I’ve just finished watching the second episode of the new adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal pandemic novel The Stand, currently streaming on the American subscription service CBS All Access, and I doubt that I will be watching a third one. So far the updated, big-budget dramatisation has proven to be a pretty mediocre affair, despite its contemporary theme, with poor character introductions and rather inept flashback scenes, making it a tough sell when a plethora of prestige television shows are readily available elsewhere.
Up to now the critical reaction has been mixed, with much of the praise and online chatter focusing on the promised changes in the storyline to match current cultural and social mores. Which indicates that some of the positive noises about the show are being skewed by the same kind of neo-liberal virtue-signalling that we saw around drab “reimaginings” like Paul Feig’s all-male-to-all-female Ghostbusters movie in 2016 or Gary Ross’ equally shallow Oceans 8 in 2018. Never mind the quality, feel the right-think. The irony of course being that purposefully women-led films like Steve McQueen’s sophisticated pulp thriller Widows or Andrew Bujalski’s slyly feminist Support the Girls, both released to modest financial success in 2018, were more or less ignored by the tub-thumping legions of keyboard activists.
In any case, more than one reviewer of the CBS All Access show has made reference to the original television adaptation, the 1994 miniseries originally broadcast in the United States by ABC. While very much of its era, and flawed in its own way, it says much for the new version that it can be compared unfavourably with one produced nearly thirty years ago. Fortunately readers can judge this for themselves since the older show is widely available in various qualities on YouTube. Enjoy!