CBS’s ‘Under the Dome’ has huge launch

Posted June 25, 2013, at 3:43 p.m.

CBS’s “Under the Dome,” based on the Stephen King best-seller, appears to have launched one out of the ballpark. As expected, this 13-episode series looks to be a hit — but no one quite expected this much of a hit: 13.1 million viewers.

It’s the biggest CBS summer launch in many years, possibly even since “Survivor” began over a decade ago, and certainly since “Big Brother” in 2000.

It’s one of the biggest drama launches — if not the biggest drama launch — of the entire year.

It earned over a 3 rating among young adults; that’s darn good too.

Was any of this expected? As noted, not quite. But it is summer and people are looking around for something that is the not usual summer filler. King adaptations usually pull them in and the reviews were mostly good. Here’s mine if you missed it in Monday’s paper.

“Under the Dome” premiered Monday night at 10 on CBS.

What it’s about

The dome arrives without much warning — a little ground shaking, that’s about all — and then drops over the town of Chester’s Mill with one mighty KERPLUNK, raising dust along its edges and severing whatever happens to be in its path with a gruesome finality.

Those inside are puzzled. Those outside, too. The dome is invisible and impermeable (or would appear to be) so there is absolutely no interaction between both sides. Chester’s Mill and its denizens are cut off from the rest of the universe. Why? That’s what they’d like to know, although in the midst of this immediate crisis, a few of these denizens still have secrets to protect — murderous, evil secrets.

This adaptation of Stephen King’s 2009 doorstop of the same name features all the familiar characters: James “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris), a used-car salesman who is second selectman of Chester’s Mill and would very much like to be first selectman; Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel), a former Army captain in town on some sort of business; Deputy Linda (Natalie Martinez), the kindhearted cop; lovely Angie (Britt Robertson) who has a regrettable fling with not-so-lovely “Junior” (Alexander Koch); intrepid newspaper reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre); and so on.

My say

“Dome” actually doesn’t open with that aforementioned dome, but with a striking David Lynch-like close-up of a baby bird poking its grotesque little beak out of a shell — a scene full of blood and slime that reduces nature not to something of beauty but to something of malevolence.

Of course, this is a King adaptation, so what else would you expect, but this still nicely sets up the “Dome’s” potential tone and themes. For those who care to interpret the trapped souls of Chester’s Mill metaphorically, we are all alone and adrift in the void of the universe. King certainly does.

In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune some years ago, he said, “We’re a blue planet in a corner of the galaxy … There’s nothing like ours. We have to conclude we’re on our own, and we have to deal with it. We’re under a dome. All of us.” Did any of this Big Think creep into the premiere after the opening seconds?

Not really. The pilot is too busy setting up all the tangled tangents that will preoccupy this yarn in future weeks to worry about some of the stuff that keeps King up at night. Hopefully that’ll come, but in the meantime the 44 minutes you’ll see tonight absolutely promise a decent summer diversion. (The series will air over 13 weeks.)

Yes, there are a few of those moments that beg — almost on their hands and knees — for a little more action. You almost wish (say) that five or six zombies had been trapped inside, too. (They aren’t — sorry.)

But you’ll also not want to miss the beginning either, when the dome drops, along with the entire special effects budget. I speak specifically of a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time cow. Next time, it’ll learn to move a little faster.

Bottom line

Looks like a summer winner. B+

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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