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The Best Hallmark Mini-Series Ever Aired on Television

Isabella Rossellini, Merlin, Ted Danson

Hallmark is well known for their touching greeting cards and quality TV production for family viewing. Over the years, they’ve produced dozens of great television movies and mini-series.

Here are my favorites.

Gulliver’s Travels (1996)

Ted Danson plays Gulliver in this great literary television romp through socio-political metaphors.

Based on author Jonathan Swift’s classic book, this TV version is regarded as one of the most loyal to the source material. Along with an excellent Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud round out a terrific cast of actors, which bring to life this wild fantasy ride. The solid production values are bolstered by fine special effects, making this one a treat for all ages, even those who’ve never read a page of the book.

Merlin (1998)

King Arthur and Camelot play a more subordinate role, as Sam Neil shines as the magical wizard Merlin.

Before Harry Potter or Samantha Stevens in Bewitched, the magical man of the people was Merlin. British legend tells us that the good people of Camelot’s monarch, King Arthur had an advisor with powerful abilities beyond that of mere earthly or human wisdom. Here, Hallmark producers and director Steve Barron weave a fantastic tapestry of compelling characters and stunning visuals, which will please hardcore King Arthur legend lovers along with recruiting many new fans.

Stand-out performances aside from Neil include: Martin Short as a sycophantic servant to the delightfully wicked Queen Mab (Miranda Richardson), Isabella Rossellini as Merlin’s love Nimue and Helena Bonham Carter as a calculating, though ill fated Morgan Le Fay. Despite the movie using then early CGI technology, the digital FX still manage to fully impress.

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Alice In Wonderland (1999)

Lewis Caroll’s masterpiece of wit, witticism and wonder is brought to vibrant life here.

Although always amusing, many other filmed productions of Alice In Wonderland have left me a bit cold, or even bored. This was the first to truly intrigue me and it succeeded in making me a fan of the material.

Tina Majorino (Waterworld) plays the girl who follows a white rabbit into a hole leading to fantastic adventures and creatures. Gene Wilder, Robbie Coltrane, Peter Ustinov and Whoopi Goldberg are just some of the incredible acting powerhouses which make Alice’s experience all the more wonderful.

Jason & the Argonauts (2000)

Greek mythology always delivers engaging stories. This mini-series version takes the well known tale of action, adventure and powerful family angst to deliver a rousing experience.

Jason London plays the title role, Jolene Blalock (Star Trek: Enterprise) plays Medea and Dennis Hopper plays the evil Pelias. Director Nick Willing uses beautiful on location settings to full advantage and although the plot strays from the classic myth, overall there’s a satisfying sense of drama, tragedy and fantastic adventure to please most anyone.

Hercules (2005)

No this isn’t that silly Kevin Sorbo series. This Hercules, though still playful, plays it for drama.

Actors Jamie Croft and Paul Telfer share the title role as young and mature Hercules respectively. Timothy Dalton, Sean Astin, Tyler Mane and Leelee Sobieski are just some of the fine actors who fill out the cast of friends, family and enemies in the complex Greek hero Hercule’s life. Again, cast aside all notions of light comedic slapstick which the Sorbo TV series was known for, as this version succeeds with a much more balanced portrayal of the Hercules myth.

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