Since 1976's debut with Carrie, Stephen King adaptations have tended to fall into 5 categories. There are the successful and acclaimed movies such as The Shining, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile, those that are less successful but worthy and good films like The Dead Zone, Cats Eye, Apt Pupil & Pet Semetary.
There are the TV-mini series, done over several hours like Salem's Lot, IT, Rose Red & The Stand and then there are the long-form series and the final is of course the dreck.
There are more bad Stephen King adaptations out there than there are good, partly because King himself tends to get a little "too involved" in them sometimes or doesn't always buy into the vision of guys like Kubrick but often because they don't really fit the chosen form. Under The Dome was not suited to more than one season for example. If done as a Stand-type 8 hour story, it would have worked but the tweaks required to stretch it to 30+ hours of TV made it almost unwatchable by the time it was put out of it's...ahem Misery.
Even though many of us love Arnie's take on The Running Man, with it's Starsky directed, steroid fueled satire, it wasn't the book. The tale of Ben Richards would easily have worked as a mini-series or more long-form show, showing the true concept of the game - being forced to travel the world while being pursued.
A big issue with getting King stuff to work on-screen is the actual length of the tome itself. Several of his bigger stories have languished in development hell for years because they are so complex. The Dark Tower is a saga both on the page and in the corridors of Hollywood power. Cell was much heralded and is out there somewhere, fully filmed but not being released, could this be because the book is too complex for a 2-3 hour movie? and it sucks as a result, even WITH SAM JACKSON!? It's likely.
One of King's most popular stories is The Mist, it's claustrophobic, yet very visceral and raw in how people actually behave when civilization finally collapses. While Cell shows how we could be "taken back to the stone age", The Mist tells a tale of fear of change. There is something new in that world, something they can only see in glimpses and all the technology or praying in the world won't help them.
The movie was released to very mixed reviews, mainly focused on the highly controversial ending. For decorum's sake I won't post it or spoil it, but personally I am in the camp that felt it not only fit the movie but improved it, particularly when viewed in the black & white cut that's out there. Others hated that the movie was pretty much 2 hours in a supermarket, while many were offended by the movie's villain, Mrs Carmoody, brought to terrifying life by Marcia Gay Harden. She channeled every hate figure from Hitler to Bush to the Westboro Baptists and what was the most scary was the "reasonableness" of her character in some ways. She might be a zealot and potentially losing her sanity, but there's a scary sense to everything she says and others respond to it.
It's now been announced that David Drayton and his collapsing world are to be made into a new long-form TV series.
Personally I think this could be a the best way to show the story, but with a caveat, it cannot last more than 2 seasons.
Many of the best shows are ones that end abruptly, when the fans want more. Life On Mars was the best example in recent years, where they told their tale in 16 episodes. A sequel series, Ashes To Ashes came and lasted 3 series but LoM remains one of the most perfectly contained stories ever, you can leave it there, never watch it's noiser, 80's set brother and not miss out. More recently, Hulu's adaptation of the time travel tale 11.22.63 has been capped at one series. Even if it is doing well, James Franco will only do one season before this story wraps. It's a refreshing pace change from the endless "thou shalt get 7 seasons" out of an idea that networks thrive on.
With of course brings the spectre of The Mist's big competition. This is clearly an attempt to interest fans of The Walking Dead, to offer a world perhaps similar to it but not quite the same. If it's going to work there is one guy they need to get involved and if they can't get him, they should probably not bother.
Darabont is responsible for the two most successful adaptations of King's work to date. Admittedly, neither The Green Mile or Shawshank Redemption were horror genre, but there is a definite style that meshes well with King's material. He was also responsible for The Mist movie (and THAT ending) so he is well placed to expand that world and reboot it in a way that will be familiar but also exciting to see anew.
The other big reason of course is that Darabont was the man who got the Walking Dead off the ground. While AMC removed him at the end of the first season, it's hard to say if that is why it is still the phenomeon it is today. The Mist and TWD shared many cast members who played a major part in the shows success, notably Laurie Holden (Andrea), Jeffery DeMunn (Dale) & Melissa McBride (Carol). Darabont cast Norman Reedus as Dale, Andrew Lincoln as Rick and Michael Rooker as Merle.
Darabont could easily have sustained it for a season or two, but if Dimension can get him on this project with that fixed scale, then The Mist could easily become one of the most talked about shows ever.
Casting-wise, Darabont is a master of getting ensembles to work well, The lead is important, as David Drayton is our avatar in the world but more important will be the regulars he interacts with, just people he would see at the store who become integral to his life. The movie version had Harden, Andre Braugher, William Sadler along with the aforementioned Walking Dead alumni. Recasting some might be tempting, but other shows may have them (Braugher) or might bring people out of the world he is trying to create.
The role of Mrs Carmoody would be a draw for many of the top actresses in Hollywood of a certain age. I could see Nicole Kidman or Michelle Pfeiffer excelling in it and following the current trend of movie actors fronting a show. For David Drayton, there are some options out there, many are however tied up in other shows. Ben McKenzie would be a great pick if Gotham should fall by the wayside as it might do. Scott Caan or Alex O' Loughlin would also work if, as expected Hawaii Five-O is reaching it's end soon.
Movie star wise, Jason Clarke would be an equally good version of Drayton, although his involvement with the Apes movies probably would preclude it. Or Andrew Garfield? Sure he'd come across as a young father, but that could be part of the character and arc needed to sustain to 16+ hours. Much as Andrew Lincoln wasn't the obvious Rick Grimes at first, Garfield could be the right David Drayton.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out. But one thing is sure, this NEEDS Darabont, even as a consultant for it to have any real chance of being "a thing" people talk about.