If we establish that documentaries don’t count, I have three. There was V, but I couldn’t recommend that to anyone today. There was Stephen King’s It, which I have watched about a hundred times and still love. But that was only a four-hour, two-parter. In the true epic spirit of the miniseries, I have to go with North & South.
I can tell you why in two words: Patrick Swayze. But let me elaborate. Patrick Swayze at West Point.
Really, though. The cast alone could sell this thing. And how many of them ended up coupled? Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis. James Read and Wendy Kilbourne. Kirstie Alley and Parker Stevenson (ok, that was North & South, Book II). Lesley Anne Down and…her husband. I don’t think he was an actor, though.
The first book was the pre-Civil War story of two families – one a Pennsylvania manufacturer of…something and the other a South Carolina planter of…something. Their sons meet at the Point, become best friends and go off to the Mexican War. I will have to watch it again, but in my mind (at age 10 or 11) it was very sympathetic to both families and did a good job of making the political personal.
The bad guys were terrifying. David Carradine. Mean as Kill Bill with none of the charm. Philip Casnoff played the horrid, horrid Elkanah Bent. So well that when he pops up in a guest role somewhere, I will scream “AHH! Elkanah Bent!”
I promise you, I am not the only one.
North and South was just the right novel for that period – the 1980’s heyday of the traditional network miniseries. I’d say it was the perfect specimen, but I haven’t seen The Winds of War yet.