Review: ‘Under the Dome’

Under The Dome

Latest Stephen King mini gets off to good start - but we've been down this road before

To anyone who has been around the block a few times with Stephen King miniseries, “Under the Dome” — which CBS is shrewdly scheduling as a summer fling — has all the familiar trappings and initial promise. A small community of disparate characters is faced with an extraordinary situation and strange mystery, leaving viewers to puzzle over a larger riddle while hopefully getting drawn into individual stories. If it’s like most King adaptations, the payoff seldom equals the build-up, but in the opening salvo, King’s latest “Twilight Zone”-like premise clearly has the potential to get under one’s skin.

The characters of Chester’s Mill are busily going about their lives — and in the case of a visitor nicknamed Barbie (Mike Vogel), burying a corpse — when a giant invisible dome suddenly appears around the town, splitting an unfortunate cow in twain and creating an impenetrable barrier, as unlucky small-plane pilots and motorists quickly discover.

Who or what’s responsible? Nobody knows, with early fingers pointed at everything from extraterrestrials to the government, with Barbie dismissing the latter possibility by saying simply, “It works.” (Too bad this isn’t an election year, since that would have created perfect sponsorship opportunities for the Tea Party.)

Produced by Neal Baer and Brian K. Vaughan (who adapted King’s book), “Dome” has assembled a solid cast, including Rachelle Lefevre as the local newspaper editor looking into what’s happened, Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”) as the car dealer/town elder, Britt Robertson as a young resident, and Natalie Martinez as a deputy sheriff. (Both Lefevre and Robertson are veterans, incidentally, of another too-short-lived CBS summer tryout, “Swingtown.”)

King’s material enjoyed a splendidly commercial stretch on ABC — with boffo ratings for multipart productions like “It,” “The Stand,” “Storm of the Century” and “The Shining” — before the author’s work began to yield diminishing returns. Even before that, though, the narrative come-ons and unsatisfying endings started to feel a trifle needful.

In the current environment, CBS and the diminished pressure of a summer run — coupled with demand from international buyers — provide a more logical home for this Steven Spielberg-backed exercise.

That said, there’s still the little matter of juggling these various characters, advancing the mystery and ultimately resolving why Chester’s Mill was chosen to be sequestered from the outside world, in a manner that won’t leave viewers feeling like they ran into their own version of an invisible brick wall.

While that’s not impossible, history shows the operation is as delicate as balancing a phone book-sized King tome on top of a pin. CBS hasn’t ruled out future seasons, although the project would probably be more interesting if it promised one thing the Dome lacks,namely, a clearly marked exit.

Still, if the show eventually becomes another of King’s made-for-TV letdowns, at least we can look back and paraphrase Bart Simpson — who, as will be acknowledged within the series, experienced his own run-in with an over-sized dome in “The Simpsons Movie” — and say, “Don’t halve a cow, dude.”

Under the Dome

(Series; CBS, Mon. June 24, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Wilmington, N.C. by Amblin Television in association with CBS Television Studios.

Crew

Executive producers, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Brian K. Vaughan, Neal Baer, Stacey Snider, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Jack Bender; director, Niels Arden Oplev; writer, Vaughn, based on the book by King; camera, Cort Fey; production designer, Marek Dobrowolski; editor, Timothy A. Good; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden; casting, Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas. 60 MIN.

Cast

Mike Vogel, Rachelle Lefevre, Dean Norris, Natalie Martinez, Britt Robertson, Alexander Koch, Colin Ford, Nicholas Strong, Jolene Purdy, Aisha Hinds.

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  1. Ethan says:

    This will probably be removed, but why does a TV show review have to contain insults toward conservatives? Is this a political blog? No. If you want the most people possible to read your articles, then keep politics out of it.

  2. Elaine Kraimer says:

    I loved the book. May love the mini series…but why not stick with the book? Almost didn’t recognize the plot or characters…Julia Shumway married to the doctor?…Angela trapped in a fall-out shelter?…Rusty a fireman? Stephen King is good enough to transfer to a movie if given the chance.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Great special effects, however the novel and the television pilot part company on the characters and some of the plot lines. Characters have the same names as in the novel, but are in different situations altogether. (One example of many is that Rusty Everett, married to police officer Linda Everett, was INSIDE the dome when it appeared and is a Physician’s Assistant, not a fire fighter.) This is bound to disappoint SK fans. Here’s hoping the gist of the plot remains the same.

  4. BB says:

    I like it so far….seems like theyve already made a big turn from the book with some of the characters(I dont remember a girl with two women as her parents in the book) but that doesnt mean its not going to be good entertainment. Im sure we will have to obligatory posts on here about its a remake of something else or the book was great the movie sucks. Just ignore those comments and make your own decision.

  5. SD says:

    The book was a fabulous read over the Christmas holidays of 2010. I know the mini series is not likely to live up to the written word.

  6. George Valentin says:

    The premise of this show is potential plagiarism. Arch Oboler produced a 3D movie in 1966 called, “THE BUBBLE,” that was about a town that had a mysterious invisible dome covering it and the citizens would be banging the invisible wall and pleading for help but to no avail because the people on the outside could not penetrate the invisible barrier.

  7. It’s five minutes later and I’m STILL groaning at, “Don’t halve a cow, dude.” Consider your mission accomplished.

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