Television Review: Under the Dome

UnderTheDomeby Michael D. Pederson

 

Under the Dome
CBS

Oh, look… Another “high-concept” science-fictiony television show. Goody.

I confess that I didn’t read the Stephen King novel when it originally came out. I jokingly said that I’d wait for the inevitable mini-series. Well, here it is and it’s pretty much what you expect it to be. There are a lot of pretty people running around panicking, trying to figure out how to deal with the crisis of the week.

For those of you that have been living under your own dome this summer, this is CBS’s surprise summer hit (based on the Stephen King novel) about a small town in Pennsylvania that gets cut off from the rest of the world when a mysterious energy dome is suddenly dropped over them. I credit CBS with two very smart decisions: 1. Hiring Eisner award-winner Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) to develop the show. 2. Limiting the run to thirteen episodes. We’ve seen mid-season burnout on high-concept SF shows plenty in the past, but at just thirteen episodes the viewers seem willing to commit, so far.

Is it worth watching all the way thru? Well, it’s summer. What else are you going to watch? I plan on sticking through to the end. The show does have it’s problems though. Like other apocalyptic shows before it (I’m talking about you, Jericho) there’s the problem of everybody in town doing nothing until the next crisis rears it’s ugly head and then once it’s resolved they go back to pretending that life is just fine. The characters are pasteboard cutouts that don’t interest me, and all the best actors have been killed off already. The dome dropped so early in the first episode that we didn’t have time to build interest in any of the characters before their lives became a melodrama. And the worst offense on my laundry list of complaints is the dome itself. I, for one, would be happy to accept the dome as it is but I know that Hollywood insists on having an explanation. And history has taught us (Lost, Battlestar Galactica) that the explanation is never as good as what we imagine ourselves.