Frank's Faves: TV miniseries to binge-watch

Frank's Faves: TV miniseries to binge-watch

"There's no such thing as too much of a good thing ... " — Mindy Smith

Got your spring cleaning done yet? Me neither. What's your excuse? Myself, I'm going with the weather. April just hasn't been very springlike so far, and in my case, much of my spring-cleaning responsibilities at home are centered on our unheated, warehouse-sized garage. I won't deny it — I'm in no hurry to get started on that project until Old Man Winter finally calls it a season, packs up the cold stuff and hops on a sleigh for wherever he spends his off-season.

Despite this blatant justification of my natural procrastinating tendencies, this year's unusually protracted wait for warmer weather does have an upside: We get a little more time to hole up indoors and catch up on our binge-watching.

Actually, I don't find a lot of time to indulge in much binge-watching these days, but I do like to make the most of what time I get. The most recent "serious binges" my wife and I were able to manage were devoted to catching up on the last couple seasons of "Blacklist" and "Longmire," although I did squeeze in a private binge all on my own over the winter to catch the History Channel's "Sons of Liberty" miniseries from 2015.

Of course, the garage didn't get any cleaner in the meantime, but I'm no less convinced that the time was well-spent. And despite the fact that I really, really would like spring to get its act together weather-wise, the sooner the better, I also look forward to more binge opportunities in the near future, because my list of binge-worthy faves is starting to get longer than the aisles of packing crates, boxes and bags in my garage that need my attention.

And for me, the best pickings for binge-watching are TV miniseries. The reason is twofold: 1) Obviously, miniseries are longer than even full-length feature movies, so require more time to watch (sometimes a whole weekend!); and 2) There have been so many in recent years that there's no way any of us has had time to watch them all, all the way through, especially the first time they aired. Binge-watching allows us to see them all — even pause and replay parts that didn't make sense the first time around — and at our own pace and on our own time.

Of course, such binges are great for catching up on shows we've missed, but they're just as great for second- and third-time viewings of those we recall as faves — either to relive some great stories and performances, or to remind ourselves of why we remember them so fondly.

In my own case, miniseries as a faves category or two has one other thing going for it — my favorite modern author, Stephen King, has inspired more miniseries than possibly any other writer or resource I know of: at least 13 so far, by my count — and some of those, of course, are all-time faves of mine.

So, to be fair, let's break this class of fave into three lists — excluding the King of Horror from the first two and reserving the third for him alone. Hey, you're in for a faves binge of epic proportions with:


— "Band of Brothers" (2001). This 10-part HBO miniseries from executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks was based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 nonfiction book about the soldiers of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, during World War II and starred Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston and Donnie Wahlberg. It also came out not long after Spielberg and Hanks had collaborated on one of my all-time favorite war movies, "Saving Private Ryan," so it clearly had all sorts of reasons for me to want to see it — except I wasn't an HBO subscriber at the time, so I didn't ... and still haven't. But I will.

— "Hatfields & McCoys" (2012). History Channel's three-parter about the famous blood feud between the title families along the Kentucky/West Virginia border in the years following the Civil War wasn't on my must-see list originally — despite the fact that it starred personal faves Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the patriarchs of the opposing clans. That's because this ugly chapter of American history has never been of much interest to me — until I read recently that the feud nearly started a war between the two states and eventually required the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court. Consider my interest piqued.

— "11.22.63" (2016). OK, I'm sneaking a Stephen King-inspired miniseries in here, but only because I haven't seen it yet — and because it's based on one of my favorite King novels, about a high school English teacher who travels back in time to stop JFK's assassination. A cool concept, starring James Franco.

— "Roots" (1977). Yeah, I can't believe I never saw this landmark dramatization of author Alex Haley's family history either, but at the time it came out, I was attending college full time during the day and working full-time nights at a grocery store. Ironically, I have more time to see it now than I did then. So, it's about time, huh?

— "Centennial" (1978-79). I missed this 12-parter based on the James Michener novel for the same reason as "Roots." Its story about the title town in Colorado spans two centuries and made for one of the most ambitious and expensive miniseries ever. Next time I have 26-plus hours free ...


— "North and South" (1985-1994). Patrick Swayze hadn't yet danced dirty or become a ghost when he starred in this Civil War-era epic, based on the John Jakes novels and still my favorite miniseries ever — the first two "books" anyway; the Swayze-less "Book III," not so much.

— "Lonesome Dove" (1989). Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are perfect as saddle-tramp pals in the best TV western since "Gunsmoke."

— "V" (1983-84). Robert Englund hadn't yet become Freddy Krueger when he played a reptilian "visitor" in this sci-fi two-parter that spawned a sequel and a series.

— "The Blue and the Gray" (1982). Yup, another Civil War-based miniseries, but as this one is based on historian Bruce Catton's writings and views the war through the eyes of a newspaper artist, it's a lot more authentic.

— "Harper's Island" (2009). A slightly tongue-in-cheek horror-murder mystery that really did keep me guessing right up to its 13th and final episode.


— "It" (1990).

— "The Stand" (1994).

— "Storm of the Century" (1999).

— "Salem's Lot" (1979/2004).

— "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" (2006).

Topics (2):Film, Television