Wow, doesn’t it feel wonderful when a new TV show appears and shows us that it’s gotten everything right?!
This article contains some spoilers for the opening episode of 11.22.63
When you get down to it, writing (or at the very least, writing of a creative ilk) is little more than simple wish fulfilment. Think about it: from misspelled online slash fiction travesties that detail Thor and Loki’s brotherly love in a little too much detail, right through to Pulitzer Prize-winning opuses that sit proudly atop the zenith of all literary achievement. Ultimately, all fiction begins with an author projecting their hopes, dreams, fears or fantasies onto a page.
For a legendary writer like Stephen King whose life is a matter of public record, this maxim clearly holds true: as an addict throughout the 80s, perhaps the most prolific part of his career, the themes of addiction, relapse and redemption run clearly through his output during that decade. Since beating his demons, King’s work has sometimes traded darkness for reflection. 2011’s 11.22.63 found him at his meditative best, the critically-acclaimed tale of high school teacher Jake Epping travelling back into history to stop the assassination of JFK perhaps reflecting King’s own desires to rewrite the mistakes of his past.
When it comes to TV however, it’s fair to say that the bad outweighs the good. The Tommyknockers, The Langoliers, The Dead Zone and that ill-advised attempt to outdo Kubrick’s take on The Shining… to put not too fine a point on it – they’re terrible. Even adaptations that are more fondly remembered such as IT don’t hold up particularly well when dusted off and watched again.
The great thing about being Stephen King, however, is that you don’t need a time portal in your broom cupboard to be able to improve your body of work. There’ll always be scores of producers and directors queuing up to have a crack at King’s material as this mammoth list of forthcoming adaptations clearly demonstrates. Hulu’s 11.22.63, airing on Fox from April in the UK is a clear example of this: never mind that if you stacked up the wreckage of all of the failed King TV shows into one pile you could probably see it from space, the fact that the project has managed to attract the likes of J.J. Abrams, James Franco and Chris Cooper is testament to the enduring popularity of the writer’s work. That said, does it buck the trend? With TV adaptations of The Mist, Ayana and possibly even The Stand on the way to name but a few, it would be wonderful to see a King revival take place on the small screen.
11.22.63 is certainly a step in the right direction. Although only a few episodes have been broadcast across the pond and with UK episodes arriving on the 10th of April, it’s already clear that this King adaptation is a cut above the poorer adaptations of the author’s work that for decades have plagued the smaller screen….