5 Miniseries I Need My Friends to Watch

I love miniseries. For some reason, I may cringe at the thought of watching a 179-minute movie, but I have no problem with sitting down for 300-minutes to watch a miniseries. I’m being completely honest here – I refused to watch the new Batman movie because it was too long, but when I saw “Frank Herbert’s Dune” on youtube, I basically canceled all my plans to watch it (I have no regrets).

I think I appreciate the restraint inherent in the format. The creator must tell a complete story while also finding natural resting points for the story to break. It’s like a crash course in pacing, or the series will drag. I think the format also lends itself well to novel retellings because it can actually take the time to tell the full story without rushing. I think “The Gargoyle” should only be adapted as a limited series or miniseries. 

I really enjoy many miniseries, and I want to try and spread a little bit of that love. Not every miniseries I have ever watched and liked is on this list, and I hope that someday this list will have a part two (though obviously, I won’t call it part two because that’s bad for SEO). 

Frank Herbert’s Dune and Children of Dune (2000 and 2003), streaming somewhere on Youtube

This trailer is not good 🙂

If you’re a science fiction fan, chances are you are familiar with Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series. It is a sprawling epic in a vast galaxy with thousands of years of history and hundreds of thousands of planets with unique civilizations, all under the thumb of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. You could say it’s a bit like “Game of Thrones” in space, but I think “Dune” fans would bristle at that suggestion, especially as Herbert’s “Dune” predates A Song of Ice and Fire by about 30 years.

I will not spoil the story of “Dune” here in this article because there is no shortage of resources that will tell you every iota of the plot. However, I recommend this miniseries because even though it lacks the visual creativity of David Lynch’s 1980s adaptation, it was still clearly made with respect for Frank Herbert’s works. The series makes a few slight changes from the book, but I felt the changes were to help make the story more relatable to the average viewer unfamiliar with the book.

I think anyone interested in “Dune” might really enjoy this miniseries. I think the miniseries format helped to give this dense story the attention and time that it deserved so that we could get to know the characters and the universe they inhabit. My favorite change was giving a larger role to Princess Irulan, who I always felt was an interesting and underutilized character. I think Alex Newman did a good job as Paul Atreides, but I wonder if some of the complexities of the character may have been lost in the story. 

Children of Dune” is the sequel to this series that combines the books “The Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune.” I would argue that this sequel is even better than the first miniseries and features some fantastic performances from an impressive cast. Some particular standouts would be James McAvoy as Leto II Atreides and Daniela Amavia as Alia Atreides.

Now that Denis Villeneuve’s sumptuous “Dune: Part One” has finally been released and received so positively by fans and critics, I will be curious to see how this miniseries continues to be evaluated. I really loved Villeneuve’s film, but I liked the accessibility of “Frank Herbert’s Dune” and how the SyFy franchise helped me appreciate the series all the more.

I love the miniseries but this film is so pretty

The 10th Kingdom (2000), streaming on Amazon Prime

Happily Ever After is a beautiful thing, but what happens after that?

If you had asked me that years ago, I would have said, “life.” Life is what happens after happily ever after, and life is unpredictable. The same thing occurred in the land of the nine kingdoms. Two hundred years after all of the great stories have concluded, the land of the nine kingdoms is in trouble, and things only get worse when Prince Wendell visits his wicked Stepmother. 

The plot proceeds in typical fairytale fashion: The Wicked Stepmother transforms Prince Wendell into a dog, dog-Prince-Wendell escapes through a magic mirror into New York City, and the Wicked Stepmother sends a Wolfman (or Man-Wolf?), played by Scott Cohen, to track down the prince.

Instead of tracking the Prince down, Wolf runs into Virginia Lewis, played by Kimberley Willaims-Paisley, and decides to put 100% of his energy into putting it down on her. Like our boy meets Virginia and is like “I am going to wife you the f*ck up,” whereas she is more like, “who is this creepy yet handsome man who won’t stop sniffing me?”

Virginia and her father Tony end up trapped in the Nine Kingdoms with Wolf and Prince Wendell, and have to work together through a series of increasingly odd circumstances in order to find their way back home to New York. 

The creators of this miniseries had always intended for there to be a sequel, which was sadly not to be. This continues to break my heart to this day, and I desperately hope that enough people can rediscover “The 10th Kingdom” so we can get the sequel we always deserved (it could be about the next generation of fairy tale folk!)

Arabian Nights (2000), streaming on Amazon Prime

The man you love was betrayed by his first wife and now lives in a constant state of terror and paranoia. He is required to marry again to retain his title as Sultan, but is so frightened of further treachery that he decides on a cruel path: marry a woman from the harem and then execute her in the morning. You love the Sultan, even in his changed state, and so you bravely step forward to marry him in place of one of the frightened women from the harem. And you have a plan to keep your life: tell him a story so enchanting that when morning comes, he cannot think of anything but hearing the rest of the tale, ensuring your survival.

This is the plot of the 2000 miniseries “Arabian Nights.” Each night, Scheherazade tells the Sultan Shahryar a part of a story; each morning, he is too captivated to even consider going forward with the execution. Reader, do you think that’s kind of messed up for a love story? Well, it is, except the actress playing Scheherazade, Mili Avital, sells the hell out of this story. 

What I really loved about “Arabian Nights” was how fun everything felt. Even though the main character was in a harrowing situation, it was easy to cheer her on. The stories Scheherazade tells are so exciting and yet so familiar that watching the series unfold is both thrilling and comforting.

Are some of the effects outdated? Yes, they are, and they look very silly, but I’ve come to look at bad 2000s special effects with feelings of warm nostalgia. The special effects are not necessarily pretty, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a moment, you’ll enjoy it.

V (1983) and V: The Final Battle (1984), available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers

I may be cheating with this selection because technically, a lot of people watched this miniseries when it first debuted in 1983. In fact, it was so well-received that it garnered a sequel miniseries and even a single season of a TV show. And then there was the 2009 adaptation starring Morena Baccarin that lasted for two seasons. 

I think all that would classify “V” as a success, but it doesn’t mean that enough people I know have watched it. 

“V” is about the fallout when alien visitors make first contact. In many ways, it is like the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” including the part about making humanity docile for… unsettling reasons. What is also unique about the series is that the “Visitors” begin an effective campaign to discredit all scientists. Anyone in the sciences, whether they be an anthropologist or a medical doctor, suddenly becomes classified as “the enemy” and must move forward in an alien society that no longer trusts them. Does that at all sound relevant to modern events???

When I first watched this series, I was obsessed. I loved all the different characters and how they responded to the terrifying, insidious invaders. I especially idolized Julie Parrish, played by Faye Grant, the beautiful medical student who found herself as the unlikely leader of the rebellion. This was back when I thought I had an actual chance of going to medical school before life came and crushed my dreams of being a doctor like a rolly polly in the fist of a vicious third grader.

Also, I think horror movies fan will be delighted by the appearance of a certain Robert Englund. Though as he plays the sweetest alien in the world and doesn’t even murder anyone in their sleep, that could also be a letdown.

Frankenstein (2004), streaming on PLEX

Hello please meet my most current obsession

Did you know that the Hallmark Channel produced one of the best adaptations of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein“? 

No one believes me when I tell them this. Hell, I didn’t believe it, until I saw it for myself. And ya’ll, it is a fantastic adaptation. Alec Newman (aka the same guy who played Paul Atreides in Frank Herbert’s Dune) plays Victor Frankenstein, and he does such a great job encapsulating this annoying character. Victor Frankenstein dared to bring a new creation to life, only to get freaked out when it did come to life, and then completely abandon it and shower it with hatred. He is not a good papa. 

Meanwhile, the poor Creature has received some… unflattering depictions. Most versions of Frankenstein’s Creature depict him as a Lurch-esque abomination of few words except for “Eergh fire!” This is vastly different from Mary Shelley’s original version, which describes the Creature as an erudite, verbose, physically beautiful abomination. The 2004 Hallmark version did what I never knew I wanted: it cast a hot dude to play the Creature and then gave him free rein to be the whiniest little b*tch in all cinema. The result is phenomenal. The interactions between Frankenstein and the Creature are now fraught with tension and drama, and I lived for each moment.

I think I also now have a crush on the Creature, which is something I’ll definitely have to sort out in therapy later. My heart broke for the poor guy throughout the series, even as he made some very uncool choices, like committing all that murder. But what can I say – he had no guidance and no love, and maybe with a little TLC, the story would have turned out drastically different. (And for those wondering what that “give him love” approach might look like, it is basically the plot to Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein,” aka one of the funniest movies ever made)

I would call this adaptation a must-watch for anyone who considers themself a fan of Mary Shelley and her novel “Frankenstein.” Hallmark may have made it, but sometimes Hallmark knows what it’s doing.

(On a fun casting note, the late Willaim Hurt was cast as Duke Leto Atreides in Frank Herbert’s Dune, and again he plays a sort of mentorship role to Alec Newman’s character as Professor Waldman. This kind of casting always delights me because I like to think the actors become friends.)

So friends, all of these are miniseries that I have enjoyed tremendously. I hope that with each old miniseries watched and revisited, the powers at be may deign to produce a few more (and it would be cool if maybe Hallmark’s producers wanted to reach out to me for ideas).

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