Let's Discuss: 'Under the Dome'

Under the Dome  is CBS’ summer series based on the novel of the same title by horror master Stephen King. When this project was first announced it was under the guise that it would be presented as a “mini-series” something that I’ve long championed returning to the air waves.

With the out of the gate ratings success of the season so far, CBS is mulling over parlaying it into a full blown series and with that, all of the anticipation crumbled quite a bit.  Stephen King’s mini-series during the 90’s are among some of the best TV has seen, Storm of the Century, being one of the top tier offerings, starring Colm Feore, among others.

The appeal of investing the summer in this series was based on the understanding that viewers would receive an assured beginning, middle and end. Now that is in jeopardy because of corporate greed to extend a series past its intended shelf life.

There is a creative problem at the core of the whole notion. There simply aren’t enough characters that are worth caring about getting out from “under the dome” that would be worth spending 5 seasons to see the outcome.

What kind of long-term vision could they possibly have when they kill off Jeff Fahey? Let me repeat, Jeff Fahey! The only clue as to the intended extension of the series is the plot developing at a snail’s pace. There is no urgency, there is no momentum, and there is no tension. It is starting to feel like Lost  and we haven’t made it through 5 episodes.

Another element missing is the atmosphere of the town as a whole. It is apparent that this universe didn’t exist until viewers turned on the show. There is a vast lack of camaraderie between the actors. They all seem to be working in an emotional vacuum. Perhaps, the dome is to blame for their rather vapid personalities and being devoid of any likability whatsoever.

With the exception of Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) and Deputy/Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez), there isn’t a single character’s fate that I, personally, care about. “Big Jim” is a “big” fail. Why everyone in town takes his leadership seriously isn’t at all understandable.

Unless, we all believe they share a complex that makes them submissive to the authority of a man who wears a super tight leather jacket, emphasis on super tight. What else could explain it? The guy is way too curmudgeonly and surly to have the charisma necessary to lead this town, let alone in the midst of a disaster situation. Another thing making this town seem to have a collective IQ of 1 is their inability to identify Junior as having severe mental health issues.

The Junior/Angie subplot is absolutely horrible. Junior (Alexander Koch), “Big Jim’s” son has kidnapped and held his on-again/off-again girlfriend Angie (Britt Robertson) captive in a basement, chained to a wall. Sorry folks but this storyline is way too soon following recent headlines.

There is nothing entertaining about seeing this scenario play out nor proving educational for potential victims of such a crime. As important as it is to challenge audiences, this story is not the escape that audiences are wishing to enjoy when they turn on their televisions.

Perhaps, most importantly the show didn’t bother to paint Angie in a sympathetic light. Instead, they used the short time they spent introducing her character to draw her in a very negative one.

Albeit this is King revisiting one of his most famous plots, Misery, with a gender reversal. It demonstrates that we’ve come to expect men to act in a blasé manner in terms of their fidelity to a relationship and when a female is depicted doing the same thing, it isn’t as readily accepted or sympathized with.

If King and the writers of the show are trying to point out the obvious double standard in society, they haven’t made their case clear enough. It is an important argument to be made and it deserves to be presented better.

Under the Dome is losing a major opportunity as one of the main scripted summer series that a major network is offering this season. With the rash of reality TV show schlock that has crowded the airwaves for years, people need to see how important scripted drama starring real actors instead of wannabe fame mongers truly is. Networks have never lost the people who are thirsting for actual entertainment; they just need to provide them with some.

My Dad put it best when he said, “They’re trying to make an every-man show and it’s turning into a no-man’s show.”

[Featured Image by CBS]