, that specific story’s first time being told the visual medium, as James Clavell’s books have been adapted once before.

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Based on the books by Clavell, which are in turn based on real-life events, Shōgun has become one of the most talked about series of 2024. With storylines of epic proportions, riveting dialogue, beautiful cinematography, and phenomenal acting, the show has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best shows currently streaming.

This epic series is not the first time this story has been told. In 1980 Paramount Television also adapted Clavell’s work to create a mini-series of the same title. It was the first American production to be filmed in its entirety in Japan, and only three of the Japanese actors spoke English at the time of filming. It also contained many explicit actions previously considered taboo for American television, including the showcasing of urination, a beheading, and the discussion of sexuality and suicide (Japanese seppuku).

The mini-series was a critical success as well as a commercial success with NBC reporting it was seeing its highest ever weekly ratings. It won numerous awards including three Golden Globes, three Primetime Emmys, and a People’s Choice Award. The success of the 1980 iteration continued the trend of mini-series on American television and is probably a big part of why FX decided to reboot it decades later.

While the modern version is available to watch on FX, Disney+, and Hulu, the 1980 Shōgun appears to only be available by buying the DVD set. Hopefully, with the new series’ extreme popularity, that will change soon.

(featured image: NBC)

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Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.