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The Shining Mini-Series (1997)

When people talk about The Shining, they are almost always talking about the Stanley Kubrick film starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall from 1980. It’s a beautiful film with an memorable performance and eerie music. I like The Shining and have enjoyed it on several occasions, but when I think about my favorite version of The Shining, it’s the 1997 mini-series directed by Mick Garris and starring Steven Weber in the role of Jack Torrance.

The reason the mini-series means so much to me is because this was MY Shining. The 1980 classic came out prior to my birth and was something I watched in my teen years. I liked it and appreciated it, but the hype was over. The Shining was old news and had not quite hit the level of appreciation that it garners now.

So, in 1997, I started seeing articles in the newspaper about this upcoming Shining mini-series. It was going to be Stephen King’s true vision of The Shining and was starring the funny guy from Wings. Then the trailer spots begin occurring and for a thirteen-year-old horror fan this was everything I ever wanted. There was big event hype behind the mini-series, and I felt like I was on the ground floor. My local newspaper put The Shining on the front of the big pull-out weekly television guide and I tacked it on my wall. And the night of the debut, I was sitting there with a blank tape in the VCR to tape what I hoped to be one heck of a horror experience.

And ya know what, it was. The Shining mini-series was watched by almost 20 million viewers for all three episodes. TV Guide rated it a ten out of ten and it also got good reviews from Variety and Entertainment Weekly. The series was a hit and it felt like it. Then again, all of Stephen King’s mini-series in the 90’s felt like a huge event. Similar to way people anticipate a big streaming release, everyone showed up at a designated time to watch something special and creepy when a Stephen King adaptation was created and The Shining was just following in the footsteps of It, The Stand, and The Langoliers.

I absolutely loved The Stand. I sat in my rooms, with the lights off, eating up every scene. The characters were great, the effects were solid, and the pacing was arguably better than the movie. Steven Weber was able to do something in total opposite of his Wing’s character Brian Hackett and in a way that stole the show. In the movie, The Shining, Jack Nicolson is just playing Jack Nicholson. In the mini-series, Steven Weber is portraying a man carrying a burden and watching everything unravel under the weight of his own addiction.

Despite the big ratings and good reviews, the legacy of The Shining is in polar opposite of the movie. The film has only become more loved with age, while the mini-series has only been forgotten. Around ten years ago, I sat down and rewatched the mini-series and outside of some early TV CGI missteps, the series holds up incredibly well. In fact, I still prefer it over the movie.

Stephen King has been an outspoken critic of the original film and has stated that mini-series is a better representation of his story. King himself wrote the screenplay for the mini-series. In order to get the miniseries made required Stanley Kubricks’ approval to re-adapt The Shining. Kubrick required King to agree in writing to stop his public criticism of the film, with exception of his disappointment with Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance as being insane before he arrived at the Overlook Hotel.

The mini-series was filmed at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado which served as the inspiration for The Overlook in The Shining novel.

ABC had been so successful with previous Stephen King mini-series they allowed the production to proceed with very limited Broadcast Standards and Practices enforced. The series went on to win two Primetime Emmys (Best Makeup and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries or Special) and it was nominated for Outstanding Miniseries but lost out to Prime Suspect 5: Efforts of Judgement.

History may not be kind to Mick Garris’ The Shining, but I am. The mini-series is a great piece of horror and is well worth watching if you get a chance. The series was released on DVD and I believe I’ve seen it streaming on Hulu once or twice, but don’t quote me on that. I’ve also seen it on The Internet Archive and YouTube. I feel like Doctor Sleep is a more effective movie if you take the mini-series story or the novel story into consideration instead of the Stanley Kubrick film. It just follows the tone that King was going for a bit better.

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