The TV mini-series gets the shaft all the time. And I get it. Not cool enough to be a movie, not long enough to be a show, they are the outcasts of the entertainment industry. (But they are for sure cooler than books, right? Ugh. Books are basically toilet paper with words.)
There aren’t a whole lot of mini-series (or serials, as fancy people call them) to be found nowadays. But they are great, and I want to share my top six list of the greatest American television events of all time. And then, I would like to humbly suggest five TV shows that SHOULD have been mini-series, which I am sure will incite great ire among you.
6. The Mists of Avalon
This one is crazy, ya’ll. There is a lot of King Arthur stuff in it, and enough early 2000’s dark-lipsticked beauties to stock a My Chemical Romance video. And I don’t want to give it away, but the Mist is a main character. Little known fact, the Mist from The Mists of Avalon is related to the Smoke Monster from Lost.
Highlights include: Freddie Highmore as Young Arthur. There’s also a considerable amount of mist. Have I mentioned that?
5. Angels in America
Since I was a theater major in college (can you hear my parents beaming?), I got enough poorly acted versions of Angels in America to last twelve Old Testament character lifetimes. Many moons of bad Tony Kushner butchering. But you want to know who doesn’t butcher Mr. Kushner? AL PACINO. MERYL STREEP. EMMA THOMPSON. It’s amazing if you like primo acting, Emma Thompson as an angel and Al Pacino in a wig. Which is, frankly, how I prefer my Al Pacino.
Highlights include: Patrick Wilson! Mary-Louise Parker! Lots of people falling. I don’t know why.
And so begins my obsession with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Guys. I’m sorry that an American didn’t get this role. I feel bad. But you cannot deny this dude. He is unstoppable. You can barely distinguish between the archive footage of Elvis and JRM. But the yick factor here is Rose McGowan as Ann-Margret. I’ve never really understood the appeal of Ann-Margret (is it because I’m a lady? I’m fearful of gingers? I’m unsure.), but Rose McGowan is NOT HELPING ANYTHING. Also, Randy Quaid plays the Colonel, and I’m pretty sure it’s Randy’s finest moment, even better than his work in the Magical Legend of Leprechauns.
Highlights include: Camryn Manhiem as Momma Elvis. What happened to her? Where did she go? (Update: a Google search reveals she was in Harry’s Law and something called The Land Before Time XII: The Great Day of the Flyers since her role as Gladys Presley. So…mystery solved, y’all.)
3. The Kennedys
BARRY PEPPER. That’s all that really needs to be said here. Greg Kinnear can also be said. Katie Holmes can be left unspoken, as far as I’m concerned. Although I have to give it to her, she looks a heck of a lot like Jackie in this. I absolutely loved this series, because I have a weird fascination with the Kennedy family, and I like the 1960s. But really, Barry Pepper is the highlight for me. He’s a fantastic actor and he gets Robert Kennedy down to a tee. Also, COSTUMES. I love it. I want to drink its bathwater. I want to roll around in it, like a hog in the summer.
Highlights include: Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars, never forget) plays J. Edgar Hoover, COSTUMES, Marilyn Monroe, and Tom Wilkinson providing daddy issues like a boss.
2. Band of Brothers
I know. You’re already mad at me because it’s number two. Well, I’m sorry. And it is such a wonderful piece. If Captain Winters told me to contract the bubonic plague for the good of this country, you bet I would do it. I would do it with a patriotic tear in my eye. With eagles soaring behind me. And I’d be happy to have bubonic plague…for America. But my favorite part is the veteran interviews. They kill me. I cry. Sometimes I watch them on YouTube. Which you can and should do. I’m crying again. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. SPIELBERG!!!! Damien Lewis is fantastic, Ross from Friends made me forget that he was on Friends, or that there ever was a Friends (praise God), and it’s all at once a moving and beautiful work of art. I can’t even talk about Ron Livingston. I can’t even look at him in any context without crying. I’m just going to say it: if you don’t like Band of Brothers, you don’t have a beating heart within you. Or you’re a terrorist.
Highlights include: Michael Fassbender (!), little baby Colin Hanks (thanks, dad!). Donnie Wahlberg absolutely owns my life in general, and he kills me in BoB. I want to cradle his head and speak lovingly into his ear. Easy Company, I love you forever.
1. Lonesome Dove
I have an unhealthy obsession with Robert Duvall, so I’m the first to say that Lonesome Dove in the number one slot is completely and totally biased. My childhood baggage (being from Texas, hanging out at my grandparent’s cattle ranch, sending Robert Duvall a fan letter) forces me to adore this mini-series with everything inside of my heart. It’s not an understatement to say that I’ve watched it at least twenty times. Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call are so near and dear to me that I may have taken my wedding pictures off the wall in anger when my husband rejected those names for our future child. Forget the bad effects (cattle horns ablaze with lightning, what?) and the fades during the snake scene, it’s just good. Plus if you’re a dude, can I just say: Diane Lane in her youth? She’s like a desert flower.
Highlights include: Robert Duvall at his absolute finest (am I overselling this? I’m really trying to restrain myself). After Lonesome Dove, Duvall said: “Let the English have their Hamlet, I’ve played Augustus McCrae.” Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. There’s also: Tommy Lee Jones, working real hard to win an Emmy. And he whips someone. I mean he whips them with a whip. A character named Dish. People. I’m not going to try and sell this to you anymore. If you can’t get behind the serialization of the second greatest American novel of all time, I can’t help you. Enjoy your Jersey Shore, Babylonians.
(sorry this is basically the commercial for the Blu-Ray edition, but…no other trailers were available. But doesn’t it make you want to BUY IT?!)
*Note: You’ll notice that I’m leaving John Adams off this list. I did that on purpose, because Paul Giamatti can do a lot of things, but he can’t stop casting from putting Laura Linney in a show. How Laura Linney gets work is astounding to me; I feel the same puzzlement when I look at the night sky and wonder about my own existence.
Some stories need hard and fast endings. I think these shows would have been more concise, more interesting, and less meandering had they been contained as miniseries.
4. Once Upon a Time
5. Awake (I love you, but I fear for your future.)
Are you a fan of the TV miniseries? What did I leave off? Don’t say John Adams.