Believe it or not, there are many great Stephen King stories and books that have yet to be adapted into films or TV shows. And yet, producers keep turning to either remakes or King’s B-side material — stuff that fails to pack the punch of his more powerful work.
The latest example is “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates,” a rather ho-hum part of King’s 2008 short story collection Just After Sunset. The story is being adapted into a TV series from Alex Kurtzman‘s Secret Hideout label and CBS Studios.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like a King Adaptation?
We’re in the midst of a Stephen King adaptation renaissance that was kicked off by the massive success of It in 2017. As a big honking Stephen King nerd, I like this — in theory. The renaissance has produced some good-to-great stuff. I really dug the Pet Semetary reboot, and I thought Doctor Sleep was damn good. But then you have the flip side of the coin; stuff like Apple’s wildly disappointing Lisey’s Story, for instance. On top of that, studios and producers seem to not really know what the heck to do — they keep either greenlighting reboots (there’s a new Firestarter on the way) or turning to obscure short stories (Chapelwaite premiers on Epix on August 22). Then folks just throw up their arms and dream up sequels or prequels like the Pet Sematary prequel that’s being made for Paramount+.
So what’s the solution? My advice would be to turn to the short stories and books that have yet to have their day in the sun.
Revival, one of King’s best later-period books, has been floated as a potential film for several different directors, including Doctor Sleep‘s Mike Flanagan. But so far nothing has come of it. King’s earlier collections — Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and Nightmares and Dreamscapes — all have fine tales of terror that could make the leap to the big (or small) screen with the right creative team. But instead of all that, we’re getting a TV adaptation of King’s 2008 story “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates.”
The story first appeared in an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was then published in King’s short story collection Just After Sunset. Deadline broke the news of the show, reporting that it’s part of a deal between Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout and CBS Studios.
“The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates”
Here’s the deal with “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates”: the story follows Annie Driscoll, who loses her husband in a plane crash. Two days later she gets a phone call — from her dead husband. He says he’s at some sort of metaphysical train station and he also warns about two tragedies that have yet to happen. These warnings end up saving Annie’s life. And that’s it! The story is only 10 pages long. Quality-wise, it’s fine. It’s definitely not one of King’s best, though, that’s for sure.
The question you then have to ask is how do you turn that idea into a TV show? The answer, of course, is to stretch the source material.
I suppose you could turn this into a kind of Early Edition show. For those who don’t remember, Early Edition ran from 1996 to 2000 and followed a guy (played by Kyle Chandler) who manages to get his hands on the next day’s newspaper a full day early. He then uses the knowledge he reads in the magic newspaper to prevent tragedies. So, sure, I suppose The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates the TV show (no way they’ll keep that full title) could work that way.
Side-note: if CBS ends up using this exact idea, I better get a percentage.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time the story has been considered for a TV adaptation. Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn, who wrote the Stephen King-inspired series Haven, were trying to adapt the story into a show called Grand Central for ABC Signature back in 2013. But that never got off the ground (or I guess I should say out of the station, like a real dork). Will this incarnation fare better? Perhaps, but I really wish someone would start taking a chance on adapting some better King stories instead.
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