(Updated on February 11, 2012)
These are simply the best TV miniseries of all time as far as I’m concerned. Other miniseries that I considered for this list include: The Stand (1994), Angels In America (2003), and Return To Lonesome Dove (1993).
HBO is clearly leading the way when it comes to television miniseries. They’ve put studio movie level money into producing some of the most incredible miniseries of all time. It all started at HBO in my mind with From The Earth To The Moon (1998) by producers Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. This epic miniseries took the incredible movie storytelling that Hanks and Howard put to great effect in Apollo 13 (1995) to use on television to tell the rest of the stories behind NASA’s epic missions to the Moon. And after the success of that series, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Band of Brothers (2001), using Spielberg’s masterpiece war movie Saving Private Ryan (1998) as the catalyst for that World War II series about D-Day and fighting the Germans. Band of Brothers is revered around the world as one of the greatest miniseries of all time. And it’s clearly at the top of my list…just above it’s “sequel” miniseries “The Pacific” and the epic Western miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989). There was something magical about Lonesome Dove when it came out in the late 80’s. It was like nothing we had seen on TV in a long time. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones brought that series to life with their incredible chemistry as two former Texas Rangers. Duvall still claims today that his role as Gus McCrae is his favorite out of his incredible body of work.
The Pacific (2010) is the “sequel” to Band of Brothers, telling the story of the other half of World War II. It does so in the same incredible fashion as Band of Brothers, but the battles in the Pacific weren’t quite as epic of a story as fighting the Nazis in Germany. And not to be dismissed is John Adams (2008), the incredible story of the founding of the United States of America, from the point of view of our 2nd president. This incredible miniseries covers our Declaration of Independence like no other movie or television show ever has. John Adams is by far the best story of how America came in to being, showing us the real history behind the characters and the story of our independence and early government.
It’s going to take an incredible new miniseries to break into the Top 5 on this list. But I wouldn’t put it past HBO. They seem to be so strongly committed to telling epic stories that deserve more than a 2-hour film, that anything is possible. There are a lot more great stories to be told in the same fashion as these strong miniseries. We’ll see what comes in the next few years.