UNDER THE DOME (CBS Broadcasting Inc., CR: Kharen Hill)

Under the Dome, a new mini series premiered last Monday night on CBS. Based on the novel by Stephen King, the story centers on a rural town that becomes disconnected from the rest of the world when an invisible force field surrounds the town of Chester Mills.

Perhaps due to director Jack Bender, best known for his creative involvement in the TV show Lost, the show covers the lives of multiple people in the town, each with their own troublesome past. The show also is eerily similar to CBS’ post-apocalyptic drama, Jericho (2004), which only lasted two seasons. Both programs were about small/rural towns cut off from the outside world after acts of terrorism force the towns’ residents into conflict. Much like Jericho, which CBS initially canceled after one season, Under the Dome features a unique and compelling plot, but not much else. The show’s acting is nothing special, and the dialogue seems very generic at times. It’s as if CBS has an outline for their post-apocalyptic TV scripts, where the screenwriters just fill in the names of their characters.

Under the Dome opens on a mysterious character burying a dead body deep in the woods, then cuts to a scene of a standard basic-cable sex scene. And with that, we begin one of our sub-plots that follows a college dropout turned obsessive stalker and his summer “fling” turned kidnap victim.
Similar to Jericho, the show features the town sheriff, played by Jeff Fahey (Lost), who possesses both a heart issue, and a secret about the town. Then we have Big Jim, a city councilman and car salesman played by Dean Norris (Breaking Bad). Big Jim is responsible for sending out an alert message over the only radio station in town that still works to the town’s residents.

Despite being the town hero for a while, the sheriff and Big Jim seem to have some bad blood. We also have the town newspaper editor, played by Rachelle Lefevre, who is called to investigate suspicious amounts of propane being imported into the town just before the dome appears.  While viewers learn that it is impossible to hear anything on the other side of the dome, very little information is given about the cause or source of the dome. Several characters do experience the same odd seizures, followed by mysterious mumblings, which likely ties back to the characters’ close proximity to the edge of the dome – something that will explained in later episodes.

Unfortunately, Under the Dome fails to bring a fresh take to the over-crowded post-apocalyptic-for-TV table. Hopefully, the next episode will leave us on the edge of our seats in the way that the pilot episodes of Lost and Jericho did. Though it’s much more likely that the summer mini-series will follow the same path as many of end-of-the-world TV flops, such as The Event, V, and many others.

** Under The Dome airs tonight on CBS (10 pm et/pt).

By Caleb Dorfman