With 11.22.63, the book has been mounted as an eight-episode tv mini-series under the aegis of J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company. These days Abrams has become a high-profile film director with works such as Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015). What should not be forgotten is that in the decade prior to this he was a highly successful producer/creator of tv shows such as Alias (2001-6), Lost (2004-10), Fringe (2008-13), Person of Interest (2011-6) and to a lesser extent Alcatraz (2012), Revolution (2012-4) and Almost Human (2013-4). The creative name driving the mini-series is Bridget Carpenter, a producer/writer on shows such as Dead Like Me (2003-4), Friday Night Lights (2006-11) and Parenthood (2010-5). Each of the episodes comes from a different director (with a couple of double-ups), including one from star James Franco who also produces the series.
There have been a great many Stephen King works adapted as tv mini-series, ranging from the great Salems Lot (1979) to the terrible The Tommyknockers (1993) and The Stand (1994). 11.22.63 seems determined not to repeat the mistakes of the most recent King tv production Under the Dome (2013-5), which abandoned all but the basic concept of the book after the pilot episode and thereafter travelled along an entirely random course that felt like the scriptwriters were making it up as they went along. The mini-series does rearrange many aspects of the book but keeps general faith to the story.
In particular, the mini-series eliminates one or two aspects in the book, Jake makes several trips between the past and present, including one where he prevents Frank Dunning from murdering his family and then travels back to the present to find that this has meant that Harry was killed in Vietnam, and another where he prevents a girl from being accidentally shot (which Chris Cooper narrates as something he did in the mini-series). The upshot is that apart from a couple of exploratory trips made at the outset, Jake only makes a single trip into the past in the mini-series. As in the book, Al is killed off before the trip back but pops-up in flashbacks to give warnings about the time travel process and impart information about the assassination when required.
The mini-series is also stuck with the dramatic problem that Stephen King left it with that the entire story mostly consists of the protagonist having to sit and wait for several years while merely observing. In order to pad the eight episodes out, much of the show is contrived with pieces of drama to fill this out and have things happening. In particular, the mini-series creates the character of George McKays Bill Turcotte to give Jake someone to talk to rather than have the entire show be about him sitting on his own observing. In the later episodes, there is also a new drama about Bill getting involved with Marina Oswald and this creating ructions in history and a rather contrived piece where Jake deals with this by committing Bill to a psychiatric institution.
There are a great many other pieces from the book that end up being padded out to create small pieces of self-contained drama expanding the roles of George de Mohrenschildt and Nick Searcys Deke, the assassination attempt on General Walker, a whole plot in which Sadies ex-husband turns up and goes psycho. Sadie also becomes much more wound into the events. One of the best and most substantial of these are the scenes with Josh Duhamel as Frank. Duhamel has gained a reputation as a handsome pin-up star and readily turns that on its head to give a disturbing yet charismatic performance. The writing in the scenes where he and his friends take James Franco to the slaughterhouse as well as the subsequent scene where Michael ONeill explains why he does not consider himself a war hero make this the single most riveting episode of the entire show. Not to mention it comes with some wryly witty lines when James Franco is asked what unit he was in during the Korean War, he quickly responds M.A.S.H. 4077.
Some of the pieces of dramatic contrivance feel strained in particular, the committal of Bill to the asylum and one episode in which Jake gets beaten up just prior to the assassination, which causes him to improbably forget everything including why he has come back there. One of the more egregious additions is where Jake and Bill follow Lee Harvey Oswald to a General Walker rally where Oswald ends up getting into a loud and angry altercation with Walker where you cannot help but feel that if such an incident had occurred it would surely have been reflected in the history books given how every detail of Oswalds life has subsequently been excavated.
The mini-series holds together fairly well and certainly retained ones interest. It builds well to the climactic episode, which contains an exactingly staged recreation of the layout of Dealey Plaza, even cute little throwaway bits leading up to the big event like the mystery man with the umbrella and Abraham Zapruder standing there with his movie camera. Where I ended up disappointed was the alternate history sections where Jake returned to a changed present. King didnt do these sections justice and I felt that the mini-series glossed over them even more so we just get a standard dark, dystopian present and the political changes that led up to the unleashing of the bombs are not even dwelt on. What I would love to have seen is not a mini-series following Lee Harvey Oswald which in itself is not uninteresting but rather one akin to the current tv series The Man in the High Castle (2015 ) dealing with the changed world following the assassination. That would have been fascinating. The mini-series does wind itself to a satisfying uplift but you cannot help but feel it could have been far more than that.
Other Stephen King genre adaptations include:- Carrie (1976), Salems Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Firestarter (1984), Cats Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), The Running Man (1987), Pet Semetary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (tv mini-series, 1990), Misery (1990), a segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Dark Half (1993), Needful Things (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), Thinner (1996), The Night Flier (1997), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Shining (tv mini-series, 1997), Trucks (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), The Dead Zone (tv series, 2001-2), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), Carrie (tv mini-series, 2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Riding the Bullet (2004), Salems Lot (tv mini-series, 2004), Secret Window (2004), Desperation (tv mini-series, 2006), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (tv mini-series, 2006), 1408 (2007), The Mist (2007), Children of the Corn (2009), Everythings Eventual (2009), the tv series Haven (2010-5), Bag of Bones (tv mini-series, 2011), Carrie (2013), Under the Dome (tv series, 2013-5), Big Driver (2014), A Good Marriage (2014), Mercy (2014), Cell (2016) and It (2017). Stephen King had also written a number of original screen works with Creepshow (1982), Golden Years (tv mini-series, 1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Storm of the Century (tv mini-series, 1999), Rose Red (tv mini-series, 2002) and the tv series Kingdom Hospital (2004), as well as adapted his own works with the screenplays for Cats Eye, Silver Bullet, Pet Semetary, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn 2009 and Cell. King also directed one film with Maximum Overdrive (1986).