05/29/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
ABC (May 23, 8 p.m. ET)
Imagine your television set as a tin bucket. Now imagine Stephen King vomiting his subconscious into it.
Stephen King's Desperation, with a script by the horror master himself based on his 1996 novel, is an unsettling, undisciplined, illogical dreamlike mess. Into the framework of a simple tale of dread and suspense—a small Southwestern town overwhelmed by a mysterious, malignant force—King stuffs (in no particular order) tarantulas and snakes, urinals that overflow with blood, salivating killer dogs, Chinese miners, a dead girl spirit who leaves behind a neon-green bar of soap and living corpses whose flesh begins to crack open like overbaked bread. Oh—and Vietnam. Mustn't forget Vietnam.
It's all potently disgusting over the course of three hours, but I kept thinking instead of Lost. That series has become something of a narrative triumph—a stellar example of how to control a seemingly amorphous story even as it keeps fanning out into new and bizarre territory. Desperation just gets completely lost.