Ten Deep 5.08.14: Top 10 TV Mini-Series
Posted by Mike Gorman on 05.08.2014
From Battlestar Galactica and Lonesome Dove to Band of Brothers, V, Roots and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 TV miniseries of all-time!
" Top Ten TV Mini-Series"
This week seems like the perfect time to broach the subject of the television mini-series. On Monday, Fox's 24 made a highly anticipated return in this format and this weekend NBC will debut their remake of Rosemary's Baby. But as I am sure you are aware the television mini-series is not a new convention with many fantastic ones having graced our screens over the past decades. The list below features ten that I feel stand out and define what a truly great mini-series can be.
10. Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove was a surprise hit for CBS when it debuted in the late 80s. At the time the Western genre as a whole was considered dead in the water on television so executives at the network did not have high expectations for Lonesome Dove's performance. It turns out they could not have been more wrong as an estimated twenty six million households tuned in to catch this show. It was a combination of a well written story and some superb acting, by the likes of Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, and Anjelica Huston, that created magic for this mini-series.
9. North and South
Another surprise gem from the 1980s is 1985's North and South. This series told the story of two friends who met at West Point and soon after found themselves, and their families, on opposite sides of the US Civil War. North and South adapts the novel of the same title delving into the issues that our country faced during one of the darker portions of our history. It remains one of the top ten highest rated TV mini-series of all time and spawned two sequel series in 1986 and 1994.
8. Angels in America
Angels in America is an HBO mini-series that is based on the stage production of the same name and written by the original author, Tony Kushner. Angels is set in 1985 at the height of the AIDS crisis and follows six individuals whose lives were impacted by the disease and the great establishment's failure to respond. One of the most highly watched mini-series of 2003; it featured some powerful performances including one by Al Pacino as Roy Cohn, a deeply closeted right-wing politico. The series stands to this day as one of the most moving portrayals of the AIDS crisis on television.
The five part television adaptation of James Clavell's Shogun brought a scope to the mini-series that had previously not been seen. The production spared no expense to bring the detailed nature of the novel and it's entry into the mostly mysterious (at the time) Japanese culture to life. Shogun helped create the idea of "event television," something that seemed until recently have faded from the landscape of television.
6. From Earth to the Moon
HBO's From Earth to the Moon was a true gift for anyone with an interest or desire to learn more about man's race to the stars and the people that made it happen. The series and its production were driven by Tom Hank's personal interest in the subject matter. From Earth to the Moon not only brought to life most of the astronauts involved with the Apollo space program but it also featured outstanding, lavish special effects.
5. The Stand
When it was announced that Stephen King's The Stand was going to be adapted to television, I will admit I was personally skeptical as it is one of my favorite books and it is also incredibly long and detailed. That skepticism faded when I saw the finished product and realized that they had done an excellent job of bringing the book's characters to the screen. Yes, the series suffered from some low-rent special effect issues but it did an excellent job portraying the end of society and its rebirth, especially the first few episodes that detailed the super-flu and its devastation.
In 1977 Roots took a part of American history that many people would like to pretend did not exist and placed it on televisions in every household. Roots was an epic portrayal of one family's development in the United States from the slave trading which began in Africa to the impact of the Civil War. The experiences shared in this adaptation of Alex Haley's novel are a stunning reminder of where our country has been and stand in contrast to where we are now.
3. Battlestar Galactica
The original Battlestar Galactica was a beloved sci-fi series that all too often seemed to sit in the shadow of other properties as time progressed. Its concept clearly resonated with viewers when a 3 hour revival of the series in 2003 launched a new era in fandom. The mini-series was just the start as it led to a full-fledged television series and many web-based spinoffs. The story of the man-made Cylons was updated this time around to reflect their own struggle to exist as separate entities. Stand out acting, high production values and a willingness to treat their audience with intelligence were key factors to Battlestar Galactica's success.
We're back in the 1980s again and this time it is to visit the series that brought us alien lizards with peel off skin and jaws that unhinged to swallow guinea pigs. V took the age old story of deceptive invaders and fascism, and updated them with a sci-fi twist. The metaphor was thinly veiled in this part series but audiences responded none the less and a franchise was launched that included further mini-series, a television series in the 1980s and a recent revival. Humanity as an underdog scored big points in this series.
1. Band of Brothers
HBO's Band of Brothers accomplished several things that earned it the number one spot on this week's countdown. First, it succeeded in its grand scale presentation of the reality of what the troops faced during World War II. Band of Brothers did not gloss over the details or parts that could be uncomfortable, instead it dove head first into portraying them with care. It did not attempt to sugar coat the experiences, or choices, of the men it followed into battle. Second, this 2001 production helped usher the idea of a mini-series being a must see event back into the public eye. It made a non-"Big Four" network production true water cooler television and set the standard for all productions based on WW II to follow.
Focusing this week's column on just ten mini-series was extremely difficult so I am certain that you may have one or two on the tip of your tongue. Let me hear about them in the comments below!
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