What it’s about: Seven kids are tormented by an evil being that exploits their fears, most commonly taking the form of Pennywise the Clown. As adults, they’re called back to Derry to finish defeating the monster.
How it could work on TV: It was already adapted into a two-part miniseries, but there’s more to explore as a longer series. The lives of the Losers’ Club in particular could take up much of the focus, with their adult counterparts popping up in flash-forwards. A TV show would have to add to the (already substantial) novel, but with a villain like It (and Pennywise the Clown), the possibilities are endless.
9. “The Night Flier” (collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes)
What it’s about: Tabloid reporter Richard Dees is tracking The Night Flier, a serial killer who travels in a Cessna Skymaster, stopping in small airports to brutally murder his victims. Dees believes his target only thinks he’s a vampire — until he learns the truth.
How it could work on TV: Again, “The Night Flier” was adapted into a film of the same name, but the framework of the story could easily be expanded into a weekly series, following the cat-and-mouse game between Dees and the vampire. According to Stephen King, his story “Popsy” is also about The Night Flier, indicating the creature has a kid. There’s another angle to work with.
What it’s about: Struggling artist Clayton Riddell is caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse — well, kind of. A signal called “The Pulse” turns everyone with a cell phone into mindless “phoners.” With a couple other survivors, Clayton attempts to survive and reconnect with his son.
How it could work on TV: OK, a couple problems here: Cell is already being adapted into a film starring John Cusack, and The Walking Dead is a well established and popular zombie series. But hey, can you ever really have too many of those? Besides, this combines our fears of technology, not to mention a mystery of who sent “The Pulse” and why. It’s a fresh take on the apocalypse show we’ve come to love.
7. Needful Things
What it’s about: A new store called “Needful Things” opens in the town of Castle Rock. Owner Leland Gaunt has every item you could hope for in stock, but the price is a prank on a fellow townsperson. Playing off long-standing feuds, Gaunt manages to push the inhabitants to violence and complete chaos.
How it could work on TV: The thrill of Needful Things is the way Gaunt’s evil plan builds on itself, and that’s something that could certainly be drawn out in a series. The conclusion to the novel is actually rather unsatisfying, so a TV show might allow for a retooled ending, ditching the deus ex machina in favor of some townspeople successfully fighting back, or even following Gaunt to his next location.
6. “The Ten O’Clock People” (collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes)
What it’s about: Pearson is trying to quit smoking, so he only smokes once on his ten o’clock break. He soon learns that others like him are somehow able to see a horrible side of reality in which many people in positions of power are actually monsters disguised as people.
How it could work on TV: Well, spoiler alert — Pearson’s attempt to join others and fight against the monsters ends with a slaughter, but Pearson manages to escape. The series could follow his ongoing attempts to expose the “batmen,” as they’re called. Similar creatures called the “Can-toi,” servants of the Crimson King, appear in other King works, suggesting there’s a much larger mythology to be explored here.
5. ‘Salem’s Lot
What it’s about: Ben Mears returns to his home town of ‘Salem’s Lot to discover that it’s been overrun by vampires. Along with the remaining humans, he must fight the vampire Barlow and the turned townspeople.
How it could work on TV: This would be tough, as the story is somewhat self-contained. But then, the same could be said for Under the Dome. By focusing on the town and the encroaching vampire threat, a series could draw out the drama and the scares. If properly executed, it could be a great example of claustrophobic paranoid horror, with no rush toward the final showdown.
4. The Stand
What it’s about: A deadly superflu called “Captain Tripps” begets an apocalypse, with groups of survivors banding together with various aims. They end up coming head to head in an epic battle between good and evil.
How it could work on TV: OK, there’s a lot to deal with here. The Stand has been adapted into miniseries before, but how would it fare as a weekly series? Again, it’s all in the execution. The unabridged version of King’s novel has been called inferior by some — the show would have to expand on the more interesting elements and ignore those bits that had readers wishing they’d opted for the condensed experience. But again: apocalypse horror drama is good TV.
What it’s about: Andy McGee and his daughter Charlie are on the run from government agency called The Shop. In college, Andy and his wife participated in experiments that gave them telekinetic powers, but with side effects they passed on: Charlie can start fires with her mind.
How it could work on TV: There are a couple options here — one is to do a straight adaptation of the novel with Andy and Charlie on the run. The other is to do what the 2002 TV movie sequel did and focus on Charlie as an adult. Either way, there’s a compelling story here about Charlie’s need to get her story out, and The Shop stopping at nothing to prevent her from exposing their existence. Also: lots of fire, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2. “Everything’s Eventual” (collected in Everything’s Eventual)
What it’s about: Dinky Earnshaw has a special gift: he can mentally influence people by drawing designs and pictures. He’s discovered by the mysterious Trans Corporation, who give him great perks in exchange for Dinky taking out “bad people.” As he soon learns, it’s the company that’s truly evil.
How it could work on TV: Dinky might not be the most compelling protagonist, but his ultimate discovery and rebellion against the Trans Corporation could be a great starting point for a series. We know where Dinky ends up as he reappears in The Dark Tower, but the TV show could take liberties with that, and — like Firestarter focus on Dinky’s attempts to outrun an evil corporation using his psychic abilities.
1. The Dark Tower
What it’s about: Oh, God, where to begin? This is Stephen King’s epic seven-novel fantasy saga. (There’s now an eighth novel and short stories.) Essentially, it’s about Roland and his ka-tet and their quest to reach the Dark Tower. It also includes characters from dozens of other King novels.
How it could work on TV: The Dark Tower is so expansive that it could really only work as a TV series. (And was proposed as such recently, though that seems to have fallen through.) There’s just so much story here — and yes, it’s ambitious — but if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that great epic fantasy really can spawn great fantasy TV. And hey, if all these other Stephen King TV series get made, maybe The Dark Tower could function as some sort of mega crossover! Look, a King fan can dream.