Picks and Pans Review: The Stand

updated 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sun., May 8, 9 p.m. ET)

B

A plague is upon the Earth, an unimaginably contagious and deadly flulike strain unleashed in a government germ-warfare experiment. With the population decimated, the forces of good and evil vie for the straggling survivors.

About the only person for whom this epidemic is good news is a nerd from Maine (Corin Nemec). The girl he has always had a crush on (Molly Ringwald) wouldn't go out with him if he was the last guy on Earth. Suddenly he's close to qualifying. Also spared from the scourge are a feckless pop singer (Adam Storke), a convict (Miguel Ferrer), a pyromaniac (Matt Frewer), a canny country boy (Gary Sinise), a noble deaf mute (Rob Lowe) and various others (among them Bill Fagerbakke, Ossie Davis, Ray Walston and Peter Van Norden). Showing up in cameos are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kathy Bates and Stephen King, who adapted his own apocalyptic novel for television. Ed Harris and Max Wright are eliminated early on.

The righteous folk, guided by a devout 106-year-old woman (Ruby Dee), gather in Boulder, Colo. The rowdies, under the sinister thumb of the devil-made-flesh (Jamey Sheridan), flock to (where else?) Las Vegas. Director Mick Garris does a good job of telling this big, challenging story in a crisp, comprehensible fashion, although he's eventually snowed under by the murky, quasimystical New Testament mumbo jumbo of King's parable. (For a far better, manageably scaled treatment of the theme, read the 1992 Tim Powers novel, Last Call.)

The miniseries, which continues Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, is entertaining. But is it worth eight hours of your attention? Not unless you're laid up with a bad flu bug you just can't seem to shake.

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