In 1997, Stephen King wrote and produced a TV miniseries remake of The Shining, and it's not nearly as bad as its terrible reputation suggests. As has been well-documented over the years, King really, really doesn't like Stanley Kubrick's 1980 movie version of The Shining, even though most people tend to love it. While it looks like director Mike Flanagan's Doctor Sleep - which functions as both an adaptation of King's book and a sequel to Kubrick's film - has managed to dampen King's hatred, it's unlikely he'll ever do a complete 180 and embrace Kubrick's vision.
King's problems with The Shining movie basically boil down to it not capturing the spirit of his book, which focuses on a loving but flawed father and husband who's slowly driven to murderous madness by malevolent spirits. In Kubrick's film, Jack Nicholson's rendition of Jack Torrance famously seems ready to snap from the first scene, and immediately on his last nerve around his family. By 1997, King was a Hollywood powerhouse in his own right, having gained considerable clout via his many successful film and TV adaptations, some of which he'd adapted for the screen himself.
With that in mind, King decided to re-adapt The Shining as a three-part TV miniseries that aired on ABC, the same network that had by then already broadcast acclaimed miniseries takes on IT and The Stand. The miniseries has gained a reputation as being awful, but in reality, while it may not measure up to Kubrick's masterpiece, it's really not that bad. Here's why.
The Shining TV Series Remake Was a Huge Hit When Released
Interestingly enough, when The Shining TV miniseries remake first hit the small screen in 1997, it was a huge success. Critics showered it with praise, the ratings were some of the highest on TV that year, and it even picked up two Emmy Awards. The perception that the Stephen King-scripted Shining miniseries was a failure is something that only materialized in recent years, as modern reviewers hit it with negative sentiment after negative sentiment.
The Shining TV Series Remake Is Unfairly Compared to Kubrick
One of the most common slams against The Shining miniseries is that it pales in comparison to Kubrick's film, and in most ways, that's accurate. The problem is that it's not really fair to compare the two. Kubrick is one of the greatest filmmakers in history, and it could be argued that the vast majority of films don't measure up to his output. Jack Nicholson is also one of the most praised actors of all time, and his performance is so iconic that anyone cast in the miniseries will always be in his shadow. Kubrick's movie came with an R-rating as well, allowing it much more freedom to craft scares and disturbing imagery, as compared to the TV content mandates of 1997. The Shining miniseries not being as good as Kubrick's movie doesn't make it a worthless failure anymore than an NBA player not being as talented as Michael Jordan means they should give up and retire.
The Shining TV Series Remake Actually Does Some Things Better
It could be easily argued that The Shining miniseries' biggest detriment is its 4-hour-plus running time. While Stephen King may have gotten a bit overindulgent by going that long, at the same time, it does indeed allow viewers an opportunity to actually see Jack, Wendy, and Danny Torrance interacting as a family that loves each other. Steven Weber's Jack also begins things as quite a likeable guy, albeit one that's dealing with alcohol issues.
The extended running time enables much more of the Overlook's bloody history to actually be shown onscreen as well, deepening the audience's understanding of just how evil the place is. The miniseries' version of the iconic Room 237 scene (here numbered 217, as in the book) is also extremely creepy, and possibly as good as the film's. While the CGI hedge animals look dreadful, and Courtland Mead makes for an annoying Danny Torrance, The Shining miniseries really deserves a second chance from the world at large, if only for not turning Rebecca DeMornay's Wendy into the meek doormat played by Shelley Duvall.
- Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019