Delirium TV pilot: You Can’t Be Happy Unless You’re Unhappy Sometimes

delirium tv pilot

Last year YA fans were disappointed with the news that the TV pilot of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium was not picked up by Fox. Usually when a pilot is not picked up that is the end of it – they never see the light of day. But, in an unusual move, Hulu is streaming the Delirium pilot for all to see for a limited time! Could this series get a second life?

Delirium is a YA dystopian romance book about a society where love is outlawed. The story follows a 17-year-old girl named Lena who is about to undergo a procedure that will “cure” her from love. The TV pilot starts Emma Roberts as Lena.

Here’s the official book description:

delirium book lauren oliver

Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe.
I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.
I want to get it over with.
It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet.
Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.
The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Delirium fans gathered for twitter viewing parties with author Lauren Oliver (she’d never seen the pilot before!) to see this YA favorite on the small screen. There’s even a special Delirium inspired dinner menu if you want to really get thematic with it. You can follow everyone’s reactions on twitter with #DeliriumPilot.

I watched the pilot the morning of its release on Hulu, and overall I found it pretty entertaining. It seems like a trend to pack a whole book’s worth of material into one episode of television (About a Boy), and the Delirium pilot in fact wraps up much like the book version.

Seventeen-year-old Lena Holloway (Emma Roberts) lives with her sister and her brother-in-law, and she’s eager to find out her husband match and get the cure for deliria. (In the book Lena lives with her aunt & uncle and cousins) In her formal interview with the authorities Lena meets Alex (Daren Kagasoff), a member of the Resistance /double agent who is tasked with recruiting Lena to the cause, but of course they fall in love instead.

Delirium Pilot Alex and Lena
Lena (Emma Roberts) meets Alex (Daren Kagasoff) in Delirium. Source:

Hana is Lena’s BFF, who breaks the law by going to dance parties (forbidden, just like Footloose!) Her husband match is someone with big connections. But, I spy a love triangle coming on with Julian.

Julian (Gregg Sulkin) appears in the pilot, even though he first shows up in the books in the sequel Pandemonium. Julian is the “uncured” son of Thomas Fineman (Billy Campbell- remember him from The Killing?), hothead leader of the Deliria-Free America group. Julian is starting to question his father’s anti-love tactics. He also looks to be infatuated with Lena’s friend Hana, an interesting change from the book.

Elyse Hargrove (Michael Michele) is a senator and presidential candidate sparring with Thomas Fineman. Her son Fred (Delon de Metz) is matched with Hana.

I liked that the Resistance group is a focus in the pilot, and some familiar names pop up. Their mission is a little different than in the book though- I wonder why!

Tack and Alex in Delirium
Tack (Corey Reynolds) and Alex (Daren Kagasoff) in Delirium. Source:

I enjoyed the little references to love in the pilot that popped up on book and record shelves in Thomas Fineman’s pre-cure room. Nice touch! Also was happy that the dance parties at 37 Brooks, Hana and Lena’s running scenes, the beach scene, the sheep at the interview, and the police raid made the cut.

Even though it’s essentially the same, the TV ending doesn’t pack a punch like the book ending. Since so much plot is crammed into 45 minutes rather than the slow buildup of the book, it’s hard to get fully invested in the story.

Though the TV show takes liberties with the source book, I think the series has potential and I’d like to see where the story was heading. Hope the TV powers that be give this pilot another look, and perhaps slow down the story a bit so the viewers can connect more with the characters.

So, what did author Lauren Oliver think? I don’t know what she felt overall about the pilot, though she does feel our pain now about the book ending:

I asked Movie Date Andrew to take a look at the pilot and share his thoughts (solely based on the TV version since he hasn’t read the book.) He says:

I liked the pilot okay, but I guess I expect a little more futuristic gloss (nifty personal gadgets, flying cars, floating touchscreen displays) with my sci-fi TV. This show’s modest production values made it seem more like a CW teen drama than the network blockbuster it needs to be. I also don’t feel the pilot did a satisfactory job of explaining what was so wrong with love/delirium; an orientation video (a la the President Snow film in Hunger Games) showing the potential dangers of romance would have helped a lot. Finally, a little bit more humor might have defused the tendency towards accidental self-parody; after hearing real music, Julian whimpers, “It made me FEEL,” and Thomas angrily retorts, “Now you know why we have laws!” The exchange comes across as comical. To have characters acknowledge the absurdity of their situation would have made it easier to laugh along with them, instead of at their expense. But Emma Roberts is great; I’d love to see more of her as the unwitting, fish-out-of-water resistance fighter on the wrong side of the fence. The book series sounds intriguing, too, and I’m dying to know more of the story—maybe Netflix could pick this one up?

Watch the trailer below, and check out the Delirium pilot on Hulu:

Have you seen the Delirium pilot – what did you think?


8 thoughts on “Delirium TV pilot: You Can’t Be Happy Unless You’re Unhappy Sometimes

  1. Last night, I watched the pilot having not read the book. I’ve heard of Delirium by Lauren Oliver (how could you not?), but have never tried reading it. From an outsider’s perspective, it was an intriguing plot and I enjoyed the characters, but I think I can see why it was not picked up. It seemed almost comical at parts and I think that there’s definitely no shortage of dystopian plot lines in the fictional world. That being said, the pilot had good acting and writing and I say that from the point of view of someone that hasn’t read the book yet. I just don’t see how it separates itself from other dystopian shows/books.

    1. Lucy says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the pilot! I can see what you mean about the lack of originality.The book is what I would call romantic dystopia, something that I don’t think was sold in the pilot. Andrew and I were laughing at parts of it too, especially the scenes with Thomas Fineman.

  2. We watched it last night, and this comment:

    “Since so much plot is crammed into 45 minutes rather than the slow buildup of the book, it’s hard to get fully invested in the story.”

    is exactly what my hubby and I came away saying! It was really hard to feel very connected to the characters or Lena & Alex’s romance when it was all so rushed. :

    1. Lucy says:

      I totally agree, Jen! So much of the book is about Lena & Alex’s romance but it was such a whirlwind in the pilot that the message was lost. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Too bad this is not available in Canada also.

  4. […] Delirium TV pilot: You Can’t Be Happy Unless You’re Unhappy Sometimes […]

  5. kay says:

    Oh, I completely forgot this was happening! I need to find a way to get a look at it. I am super skeptical of Emma Roberts as Lena (that’s not really how I imagined her, to be honest) but I am still really excited about seeing it.

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