May 14, 1995 in Features

May Sweeps? Must Be Time For Stephen King

Ron Miller San Jose Mercury News
 

Once again it’s ratings “sweeps” time, which means ABC will let nasty old Stephen King loose once more to scare us all under our beds with a new set of monsters from his warped mind.

This time it’s “The Langoliers,” which are flying sets of jaws with revolving sets of razor-sharp teeth. Imagine Pac Man and his pals zooming off the video screen to settle the score by gobbling you up, and you pretty much get the picture.

It is, without question, the goofiest Stephen King miniseries yet on ABC, which keeps coming at us every year with a fresh one during a ratings “sweeps” period: “The Stand” last year, “The Tommyknockers” the year before and “It” the year before that.

And they’ll surely keep them coming as long as “The Langoliers” racks up the giant numbers that the other versions of King’s best-selling horror novels have scored. That may be wishful thinking this time, though. Most viewers would be better off staying under their beds, counting dust bunnies, than watching the ridiculous “Langoliers.”

Faithfully adapted from the novella of the same name that was part of “Four Past Midnight,” King’s 1990 collection of four short novels, “The Langoliers” is about what happens when a handful of passengers aboard a Los Angeles flight to Boston wake up and discover that most of the other passengers have disappeared, along with the flight crew.

Though this will seem patently absurd to most viewers, there’s a logical explanation: The plane has passed through a hole in the time/ space continuum and everybody who was awake at that time just naturally evaporated, leaving behind nothing but rings, wallets, eyeglasses, dental plates and pacemakers.

Happens all the time, especially since the airlines were deregulated.

Luckily, one of the passengers is an airline pilot (David Morse), who’s “deadheading” on somebody else’s flight. With the help of a mysterious secret agent type named Nick (Mark Lindsay Chapman), he busts open the cockpit door and takes the controls.

The rest of the four hours involves how the startled passengers react to all this strangeness. Among them: a blind girl (Kate Maberly) who can read people’s minds; a mystery writer (Dean Stockwell) who’s used to weird plots; a lonely school teacher (Patricia Wettig) who’s hoping to find Mr. Right; Bethany (Kimber Riddle) and Albert (Christopher Collet), two troubled teens who meet and fall in love.

They’re all reasonably nice folks who provide a sharp contrast to the flight’s principal butt-pain: Craig Toomy (Bronson Pinchot), a ruthless businessman who’s annoyed because the stupid airline has flown through a hole in space and caused him to miss an important meeting.

As for the Langoliers, they’re the creatures who come along at the end of each day and devour everything in their path, which wipes the time/ space slate clean for the next 24-hour edition. Normally, we don’t see much of this going on, but the airplane survivors do because they’re no longer where they belong in time and space.

Believe me, you don’t want to be hanging around when the Langoliers show up. If you can picture yourself being run through a giant pencil-sharpener, then you probably can grasp what it might be like to be “langoliered.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email