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It’s taken a full 17 months for this news to finally turn into something concrete, but J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot Productions are adapting Stephen King’s excellent 2011 novel 11/22/63 into an event series. Of all places, Hulu has stepped in and officially announced a direct-to-series order for the emotionally gripping time travel story that centers on one of the most infamous days in American history: the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
11/22/63 will be a nine-hour limited series, and is the first collaboration between King and Abrams, who have a mutual admiration for one another, as well as the first deal between Hulu and Warner Bros. Television. Also stepping in as executive producer is Bridget Carpenter, a former writer/producer on shows such as Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. Carpenter will be writing the entire teleplay, which is quite unlike anything she’s worked on in the past.
The novel follows Jake Epping, a high school English teacher who is given a chance to alter history when a troubled friend offers him a way to travel back in time. It isn’t a flawless process, of course, and each trip takes him back to the same fixed point in time. As he ages in the past, that's how he looks when he returns to the present, even though not much time passes in the present when he's absent. (It’s like the reverse Keith Richards syndrome.) After some trial and error, Jake takes upon himself the monumental task of staying in the past long enough to try and thwart Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting JFK on that fateful day in Dallas.
Honestly, it’s one of King’s best books, trading high concept horror for sci-fi-laden historical fiction. Even the ending is sound. The book was at first going to be turned into a feature, with Jonathan Demme as director. He eventually left the project, which later landed in Abrams’ spoiler-smooshing hands. While it may have worked as a movie, a ridiculous amount of details (provided by King’s extensive research) would have been left on the cutting room floor. A limited series is exactly how this book needs to reach the visual medium. And if Hulu decides to release all nine episodes at once, don’t bother trying to reach me that day.
To say that both Abrams and King have a lot on their agendas is an understatement. Abrams is obviously in the middle of filming Star Wars: Episode VII and has Star Trek 3 and Mission: Impossible 5 on his producer slate. King, meanwhile, is gearing up to release his billionth novel Revival this November, with big screen adaptations coming for The Stand, IT, A Good Marriage, Cell and several more.
If we can just ask one thing of Hulu here, it would be to please do a better job with 11/22/63 than CBS did with Under the Dome. Though I guess it’d be impossible to do worse.