Under The Dome Premiere Underwhelms
Posted on June 25, 2013
First, I have to confess to not having finished Stephen King’s large tome Under the Dome. But I’m all for adaptations from books, and was very intrigued when CBS took on the challenge of adapting King’s 1072-paged book.
Not advertised as a mini-series like many of King’s adapted works, it is a 13-episode season that mimics what British television does well with no idea if it’s a one-off series or the beginning to an entire series.
The marketing for the show was smart in making it seem like an event. However, my take on the episode is that for an event that should be action-packed, it didn’t live up to the hype. Unlike Lost, where the action seemed overwhelming yet compelling, Under the Dome led up to the event quietly. Perhaps that was because they were trying to imitate a small-town Maine feel (even though it was filmed in North Carolina), and tried to give a sense of character first. But the first episode needed to be explosive, and instead it kind of fizzled.
The main characters were introduced through smaller acts, but when the dome eventually does come down, it took the show a while to show the ramifications all over the small town. And the pacing was the problem. It may have been smarter to just show the discovery and reactions in faster sequencing and worried about setting up characters for later.
There’s a lot of set up that needs to happen to get into the meat of King’s work, so maybe it would have been smarter to do a two-hour premiere to introduce the dome as well as the characters and their reactions. We had a lot to keep up with, including some sketchy villains, a slow-to-freak-out population, a few back stories, and the underlining “I’ve-got-to-get-out-of-this-place-but-now-I-can’t” reaction by pretty much everyone.
When one of the best visuals of the show was a cow being split in half that happens in the first quarter of the show, then there’s a problem. As the show progressed, I became less interested in the characters and their lives. I should have cared that some were having seizures and saying something probably important. I should have cared about the villain importing a lot of kerosene. I should have cared about the younger story line with Junior and his violence. But I found myself more exhausted by the end then at the edge of my seat.
One of the best recaps and analysis I’ve found is from Tor.com where Grady Hendrix does a good job noting the differences between the book and the show. Hendrix states that “…thankfully, it looks like it’s going to deviate significantly from the book, which is a relief since I haven’t been able to locate even the most hardcore Stephen King fan who will defend the book’s ending. What’s strange is that the book excelled at things I expected the TV show to do better, while the TV show got right things that I thought were the province of books.” Perhaps it’s better that I’m not coming into the show with expectations of how the book will be portrayed.
Perhaps it’s wrong to make the comparison of the show to Lost, but that’s the last successful disaster show that sticks out to me (as I’m not an active viewer of Revolution). I think there’s potential for stories as the town is now isolated, and there are clearly villains and heroes with nowhere to go, which promises conflicts. But I really wanted more from the dome descending, and I hope that I’m not left wanting more as I continue trying the show.