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„Based on a story by Stephen King” more often than not spells disaster. Not sure why that is, but apart from the notable exceptions (“Shining”, “Carrie”, “Shawshank”, “Stand By Me” and some others) the majority of film and tv versions comes across as sloppily compiled B-class at best. I always thought that with King’s detailed depiction of character and atmosphere, his books are better suited to a tv series format, but not so many of those held up to the promise (“Salem’s Lot” does, I suppose).

“11.22.63”, produced by JJ Abram’s Bad Robot company as an original series for Hulu, is based on a novel of considerable volume, is packed with 1960s atmosphere, and lives to a certain degree off its Groundhog-like reset button that the protagonist needs to push a couple of times in order to get things right. This might be the major difference to this tv show, which moves forward in a more linear fashion, skipping something like half of the book, and mostly getting away with it. I guess only those who did enjoy the epic scale at the novel’s heart, stressed by the repeated attempts to start anew into the effort of stopping the Kennedy assassination, triggering each time a new 3-year countdown clock, will find that there is something missing. Taken as it is, the tv story moves along nicely, driven by James Franco’s madly charming protagonist, trying to work his way through the 1960s, an age without mobile phones and sneakers. He faces the expected adversaries (gambling mafia) and the less expected ones (the past fighting back against efforts to meddle with history), and gets his share of physical and emotional bruises. His love interest and the rest of the cast populating this world are all well cast and contribute to successful suspension of disbelief where needed. I consider the book to be among King’s best works in 20 years – the teleplay is not as strong by far as the novel it is based on, but as a gripping miniseries, this works perfectly well. The final scenes are moving and true, and once you have reached the end of the final episode, you will be awarded with your fair share of tears.

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