The Stand miniseries is coming to CBS All Access in December
Yet another of Stephen King’s beloved novels is hitting the small screen just in time for the holidays. The Stand, a novel about a deadly virus that kills 99.4% of the population, was first published in 1978, but its themes, storylines, and character portraits are timeless.
The Stand is one of King’s most celebrated stories. And, given that the man has published over 80 books over the course of his career, that’s saying something. The sprawling epic spans over one thousand pages and visits practically every landscape in the United States and includes a host of colorful characters that are utterly unforgettable.
Some fans of King’s story may be thinking, “hey, didn’t they make this into a miniseries a few years ago?” Well, grandpa, they sure did. But that miniseries came out back in 1994, which is a quarter-century ago. (Note: Ok, so I was old enough to remember when the miniseries aired too, and yes, when you’re from Generation X or even an early millennial, the ’90s definitely feel like they were yesterday… but they SO weren’t.) Bringing Stephen King’s timeless stories to big and small screens is all the rage in Hollywood lately, so it makes total sense that The Stand would get a remake. And what a time to remake this story.
Over the holidays, you’ll certainly have many choices in escapist and entertaining TV, but The Stand on CBS All Access is one you won’t want to miss. Here’s why.
The Stand is chock-a-block full of familiar faces and rising stars. James Marsden is Stu Redman, a stoic yet friendly Texan who happens to come into contact with the deadly disease very early on. Jovan Adepo is Larry Underwood, a troubled musician with questionable morals. Odessa Young is Fran Goldsmith, a whip-smart and stubborn girl from New England.
Amber Heard is Nadine Cross, a woman of questionable motives who gets involved with our main crew, and Whoopi Goldberg is Mother Abigail, a wise elderly woman who has the power to see the forces of light and dark converging upon the survivors of the pandemic.
The cast is rounded out by Greg Kinnear as Glen Bateman, Nat Wolff as Lloyd Henreid, Henry Zaga as Nick Andros, and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor, among others.
Most exciting of all is the man tasked with portraying Randall Flagg, aka The Walkin’ Dude, aka The Dark Man, aka very possibly evil incarnate. Alexander Skarsgård will don the dusty boots of the chaotic yet charismatic Flagg.
It’s interesting to note that Skarsgård’s brother, Bill Skarsgård, has played another iteration of evil in not one but two adaptations of King’s works. Bill was Pennywise in the recent duo of IT films, and he was also “The Kid”, a malevolent force in both seasons of Hulu’s Castle Rock. Seems as if the Skarsgård brothers are cornering the market on evil in the Stephen King cinematic universe, and we are so here for it.
M-O-O-N spells topical
Deadly illness raging through America. Sounds all too familiar, right? Oddly enough, The Stand on CBS All Access went into production and wrapped principal shooting as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Storylines including an out-of-control disease ravaging the world have been featured in the pop culture zeitgeist over the past few decades. The Walking Dead and The Last Man on Earth have taken turns in the spotlight as narratives using the device with various different impacts.
And while the actual human toll of the novel coronavirus hasn’t threatened humanity with a 99% mortality rate (thank goodness), it’s still high enough that there have been serious impacts on our daily lives. Watching The Stand may help to serve as an escapist reminder that humanity is resilient, and we can and will survive even the toughest of times.
The epidemic of the “superflu” or “Captain Trips” in the first half of The Stand serves as a springboard for an epic showdown between good versus evil, which makes the series doubly topical. To many, the recent presidential election in the United States also served as a referendum on the same, also amidst a backdrop of a deadly pandemic.
Stephen King has been very vocal and straightforward about his political leanings, and the 2020 election results illustrate that the majority of the country seems to agree with him. Interestingly enough, in parts of The Stand, King debated the usefulness of democracy and organized government as a whole and mused on whether or not these systems would be the best if we had the chance to rebuild from the ground up. Which brings us to…
Unlike many recent adaptations of his work, King himself had a hand in writing part of The Stand on CBS All Access. He wrote a completely new ending for his story which will be featured in the final episode of the miniseries.
Originally, King’s publisher excised hundreds of pages of material for brevity’s sake, leading the book to be re-released in the early ’90s with all the cut material added back in, as well as a new conclusion. (King also updated the pop culture references at the time, but, time does continue to churn on, and these references are also dated now.) Therefore, this will be the second time King rewrites the ending.
Fans of the characters should be finding out more about the fates of their favorites. And those new to the story will hopefully find a glimmer of optimism at the end of the tunnel.
Speaking of tunnels…
*That* Holland Tunnel scene
When The Stand co-showrunner Josh Boone was developing the project in 2015, he chatted about the iconic Holland Tunnel scene with filmmaker Kevin Smith on his podcast, Hollywood Babble-On. Smith recalled reading that passage in the original novel and feeling true terror as he flipped through the pages. The scene exists in the 1994 miniseries but somehow fails to capture the eerie combination of heart-knocking terror and fear of things that go bump in the dark that the novel managed to convey.
The Holland Tunnel scene in The Stand is arguably one of the most psychologically horrifying moments in horror history, and we could definitely all use a little fake dread to replace the very real dread that 2020 has delivered to us almost every single day since the year began. Visiting the world of The Stand for a few weeks will certainly give us some delicious jump scares and a much-needed dose of entertainment as we head into a more hopeful 2021.
The Stand miniseries premieres on Dec. 17 on CBS All Access.