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A&E >  Books

The return of ‘The Stand’ and the beginning of CBS All Access

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 31, 2020

Few bestselling books are as big as Stephen King’s magnum opus, “The Stand”: 823 pages abridged, 1,152 unabridged. However, the latest “Stand” miniseries, which airs on CBS All Access, isn’t a blockbuster on the level of what is being streamed on Netflix, Amazon or HBO Max.

Bigger, as in big name, isn’t necessarily better seems to be the marketing strategy of CBS All Access. The streaming service appears to be going for a niche audience with King’s miniseries, which runs through February, and dramas such as “The Good Fight” and “Star Trek: Picard.”

“I think it’s an interesting choice by CBS All Access,” Gonzaga’s assistant professor of communication studies Karen Petruska said. “Look at Amazon and what they’re doing by presenting ‘Lord of the Rings.’ That’s blockbuster material. Amazon is obviously trying to get everybody, while CBS All Access is going to a specific group.

“It’s interesting that CBS All Access is going for a committed audience. That’s not a bad strategy since it’s great to have that loyal group of people who watch your programming.”

The marketing campaign behind “The Stand” is considerable and understandable. The parallels between “The Stand,” which hit shelves in 1978, and today are disturbing. The book, which is arguably the prolific and popular author’s finest work, is about a global pandemic that wipes out most of the population. The survivors are deeply divided, and the book is essentially a battle of good versus evil.

The novel coronavirus has wreaked considerable havoc. More than 1.7 million people have died due to COVID-19 around the world. It’s a staggering figure, but it’s not close to the numbers in King’s book. The recent presidential election reflects America’s division.

Production of “The Stand” ended in March just as the coronavirus altered life. Two episodes of the nine-part miniseries broadcast by CBS All Access are in the books. The massive amount of material penned by King proved to be unwieldy when the initial miniseries aired in 1994.

The latest version of “The Stand” is plagued by the same issues. The contemporary “Stand” is more aesthetically pleasing, and there is a little more star power in “Stand” 2.0, but it’s essentially the same story. “The Stand” is entertaining, and, if the book, which is well worth a read in the abridged or unabridged version, is ignored, “The Stand” is worth experiencing due to King’s story and execution.

“I understand watching ‘The Stand’ if you didn’t read the book or missed the 1994 miniseries,” National Public Radio television critic Eric Deggans said during a telephone interview from his St. Petersburg home. “I was a big fan of the 1994 miniseries, and the book is one of my favorites from Stephen King, but I have the same feelings about the new miniseries as I did about ‘The Roots’ (2016) remake. I don’t understand why they did it.”

Deggans is perplexed at the timing. “The big surprise for me is the added weirdness of launching ‘The Stand’ during the pandemic,” Deggans said. “It’s weird watching a miniseries about a flu that kills 90% of the population. Who wants to see that now? I don’t even see why they aired it this year. They must have been contractually bound. I would have waited until the pandemic is over.”

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