The new CBS miniseries adaptation of ‘The Stand’ sounds kind of awful

I rarely raise my hand whenever the Stephen King fandom is mentioned, but I’ve read many of his terrifying books. The unabridged version of The Stand was always my favorite of King’s books, and I read it several times in my teen years. It’s actually a pretty easy read, and I have strong feelings about it, about the story and characters and adaptations. My generation got a network miniseries (which was a hit in its time) based on the novel which had some good parts. I remember thinking Rob Lowe was miscast, but honestly, Molly Ringwald was great in it, as was Laura San Giacomo.

Why am I bringing this up? Because CBS made a new miniseries, which will apparently premiere on their streaming service. The cast looks pretty good, and this week, Vanity Fair released exclusive photos from the new series (you can see the Instagram slideshow above). Alexander Skarsgard as Randall Flagg, Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail, James Marsden as Stu Redman, Amber Hard as Nadine Cross, just to name a few. As I was reading VF’s coverage – which is largely a summary of the book, plus cast interviews – I was struck with one little stupid detail which is going to kill my boner for this series. Behold:

It’s important to note that the virus in The Stand is not an organic virus that leapt to humans from another species. “It’s a literally weaponized human-made device,” says [showrunner Taylor] Elmore, noting that an aspect of Stephen King’s story was the way humans too often engineer their own self destruction. And there will be no reference to the actual coronavirus. “This is an alternate version of how things could have gone.”

…The miniseries will shuffle the chronology of King’s book, meaning it won’t play out the same linear way as the earlier Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan miniseries that was a ratings hit for ABC in 1994. When the new show begins, the plague has already struck. The first episode, directed by The Fault in Our Stars filmmaker Josh Boone, opens with survivors in masks and protective gear cleaning up a neighborhood full of the dead in Boulder, Colorado. These men and women are among the last the remnants of humanity, trying to restart society again. Each of them is immune to the Captain Trips virus that wiped out everyone else they knew. They’re wearing masks and gear because removing countless decaying bodies is grim, messy work.

The showrunners said they loved Contagion—which is why they didn’t think it was necessary to repeat Contagion. “King does this great thing that we made the conscious decision not to do, which is to go to the 10,000-foot view of what’s going on,” Cavell said. “That’s not a luxury that our people have. What does the apocalypse look like from the ground where you can’t see what’s happening other places, you can’t see what’s happening to other people, you can only see your subjective experience?”

[From Vanity Fair]

It’s been years since I’ve read The Stand, but the narrative going in chronological order is incredibly important. It’s important for the world-building of a pandemic which kills 99% of the population. It’s important for the introduction of all of the characters, so we can see what they’ve lost in the plague, and we start to care about their stories and their survival. Doing everything in flashbacks is so stupid from just a narrative perspective, but also… the scripts will be a f–king mess with all of the expositional dialogue of trying to “set up” characters and situations half-way through their f–king storylines. Pus, they’re actually kneecapping the “horror” aspect of King’s story – the horror of seeing how that kind of deadly plague would really unfold, how quickly it would happen, how society would collapse in a matter of weeks. That is important to the narrative too. So… I think I’m gonna pass on this? Tell me if it’s any good, or if it’s just some narrative circle jerk from two snowflake showrunners who want to make King’s classic story “their own.”

(I also feel justified in preemptively declaring that this miniseries sounds like garbage because I had a similar feeling about Greta Gerwig’s take on Little Women, and guess what? That version WAS garbage. Gerwig also unnecessarily f–ked up the linear storytelling for no reason.)

Photos courtesy of CBS/Vanity Fair.

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37 Responses to “The new CBS miniseries adaptation of ‘The Stand’ sounds kind of awful”

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  1. Chickaletta says:

    …..but do we really need this right now?

  2. Bryn says:

    This has been in the works for awhile now…long before the pandemic. Is it necessary? No. Its been done.

    • Adrianna says:

      It would just be a letdown for me. The book was too good to ever be done justice with in a t.v. show.

  3. cer says:

    I don’t have a problem with them trying a non-chronological approach, I don’t want a remake of the 1994 miniseries, and as much as I loved the book there’s a lot that can be tweaked.
    And even if it sucks I’ll still watch the ASkars parts.

    • Susie Moloney says:

      Right? I’ll watch anything he’s in. And I’m okay with this idea, it might make the “stand” scarier, since I never felt like that was the particularly scary part of the book. Mostly because King made the “bad” guys who followed Flagg not truly evil, but mostly just confused, or ill-advised. They were just as afraid of him as the Boulder people. So, yeah. I’ll watch. With RELISH!

      • lucy2 says:

        Same, I’ll watch him in anything.

        I’m not a big Stephen King fan, and I don’t like apocalyptic/plague stories, but I’ll still watch this for Alex. Plus I’m pretty sure the showrunner was involved with Justified, which was an EXCELLENT series.

  4. lemonylips says:

    I understand that this is a good and bad timing. I fall into the group who doesn’t mind watching it now, although I understand why it can be stressful. I have not seen other adaptation so I have nothing to compare it with. But I was also one of the crazy people who actually repeated watching the Contagion when this all started. My bf couldn’t but I needed to remind myself about being careful and taking things we don’t fully understand seriously. And since I’ve seen it before it was more of a course on the pandemic than a film that left me think about it for hours. So I actually want to see this now, from the perspective we all have, seeing if it can trigger some other view on what might come if…. but I do understand it can be a hard subject to swallow. 

  5. Laura csmpos says:

    Yeah, you’re wrong on this one. Little women was terrific, I thought the flashing back and forth brought new life into it. To each their own. This should be terrific, if it doesn’t cause too much anxiety. And… vampire Eric!

    • Feedmechips says:

      Agreed. I really enjoyed Little Women, and my fiance did too.

    • Tiger says:

      Thank you! I missed your comment, but I am glad they are not retreading the exact same path with combined characters (Rita and Nadine), missing back stories that lead to flat characters or baffling motivations. No one came off as complex except for Stu, and Molly Ringwald was career ending God awful.

      I remember people talking about how great/perfect the original IT was and that it did not need a remake. I was so embarrased for them. Save that for things like Carrie, Misery, The Shawsank Redemption and The Shining where they nailed across the board the first time.

    • lucy2 says:

      I enjoyed Gerwig’s Little Women, mostly because I like Saoirse and Florence. I thought it was well done and well acted, though the flashbacks at the end were a bit too much.

    • BButton says:

      The new version of Little Women was horrible. Cast, clothes, script…all wrong. LMA would hate it.

  6. Mia4s says:

    Yeah I remember being glued to the miniseries (Gary Sinise was great in it too). But that whole sequence of the virus being unleashed and spreading? That was vital to the horror (I still remember the “Don’t Fear the Reaper” sequence!). I guess we will see but yeah, enthusiasm down a bit.

    • grabbyhands says:

      That miniseries pretty much ruined Don’t Fear the Reaper and Don’t Dream It’s Over for me. I still can’t hear either song without slightly shuddering. Excellent job on their part.

    • Chaine says:

      That “Don’t Fear the Reaper” opening sequence is absolutely iconic TV! I still remember the first night sitting with my roommate and watching those first two minutes and being like “holy s***!” I’m sorry, no reason for a remake of this story.

  7. Ripley says:

    “ It’s important for the introduction of all of the characters, so we can see what they’ve lost in the plague, and we start to care about their stories and their survival.“

    Yes, this. I love The Stand miniseries and book (book more, but that miniseries is one of the best adaptations in my opinion). Sometimes I dream I’m a casting agent for a new one. Timothy Olyphant was always my choice for Stu. Nerd alert!

    • dj says:

      @ Ripley. YES. to Timothy Olyphant for dream casting of Stu! Sorry. The Stand is my absolute favorite King book. The miniseries was very, very good. If, I saw any reason to remake (which I do not) it. I am not loving the casting here at all. No to James Marsden who is a good enough actor just not Stu Redmon. He needs to be more an every man. I like Amber Heard but I am not sure she has the acting chops for Nadine. Laura San Giacomo was so GOOD as Nadine. Big shoes to feel. I really like Eric the Viking too but I am not loving his pompadour or whatever, big hair and fake beard this take is. Marsden would have actually been a better choice as the Walking Dude. That would have been more interesting. Oh well. Enjoy all.

  8. Piratewench says:

    I have been reading The Stand again since the pandemic started, probably the fifth time I’ve read it! An incredible tome.

    James Marsden as Stu is, in my mind, CORRECT. I appreciate that. I thought Laura San Giacomo was perfect in the miniseries, she became the Nadine in my mind so utterly after I saw her in that part, I can never picture Nadine as anyone but her even though I read the book before I saw the series.

    They better not eff this up. But if they do, add it to the giant pile of crap movies based on King’s wonderful, excellent novels. His stories just don’t translate well to a movie, mini series format, in my opinion. Far too long and deep a journey to be caught on film, and I agree the characterization is everything and the stories don’t hold up at all without it.

  9. emmy says:

    I don’t know the book but in general, if you want people on the edge of their seats, keep a linear aspect. This is like reading the last page first and while some people enjoy that, it is not going to help the suspense.

    I get tired of having stories told in flashbacks. It’s become the lazy showrunner’s go-to and then, when it really makes sense, it doesn’t have the same impact anymore.

  10. grabbyhands says:

    I don’t necessarily mind flashbacks, but the linear storytelling was crucial to THIS story – it is what helps build the dread and horror of what is going to happen.

    Oh well, I guess at least it has Askars in it.

  11. Veronica S. says:

    1.) This is absolutely the wrong time to be doing this adaptation and will just feed into people’s paranoia.

    2.) I can count on one hand the number of decent Stephen King adaptations, and I suspect a lot of that has to do with how cerebral his writing style is. It’s very hard to translate that to screen without very serious, clever changes made to the script, and “The Stand” is, well, it’s big. There’s a lot to fit on screen. Probably the smartest way I would think to go about it is to actually cut characters and streamline the thematic plot. I’m not sure a short serious would work otherwise – it’s really something that needs a full-fledged show with seasons.

    • notasugarhere says:

      It was announced and filmed back in Sept/Oct/Nov. Hollywood is scrambling now, with most production shut down. They have to release what they already have filmed.

  12. Züri says:

    I loved the original miniseries and the book. Why remake what was so good because you can’t think of anything else creatively?

  13. Tiger says:

    Original was a rushed campy soap opera that does not hold up outside of a couple performances. Oh, and the bad special effects and ending. People take off your nostalgia glasses. It was not Butch and the Sundance Kid or The Last Picture Show, never try to remake it quality. Worst of all it was not scary!

    By the way, the book went back on the best sellers lists over the last six months and Contagion is killing it on VOD, so I would say their is an appetite for it IRL.

  14. Pineapple says:

    And can we just say, Alexander Skarsgard … I would watch that man eat a sandwich. I would watch that man play with a slinky.

    So handsome and his roles are so, so varied. He seems to love the craft of acting. I adore him.

    • lucy2 says:

      I agree, I really like the variety of roles he’s taking. I’m sure he has tons of opportunity, so that helps, but I think he chooses pretty well based on what’s interesting to him.

  15. Mina_Esq says:

    I’ll give it a watch for Alex Skarsgard 🤷‍♀️ I’m not sure how far I’ll get because I’m finding that I can’t handle watching anything to do with pandemics right now. The other night I had to stop watching the TV show Medici when Florence gets hit by the plague.

  16. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Well Alexander is in it so I’m watching. Garbage or not.

  17. Faye G says:

    I’m reading The Stand right now, it’s good so far and oddly comforting in a way. I like post apocalyptic books and pandemic books in general so there’s that.

    I’m only partway through, but I hope they don’t mess with the timeline too much. Why change the source material just for the sake of it? The cast sounds awesome so I’ll definitely give it a go.

    Oh and if anyone wants a good pandemic novel, try Station Eleven. It has much less horror than Stephen King, it’s more about the connections people make before and after a pandemic than the actual virus itself. And it’s way shorter than the stand so that’s a plus!

  18. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Throughout the years, I’ve enjoyed reading King. And once you’ve read a couple, you can totally pick his touch in any film. His books ALWAYS outrank productions, but some are getting better. Castle Rock is awesome. And the recent It remake was really good too. So I’ll certainly watch lol. M-o-o-n. That spells moon.

  19. wildwaffles says:

    One of my all time, top 5 favorite books. I liked the miniseries a lot and agree the non-linear time line does not bode well for this new one. The rapid degradation of society was part of the horror. But, maybe, just maybe, since we are living the pandemic horror at the moment, viewers will be ok with that part in flashbacks. We won’t need the build up, we’ve been getting that on the daily news for months. It might work in this specific time.

  20. Test Testing says:

    That’s a no for me dawg. LOVE the book and no.

  21. Jezebeelzebub says:

    I definitely don’t think that this is a “bad time” for The Stand. If there are people out there who are that delicate of sensibility, then they could just refrain from watching, reading, or otherwise absorbing material that troubles them.

    Having said that, I’m extremely dubious about anyone adapting any of Stephen Kong’s books. That shit is so hit-or-miss. Its either SO GOOD (like Misery, Pet Semetary, Carrie) or so fucking *awful* (like The Mangler or The Dark Tower- which I will forever be so pissed off about). There’s really no middle ground. And I love The Stand. I’m a HUGE fan of Stephen King and it hurts my goddamn feelings so bad when his awesome books get turned into shitty movies.

    However, I do think that Skarsgard would make a killer Flagg.

  22. A.Key says:

    Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is the best adaptation that’s ever been done and a wonderful film in general. Calling it garbage is just nonsense.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Everyone on here, including the site writers, are allowed their own opinions. If you do not like Kasier’s opinion, read elsewhere.

  23. Valerie says:

    An unpopular opinion, but I thought The Stand was a terrible novel too.