From Text to Screen: A [tele]Vision of Stephen King’s Works

I recently read about J.J. Abrams’ wish to purchase the rights to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 with a view to creating  a miniseries or TV series. This news comes as many King fans await the premiere of the Under the Dome (CBS) series in June 2013. The notion of Abrams taking point on Kings time-travelling novel is not unattractive. Thus, there is much afoot in the realms of film and television where King’s works are concerned. In my opinion King’s works are highly conducive to television/miniseries. Haven, a series loosely based on the The Colorado Kid, is a good example of what can be done with quality writing, directing and imagination.

At the same time Ben Affleck continues to do battle with the insurmountable task of condensing The Stand into a manageable screen play. It strikes me that the three aforementioned texts are mammoth in page count and epic in content, making all three ideal for miniseries adaptations that can deliver full appreciations of them. I read of Affleck’s struggle with The Stand and cringe at the thought of the potential butchery that may be done to one of my favourites if it is condensed into one film. It was originally released as a 4-part miniseries in 1993, much too short in my opinion, and containing many plot differences and deviations from the novel. A decent 8-10 part series would just about suffice to cover all of the major plots, sub plots and overlaps.

Abrams seems well suited to 11/22/63 with his penchant for playing with time and ambiguity (Lost and Fringe). I particularly enjoyed Alcatraz which was unfortunately cancelled before the first series ended. The show focused on an alternative history of the infamous prison weaving strong elements of science fiction and suspense into the narrative. Moreover, Abrams is fond of having a strong female lead to steer his TV shows (Olivia of Fringe, Rebecca of Alcatraz, Charlie of Revolution, etc) just as King has done in several novels. If these traits and shows are to be taken as Abram’s curriculum vitae then his suitability for King’s 11/22/63 is clear. His constant allusions to King’s works in his shows have certainly not gone unnoticed! Perhaps the hints need to be taken…

Contemporary American television is gifted with a number of directors and writers, the seemingly endless possibilities of CGI, and huge audiences, making now a prime time for developing ambitious series. Abrams is one of those directors, and two others have caught my eye: Alan Ball (True Blood, Banshee) and Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead [S.1]). Ball is well-versed in the supernatural, crime noir, and southern gothic. I’m sure Ball could make something interesting out of In the Tall Grass for example, a short story that engages with southern gothic, surrealism and mystery. If Affleck wasn’t ensconced in The Stand I even wouldn’t mind seeing what Ball could bring to the table.

Moreover, Darabont’s credibility in the world of King adaptations/remakes has long been copperfastened by his success with The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist. Each film remained loyal to King’s original vision and imagination. Needless to say, he is my number 1 pick for any King-related venture. I had always hoped that he would take on The Stand, but again, it remains in Affleck’s care for now.

In all, King’s oeuvre is attracting much attention from some very capable film/television figures. While we have seen many adaptations of his works before – some good, some not – I think this is a great time for directors and writers to dig into King’s large and varied body of work. Given the quality of television that America is currently delivering, King fans would be right to have high expectations of any and all projects on the horizon.


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This entry was posted by americasstudies on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 at 4:21 pm and is filed under America, arts and humanities, Film, literature . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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