CBS struck summer premiere gold with Under the Dome, which garnered a 3.3 in the key demographic and over 13.5 million viewers. The ratings breakdown by TV Media Insights, and carried on SpoilerTV, compared this opening to NBC’s Crossing Lines and ABC’s Mistressess and, well, Under the Dome blew them all away.
I’ll admit two things up front: one, I watch several shows on CBS (5) all one-hour dramas, with USA next (3), CW (2) and ABC, NBC, TNT and A&E tied, one each. Two, I know nothing about Stephen King novels. I tell you those two things in order to tell you this: I like CBS shows; however, I really like the direction the network is slowly moving towards, more character driven (PoI, Elementary, The Good Wife) and more high-concept (also PoI, and now Under the Dome). Also, keep in mind that when I write what I write about Under the Dome, I know nothing about Stephen King novels – well, I know they’re long, complicated (in a good way), and scary.
Under the Dome wasn’t a show I was going to watch. For about four months now I’ve watched the promos and said, eh, I’ll not watch. Then last week (late) I decided to program my DVR to record the pilot. Why not? This evening I powered up the TV to watch the episode while I ate dinner. To my chagrin, the episode wasn’t there. For some reason my DVR had an ‘unresolved conflict’ and didn’t record the episode. The only other thing I was recording at the same time was Longmire, which recorded fine, and I had the TV off; it should have recorded. Alas, it didn’t. But, lucky for me, this show is on CBS On Demand, so I cued it up and watched. I really liked it.
I read some comments earlier about how there were too many characters introduced too quickly. Yeah, I can agree with that. But, this is a thirteen-episode miniseries. It will take all the installments to understand what’s going on. Who is the drifter (handsome) who killed the town’s doctor? And how will the now-dead doctor’s wife react to this, seeing that she thinks her husband was ‘only’ having an affair, and has also taken said drifter into her home (since he saved a kid’s life and all). Oh, yeah, she’s the town’s newspaper editor who is investigating – along with this mysterious dome – the reasons why the town council has been stockpiling propane; something the councilman and the sheriff discussed a bit tersely, and definitely the councilman is holding more cards than he’s telling. There’s the town’s sheriff, except he appears to be now dead…so that leaves the deputy (whose boyfriend/fiancé is a firefighter and on the other side of the dome), there’s also a little something going on with the councilman’s son, who has kidnapped his girlfriend and hidden (locked) her away in his father’s fallout shelter. Not sure what’s going on there. We’ve got a DJ and his techie, quirky engineer running the only working mass communication in Chester’s Mills (the local radio station)…yeah, there are a lot of characters.
I say have some patience. I know enough about Stephen King novels to know he peppers them with many people. It makes sense to me; a town has a lot of people. So over the next twelve remaining episodes we’ll meet these people and find out all about them: some are drifters, some are residents, some have an agenda, and some do not. There are many stories to be told. All the first episode did was put the cards on the table.
We know that there are parents out of town, thus some teens are without chaperones (one of which is played by the always excellent Colin Ford – who shows no signs of disappointing here). We know the town’s entire fire department is on the other side of the dome, owing to a parade in a neighboring town. That will surely lead to some fun times ahead. Next week’s episode is titled “The Fire.” Any guesses on the storyline? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? The sheriff is now dead (pacemaker exploded), so that promotes the deputy…who apparently the sheriff had been protecting from some deep dark secrets of Chester’s Mills. There are people going into seizures and muttering about stars falling in lines…there are plenty of questions, I’ve barely scratched the surface.
CBS spent good money on the special effects. When the dome came down, it split a cow clean in half…nice (in a gory way, of course, but really well done). There was just enough in this first episode to show us how dangerous this thing is: a plane crashed into it, a produce delivery truck smashed head on – yeah, that driver is dead, sorry, sir. (or ma’am) A woman was found collapsing from blood loss and shock as she apparently was ‘reaching across’ when the thing came down and her arm was amputated – ahhh! We got the picture without being hit over the proverbial head, this thing is dangerous. Homes were sliced apart, tree limbs separated, farm equipment split apart. It was evenly spaced and well-handled. At times it was just scenery in the backdrop, but it was never forgotten; always there to be looked at by us, the viewers. I got the point without ever wanting to look away. And I’m girly like that too.
Also, to those out there griping about the wind blowing…lighten up. If this dome hermetically seals off Chester’s Mills, it won’t take long for all the air to be used up and everyone to die. So, at this point (and again, I haven’t read the books, nor have I any idea what’s coming up) I say that the dome has enough permeability that air still moves. Now, if it starts to rain inside the dome, then the gloves are off!
So for all of you out there not willing to give this show a look because it’s on CBS, catch up with The Pilot on On Demand. Yes, CBS is the home of the ever-present cop procedural, but then it is also stepping out in some big moves with the likes of Elementary, an excellent whodunit with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged as well as excellent characters who are compellingly written and compellingly acted by Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu; Person of Interest, a high-concept show that blends serialized character elements and dark government conspiracies (which seem less and less fiction and more and more true to life as time passes) with procedural elements, and now there’s Under the Dome which boasts the talents and strengths of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg as executive producers, sci-fi, drama, mystery and horror; definitely not your standard CBS procedural.
This mid-forties, somewhat addicted to crime procedurals (but really loving good characters), is hooked on Under the Dome. How long that holds up really depends on only one thing: keep the romance/love triangles out! Otherwise, I’m a fan.
As always, thanks for reading, Elle2.