Stephen King’s books are long. Longer than the Bible, in some cases. That’s likely why many of the movie adaptations over the years have either been bad on their own or nowhere close to the source material (though these one’s were well done, in my opinion). But they’ve been great for miniseries television, and can be turned into more episodic TV if you loosen up the term “based upon.” I’m judging these on their own merits, not necessarily their fidelity to King’s literary work.
1. The Stand
I may be remembering this with a warped view since I was only 8 when it aired in 1994, but I remember this as more of an event than an ABC television miniseries. And that cast. I don’t have enough room to name even the top actors, but the set might as well have been an Emmy and Oscars afterparty. Did I understand much of it? Probably not. But it certainly made an impression.
I’ll admit, I probably have this one higher than it should be because I’m conflating the Hulu miniseries with the book. I may give a list of my favorite five King books someday (though who the hell can really do that and keep the list to under twenty?), and this book will be near the top. But the miniseries did it justice and is worth watching.
I am not scared of clowns, so Pennywise did not scar me like it did many children upon its airing in 1990. That may be because I didn’t see the ABC series until I was older (no way my mom was going to let me watch that story at 4). But that opening scene haunts everyone who’s seen it.
4. The Outsider
I probably have this lower than many people might. And more frustratingly, I have no concrete reason why. But it was solidly produced and well-acted, as all HBO shows tend to be (Jason Bateman is one of my favorites). The book was obviously better, so I may have to revisit this show later when there’s a bit more time between them.
5. Castle Rock
This Hulu show is unique in that it’s not based on any of King’s individual stories, but rather a mash-up of characters and settings from his collected works. I was intrigued and thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of the series, but that waned a bit. I love Lizzy Caplan and Tim Robbins, so Season 2 is worth it just to watch them act.
A note about Mr. Mercedes: I did not love the novel of the same name, the first in the Bill Hodges trilogy. I think it’s because King ventured into straightforward crime fiction. There are many masters at that particular craft, and King’s mastery lies elsewhere (in my opinion). But I know there is a TV series based on those books on the obscure Audience network. I did not watch it, but wanted to acknowledge it’s existence for those of you wondering if perhaps I just wasn’t aware of its existence.