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?”
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.)
— CBS All Access (@CBSAllAccess) May 20, 2020
An afternoon update to #TheStand first look:
A new image of @RealAmberHeard as Nadine Cross — a woman drawn to chaos and darkness in Stephen King's story.
— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) May 20, 2020
Photos courtesy of CBS/Vanity Fair.