19 Fantastic Yet Forgotten TV Mini-Series


You may not have seen them, but these mini-series from yesteryear are worth their weight in gold.

Before the age of countless streaming services and limited event series, the mini-series reigned as king of television’s short-form appointment viewing.


ABC

However, changes in how people consume content, and the changing styles of television presentation, have made many mini-series get lost in the sands of time. As such, I’ve assembled a list of some legitimately great mini-series that you may have missed as they have fallen on the back burner of the media landscape.

1.

Stephen King’s Storm of the Century


Prod.DB / Greengrass / Rainfall / USA / Alamy

Starring Colm Feore in a dastardly demonic role, Stephen King’s first foray into original small screen programming remains a hard-to-find (legally) cult favorite and among the author’s favorite produced projects.

2.

Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune


Touchstone Television / Blixa Film Produktion / Courtesy Everett Collection

After the success of the Sci-Fi Channel’s initial Dune mini-series, the network produced this surprisingly stellar sequel featuring a breakout performance from a young James McAvoy.

3.

Hatfields & McCoys


Sony Pictures Television / Alamy

Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton collide in this intense and gripping true-life western mini-series about neighboring families caught in a literal blood feud.

4.

Tin Man


Sci-Fi Channel / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Featuring an all-star cast including Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming and Richard Dreyfus, this subversive modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz was a critical and commercial success upon its first airing but has been lost to time outside of its once-in-a-blue-moon syndication.

5.

In Cold Blood


Pacific Motion Pictures /  Courtesy: Everett Collection

Eric Roberts and Anthony Edwards shine in this 1996 adaptation of Truman Capote’s seminal crime tale In Cold Blood from director Jonathan Kaplan, one of the minds behind ’90s TV sensation, ER.

6.

Coma


A&E / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tony and Ridley Scott teamed up with author Robin Cook to revive his suspenseful and methodical sci-fi novel in 2012, which was previously adapted to the big screen by Westworld and Jurassic Park mastermind, Michael Crichton.

7.

Arabian Nights


ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

Though some of the casting choices are pretty regrettable in retrospect, this fun and flamboyant 2000 ABC mini-series was anchored by a scene-stealing dual performance by John Leguizamo.

8.

Into the West


TNT / Courtesy Everett Collection

Produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks, this exceptional ensemble six-part mini-series explores the expansion into the American Frontier throughout the 1800s as it affects numerous generations of men and women throughout their respective conflicts.

9.

Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story


Hallmark Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

Directed by Brian Henson, this 2001 mini-series juxtaposed the director’s more humanist depiction of the classic fairy tale with the colorful and hyper imaginative work one comes to expect from Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop.

10.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King


TNT / Erik Heinila / Album / Alamy

This star-studded adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying anthology essentially rejuvenated the author’s appeal in popular culture, though its auspicious omission from streaming platforms has made it largely unseen by the most recent wave of King fanatics.

11.

The Company


TNT / Jan Thijs / Album / Alamy

In a time where Michael Keaton’s projects were unfortunately few and far between, this three-part series about the CIA’s operations during the Cold War was a thrilling reminder to never count the actor out as an all-timer in his craft.

12.

The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town


IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

The first on-screen material produced by the legendary comedy troupe in 13 years, this silly and satirical murder mystery was a departure in terms of format for the Kids in the Hall but proved they were as creatively sharp as ever before.

13.

Thief (2006)


FX Networks / Courtesy Everett Collection

Anchored by an Emmy-winning performance by Andre Braugher, Thief brought a heavyweight and suspenseful drama to a mini-series format, essentially establishing the format of the “limited event series” that would eschew the stigma of short-form television dramas on premium cable nearly a decade later.

14.

Salem’s Lot (2004)


TNT / Courtesy Everett Collection

A darker, modern version of the classic Stephen King tale, this mini-series boasted an eerie atmosphere and an exceptional cast including Rob Lowe, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Samantha Mathis, and James Cromwell, but has sadly fallen into obscurity as viewers move farther and farther away from cable syndication.

15.

Red Riding


IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

Though this decade-spanning mini-series was eventually released in the U.S. as an independent film trilogy, Red Riding is a genuinely captivating (and, at times, heartbreaking) story about police corruption during the Yorkshire Ripper murders with a stacked cast comprised of character acting greats, such as Sean Bean, Peter Mullan, and Mark Addy, as well as future stars such as Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall, and Robert Sheehan.

16.

Generation Kill


HBO / Paul Schiraldi / Album / Alamy

HBO’s harrowing mini-series about the 2003 invasion of Iraq fromThe Wire’s David Simon, Generation Kill was lauded for its visceral authenticity and brutal honesty but has been ultimately been overshadowed by the network’s more lauded (and mainstream) wartime projects, Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

17.

Broken Trail


AMC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Another early indicator of what would be later considered to be “prestige television,” Walter Hill’s two-part western about cowboys who save several women from a slave trader was not only a return to form for the rugged action director but served as further testament to Robert Duvall’s sixth sense when it comes to beloved mini-series set in the Wild West.

18.

Stephen King’s Rose Red


ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

Craig R. Baxley’s phenomenal and bone-chilling program about a group of supernaturally gifted volunteer test subjects who decide to stay at a notoriously deadly manor might be, pound-for-pound, the best Stephen King mini-series ever, but has unfortunately been difficult to watch through legal means as its only availability seems to be through a now-out-of-print DVD.

19.

Steven Spielberg Presents: Taken


DreamWorks Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

A major television event for its time, not only did Taken help to establish the star power of the young Dakota Fanning, but provided legitimately compelling dramatic material for an alien abduction series, which was frequently relegated to low-budget shlock and “believe-it-or-not” docuseries in the years prior.


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