7 of the best TV mini-series of all time

by 5 years ago
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Whether they're too short to be television series or too long to be feature-length films, some stories still need to be told. That's where mini-series excel; they occupy you for a sustained period of time so the characters can involve you in their story and their world without overstaying their welcome. Here are picks for some of the greatest mini-series of all time.

Photo credit: YouTube/Fox

Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company from the 101st Airborne Division of the United States army during World War II. The ten-episode, 11-hour mini-series delves into many of Easy Company's actual real-life triumphs and losses, giving the series some poignant historical oomph. BOB was co-developed by Tom Hanks and executive produced by Steven Spielberg (who used 1998's Saving Private Ryan as something of a template for the series). The hours fly by more quickly than you'd expect as the story-lines, characters and events are deeply engrossing and the production values are sky-high. A must-see for fans of war movies.

Photo credit: YouTube/HBO

We all know the memorable Stanley Kubrick film from the 70's, replete with all its creepy twins, bloody hallway, "Here's Johnny!" splendor, but did you know that Stephen King didn't like the way his story came out? In fact, he disliked the Kubrick's rendition so much, that 17 years later he orchestrated the production of a three episode, four and a half hour mini-series that stayed faithful to his source material. That meant the hedge maze and Jack Nicholson's fire axe were replaced with a host of other menacing set pieces and threatening weapons straight from the mind of Stephen King. Great acting and a tangible, fright-filled atmosphere make this great as a standalone or as complementary material to the original novel and the original film.

Photo credit: YouTube/ABC

The Pacific debuted a full nine years after the success of Band of Brothers. As a full-length companion piece, it was a masterful telling of the United States Marine Corps' actions during their Pacific campaign against the Japanese in World War II. While Band of Brothers stuck with one company, The Pacific featured broad, intersecting story-lines and cost a whopping $200 million to produce, making it the most expensive mini-series ever.

Photo credit: YouTube/HBO

As much as this, in essence, is an old Western shoot-out spread out over five hours, it's also an intense character study that delves deep into the most famous and interesting family feud in American history. Bill Paxton and Kevin Costner star as the heads of each family and bring the emotional pain of the families tit-for-tat violence, loss and misery to life.

Photo credit: YouTube/History Channel

Technically, Prison Break is considered a series at this point, however it began as a 14-part mini-series, which was extended to a full season (and then three more) due to its critical and commercial success. Most fans of Prison Break will cite the first season (which would have been a perfect standalone mini-series as originally intended) as being the best. The writer's and actor's creative juices were flowing at full force, making Fox River Penitentiary a place that was as intriguing as it was exhilarating. Devious characters, a brilliant escape plan and endless cliffhangers kept the drama high and the pressure on at all times.

Photo credit: YouTube/Fox

Battlestar Galactica is another series that wasn't initially meant to be one. The original mini-series brought about a re-imagining of the late 70's TV show and went on to receive widespread critical acclaim for its writing, directing, acting, visuals, audio and more. The intriguing premise of military-bred humans on a space ship who are at war with cybernetic villains of their own creation that look and act exactly like humans made for great television that began with this brilliant three hour mini-series.

Photo credit: YouTube/SyFy

The Odyssey is one of the oldest pieces of literature still celebrated by man, and there's good reason for that. The ancient Greece epic tells of the wild adventures of a war-hero named Odysseus as he journeys home to his faithful wife, Penelope. Along the way he encounters monsters, magic and acts of God and though the visual effects aren't as striking as they were 15 years ago, the legend itself is timeless.

Photo credit: YouTube/NBC

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TAGSArbitrary RankingsBand of BrothersBattlestar GalacticafeaturedHatfields & McCoysListsPrison BreakThe Shining

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