‘s A Man in Full is a massive book, in more ways than one. A 742-page social novel with an iconoclastic Atlanta real estate mogul at its center, to research and write. When it was published, in 1998, Farrar, Straus & Giroux ordered a jaw-dropping initial print run of ; two years later, it had sold . The book’s themes—money, power, race, masculinity—are just as grand.

So it’s beyond strange that the first word that comes to mind to describe the new Netflix adaptation of A Man in Full, premiering May 2, is slight. The talent involved is hardly minor. The prolific creator serves as the miniseries’ writer and showrunner; , who made an impressive feature directing debut with , helms half the season; and the cast includes , Diane Lane, , and . Yet the scant six episodes this team delivers feel superficial, disjointed, and ultimately pointless. Tasked with updating a 26-year-old novel that has aged poorly, Kelley pares back so much context and character development that what’s left never resolves into a cohesive story.

The series unfolds during the final 10 days of hometown hero Charlie Croker’s (Daniels) life. This isn’t a spoiler. The premiere opens with an overhead shot of the real estate titan sprawled out dead on a rug. In voiceover, Charlie explains, in his Foghorn Leghorn-meets-Boomhauer from drawl, that he wanted to make his mark on the world: “At the end of the day, a man’s gotta shake his balls.” After celebrating his 60th birthday with a flashy party where he’s serenaded by , he sees his flamboyant ways challenged at an ambush meeting with a bank he owes $800 million. They want their money back, and they’re going to ruin him if they don’t get it. For the banker Raymond Peepgrass (Tom Pelphrey, creepified with glasses), this fight is personal; Charlie treats him like a nobody, so the cartoonishly pathetic Raymond has become obsessed with taking him down.

There are a few poorly incorporated subplots. Charlie’s conflicted in-house counsel, Roger White (Aml Ameen) gets dragged into his Morehouse classmate, Atlanta mayor Wes Jordan’s (Harper), scheme to smear a right-wing opponent. A Black man named Conrad Hensley (Jon Michael Hill), the husband of Charlie’s assistant (Chanté Adams), gets arrested in a racially coded incident, and Roger is put on that case as well. Charlie’s ex-wife, Martha (Lane), and her friend Joyce (Liu), a skincare entrepreneur, lurk in the background, until they’re finally drawn into improbable storylines involving Raymond and sexual assault, respectively.

Bad decisions permeate every frame of this adaptation. There’s rampant overacting, nonsensical backstories, sex scenes that were maybe supposed to be funny but are actually just weird. The conclusion is rushed. One could complain that the Black and female characters have no interiority, but in fairness, no one here displays much of an internal life. Seething envy comprises Raymond’s whole personality. Charlie just keeps repeating his alpha-male koans.

Most of these problems originate from the gut renovation Kelley performed on Wolfe’s book, resituating it in the present and writing out many elements that might cause controversy in 2024: a KKK rally, Roger’s “Too White” nickname, and most strikingly, an Atlanta on the verge of combusting over rumors that a Black athlete raped a white heiress. In their place are generic invocations of 21st century feminist and racial-justice fights, plus the occasional dig at the real estate tycoon who became our 45th President, tied precariously together with thin strands of plot that strain believability. TV has a voracious appetite for literary adaptations these days, but not every era-defining doorstop stands the test of time. Better to let a sleeping Croker lie than to exhume him for a project so desperately bereft of, well, as he would put it, balls.