Adapting Stephen King’s sprawling novel “Under the Dome” into a TV series was a stroke of brilliance on CBS’ part.
It’s the perfect premise for a TV show that could run multiple seasons: A small town in Maine, Chester’s Mill, is shut off from the rest of the world by a giant, transparent — and deadly — dome that suddenly appears one day.
It’s part post-apocalyptic (watch what happens when resources run dry …), part sci fi and all good.
I recently started the audio version of the book, so it was neat to see where the show’s creators have veered off from the source material (well, at least from what I’ve read so far).
The book’s chief protagonist is Dale “Barbie” Barbara (played by Mike Vogel, last seen on A&E’s “Bates Motel”), an ex-Army officer trying to skip town when the dome appears. In the series, Barbie is instead a newcomer to Chester’s Mill, and he’s up to something sinister the first time we see him.
We also meet Big Jim Rennie (played by Dean Norris, from “Breaking Bad”), a town councilmen who runs the local car dealership, early on.
In the book, he and his son, Junior (Alex Koch), are introduced as villains from the get-go; Entertainment Weekly recently (and perfectly) summed up how they are characterized differently on the show: “Big Jim seems softer, [and] his son isn’t totally nuts (yet).”
Perhaps Big Jim seems more likeable here because he’s played by the great Norris, who will be pulling double duty this summer when “Breaking Bad” returns for its final season in August.
Other players introduced in the premiere include Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lafevre, “Twilight”), editor of the town newspaper; Angie (Britt Robertson), a local waitress dating Junior, whose true colors start to show by episode’s end, and her little brother Joe (Colin Ford); Duke Perkins (Jeff Fahey), the chief of police; Rose (Beth Broderick), who runs the town diner; Linda (Natalie Martinez), a cop whose fiancée, a fireman, isn’t in town when the dome appears; a lesbian couple (Samantha Mathis and Aisha Hinds) and their rebellious teen daughter, who are unfortunate enough to be in town when it comes down; and Phil (Nicholas Strong, “Nashville”) and Dodee (Jolene Purdy), who run the local rock radio station — the only one residents can get after they’re trapped.
When the dome actually does come down — cutting anything in its path right in half, including buildings, trees and even (RIP) animals — it’s rendered almost exactly as I pictured it while listening to the book.
The Entertainment Weekly article I mentioned above reports that the show’s 13-episode first season will cover two weeks of Dome life.
I hate to say it, but I hope its stays down longer than that. This is one of the first shows I’ve seen this summer that has the potential to go the distance.
“Under the Dome” premieres at 10 p.m. June 24 on CBS.
Contact Casey Gillis at (434) 385-5525 or email@example.com.