Stephen King Billy Summers TV Show Coming From Bad Robot
The Stephen King novel Billy Summers is the latest of the author’s works to become the basis for an adaptation into a TV series. A dream team of TV creators has assembled Avengers-style to bring the recent book to live action. It’s still in the early stages, but we can also still get excited by talking about it, as we are wont to do.
The Source Material Is a Slight Deviation from Stephen King’s Usual Work
Longtime readers of the beloved Comic Years mainstay Pop Culture Free Time will recall that I’ve talked about Stephen King’s Billy Summers before. To be exact, it was one of the highlights of my August 2021 Free Time. As I mentioned then, while King is practically synonymous with all things spooky, he doesn’t write just horror. His On Writing, for instance, is just what it says–an author talking about his writing process. That might seem like cheating for me to mention it, since it’s a non-fiction book, but he’s also written several non-horror fiction stories.
11/22/63, image via Hulu
These include 11/22/63, The Dark Tower series, and The Green Mile. While there are some disturbing elements in all, including the astounding horror of a public assassination in the former, you’d be hard-pressed to describe any of the stories as a straight-up horror book. I mean, I would. You might do that to Mr. Jingles, but I’m built different.
Further, King has talked and written at length about his first influences. There is, of course, the early 20th century horror that King and others mined for inspiration in works like Creepshow. In addition to that and sci-fi, the other biggest influence for King is crime fiction.
Unsurprisingly then, King has tried his hand at writing his own crime fiction. Inspired by classic pulp fiction, for example, he wrote a trilogy for imprint Hard Case Crime. The set comprises The Colorado Kid, Joyland, and Later. In addition to these works, he also wrote the detective-focused Bill Hodges trilogy, which you might know better as the Mr. Mercedes books. And then there’s Billy Summers.
What to Expect from the New Stephen King TV Series
The title character is a veteran of Iraq–a Marine sniper–turned hitman. He’s the kind of guy who lives by a code, in that he only kills truly bad guys. However, he’s getting tired of the game by the time we meet him. Then mobster Nick Majarian convinces him to take on one last job. Despite the obvious cliché (see below), Billy still has enough hope to think he can pull it off.
It’s a long job that will see him have to move into a new town and assume a cover identity. Specifically, he’s pretending to be an author. While he bides his time waiting for his target to appear, he pretend-works on his great American novel. He’s not just pretending, though.
In fact, Billy’s actually writing a thinly-veiled account of what he experienced in Iraq. So, yes, King writes two stories at once–the crime novel and the war story inside it. Then he expands Billy’s story, placing it in a world where it shares space with parts of King’s other tales. And then, it becomes something other than that.
It’s probably too soon since the book’s release to call it a magnum opus. But it is a staggeringly good novel, a shining example of work by an author who’s too often discounted as just a genre writer. And now it’s (maybe) going to be a TV series.
Billy Summers Limited TV Series Is a Bad Robot Production
JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot Productions will be taking on the work of adapting Billy Summers with Stephen King, as Deadline reported. Bad Robot, of course, is no stranger to King’s work. In fact, they’ve previously handled adaptations of 11/22/63 and Castle Rock for Hulu, as well as Lisey’s Story on Apple TV.
Alabamian Andre Holland on Castle Rock, image via Hulu
It’s unclear at this point what role, if any, Abrams himself might have in the production. All we know now is that Ed Zwick and Marshall Hershkovitz will be adapting the book to a limited series format. They haven’t decided on the run’s size just yet, but they’re planning on something in the range of six to ten episodes. Zwick has directed such movies as Glory, Legends of the Fall, and his last film, 2018’s Trial By Fire. He’s also worked extensively in television, writing for shows like the 80s classic thirtysomething and Nashville. In addition, he’s served as a producer on shows like the 90s classic My So-Called Life and a creator on shows that include Once and Again.
He co-created the last show, as well as thirtysomething and other shows, with longtime partner Herskovitz. Herskovitz has worked most often as a producer, but he has also directed a couple of movies (1993’s Jack the Bear, for instance). With Zwick, he has been a cowriter on their shows, as well as the Pittsburgh-set movie Love and Other Drugs, which starred Anne Hathaway and a scarf keeper.
The Bad Robot team has begun working to put together a package for the series. As Deadline writes, “The package will be shopped shortly to high-end cable networks and streamers.” We will, of course, keep you updated once there’s more substantial information.
Are you looking forward to seeing the Stephen King’s Billy Summers become a TV series? Who do you picture as the world-weary Summers himself? Let us know in these comments or on our social media.
featured image via Scribner
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]