It’s funny the things you discover by accident. Like today when I logged onto my Hulu account, just casually trying to find an unseen episode of Seinfeld, and discovered that one of my all-time favorite standalone novels has been turned into a Hulu original television show. 11/22/63 is special to me for several reasons: It was the first audiobook I ever listened to, my first time travel story, and also my first Stephen King novel. I know it’s said that “you never forget your first” and I don’t see any reason why that can’t apply to audiobooks! Especially if it was a really, really great experience. If you follow this blog even a little, then you’ve probably picked up on my slight obsession with time travel. 11/22/63 is the story of a high school equivalency teacher that travels back to the 60s in order to prevent JFK’s assassination. Obviously, it won’t be easy and he soon learns that the past doesn’t want to be changed. Call this story science-fiction, historical fiction, or whatever you want. I just call it brilliant.
James Franco plays the main character Jake Epping in Hulu’s version of King’s work and it’s directed by the amazing J.J. Abrams, whose efforts have turned out other favorites like Alias and Lost. The first episode premiered today (Happy Presidents’ Day!) and ran for almost an hour and a half.
As you can see from the trailer, it’s probably not suitable for anyone younger than 17 or so. I mean, it’s Stephen King. While watching it, I had to adjust my expectations a little. Although I’ll take a television adaptation over a movie one any day, it is still difficult to capture everything about a book on screen. 11/22/63 was one of the longest audiobooks I’ve ever listened to (over 30 hours) and a lot of material will undoubtedly be cut in order to pack the primary plot line into 8 episodes. This type of adaptation is definitely risky because Stephen King’s “moneymaking skills”, if you will, lie in his ability to build worlds and develop characters so vivid that it is as if they’ve been plucked from your very own reality. That type of authenticity cannot be rushed and it’s what I felt the pilot lacked. Now, I know most pilot episodes are awkward and stiff, probably because they are trying to lay a foundation and keep the viewer’s interest at the same time. So I’m not too worried at this point. Anyone who has read 11/22/63 has an excellent chance of adoring this show, because we already know it’s going to be good. What I’m worried about is the average viewer who has no idea what to expect. I can see how this pilot could be a little disconcerting to that type of viewer because they were not allowed to comfortably wade in the shallow waters as the readers were before the real action began. I cannot say with complete certainty that those wrinkles will be ironed out in future episodes (because I haven’t seen them), but there is a very good chance that our patience will be rewarded, given the combination of Franco’s acting and Abrams’ producing skills. I would still suggest reading the book first, though. Another episode doesn’t premier until next Monday night (Feb. 22nd), giving you plenty of time to sink your teeth into the novel. Or, better yet, the audiobook! Craig Wasson does an incredible job narrating and you could probably get through it much faster on audio. If you were looking for an excuse to give 11/22/63 a try, this is the perfect opportunity! ♣︎