Under the Dome
Another high-concept sci-fi invades smalltown USA, when a glass dome isolates one-dimensional characters.
The high-concept series depicted a small-town in USA cut-off from the rest of the world. Despite the hype, the writing was underwhelming and it was knocked around the schedule snuffled with a whimper rather than a bang.
Next week we’ll revisit some similarities when CBS series Under the Dome is fast-tracked on TEN in which an inexplicable, unseen “dome” cuts off another small-town from the rest of America. Nobody knows what it is, let alone how it got there and what its purpose is.
This 13 part series is based on a novel by Stephen King, whose prolific work has brought us many spellbinding film and television works. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment joins with CBS to produce this one, with Spielberg credited as one of 7 executive producers.
Directing the Pilot episode is Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (The Eagle, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Lost‘s Jack Bender will direct the next episode.
Chester’s Mill is a leafy rural town in Maine where the folk go about their small lives in farming, general stores and adolescent turmoil. Under The Dome takes an ensemble-approach to its opening not dissimilar to Irwin Allen’s disaster movie set-ups: we meet multiple, disconnected characters ahead of a great calamity about to unfold.
There doesn’t appear to be a central character in the opening scenes, although Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel), an Army veteran with something to hide, and investigative reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) may challenge for that title.
At any rate, we seem to have a bit of everything: young couple negotiating romance, alpha-male whose heroic qualities may override his flawed past, local cop with a dodgy heart, nosy gossip, power-happy local councillor, teenage girl prone to seizures, and a fast-talking local DJ. A lesbian couple passing through the town at least gives Chester’s Mill a little point of difference.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for Under the Dome to propel us into its first major-turning point when the “dome” suddenly descends upon the town (warning: you may never look at a cow in quite the same way again). This lends itself to lots of popcorn, CGI disaster-moments, especially for wayward planes and trucks. This is when Under the Dome is at its most enjoyable.
I don’t mind watching a campy, B-grade rollercoaster, when that’s what the show is out to do. But this drama likes to take itself seriously a lot of the time and that’s when it begins to struggle.
The dialogue is clunky and sign-posts all the exposition. So far the characters are very one-dimensional (the speed with which one teen boy turns from Romeo to unhinged stalker is bereft) and if we’re to care about them for longer than the novelty effect of the mysterious dome, then we need more depth.
While other shows like The Walking Dead stare into the future deftly juggling team-spirit, black comedy and gore, Under the Dome begins with a fair amount of community chaos, as insecure locals begin to turn on one another. I’m not sure I’d survive with many of them for very long.
There’s also none of the humour that accompanied the glass dome ‘President Schwarzenegger’ ordered over Springfield in The Simpsons Movie nor the social metaphor behind the closed world of The Truman Show. But Stephen King is an accomplished storyteller, hopefully he has some brilliant twists up his sleeve.
The closing scenes are especially indicative of the earnest tone here as we hear President Obama’s words “America’s with you. We are standing behind you, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.” It’s a speech he gave for Hurricane Sandy survivors, but it’s been hijacked here in a fairly cheeky move.
I’ll come back for another look at Under the Dome hoping that it doesn’t go the way of Jericho (or worse, The 4400) but I think it needs to be a lot more fun than its first outing.
Under the Dome premieres 8:30pm Tuesday June 25 on TEN.