A brand new TV series is set to premiere on June 24th on CBS at 10 PM EST called Under the Dome. Fans of mystery-driven dramas and Stephen King’s faithful fans are sure to be glued to their high def home entertainment centers all over the country for this event. Count me among those who have already set their DVR’s to prevent missing a single moment of what could be the best event series since Lost.
Fans of King, who have already read the novel, know that the story has a huge cast of characters. The choice to bring this story to the small screen was a wise one, as the strength of this novel is in the various sub-plots that weave through the huge ensemble cast. Playing the role of the lead protagonist, Dale “Barbie” Barbara is Mike Vogel (Bates Motel, The Help). The character he plays is an ex-Army vet turned short order cook who decides that life in this particular small town is coming to a quick close. But the over-arcing events of the story prevent him from taking his leave in a most unexpected way. The chief antagonist is town selectman James Rennie, played by Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), who is a power hungry politician that proves he is capable of just about anything as panic spreads.
As I am not a professional critic, I have seen no advance copy of the TV pilot or the episodes that follow, so my thoughts are merely based on the book I have read. And with that comes the hope that series creator Brian K Vaughan stays true to King’s source material in his presentation.
Too often, screen plays and directors have served only to strip the humanity and charm from the characters that King has created. It really is a source of King’s strength that he creates people and places in his stories that evoke a familiar or identifying feeling in the reader’s mind. Bringing the reader into such territory primes the subject for maximun effect when his stories eventually hit that twist in the plot that brings us to the place of wonder, terror, sorrow, or hope….whatever emotion it is that the author truly wants his readers to experience. Small screen television provides an opportunity for screenwriters and directors to allow their audience to build a relationship with characters and cultivate emotional investment into their stories. This is something much harder to do in a two hour big screen adaptation, though we do have some cases of glowing successes pertaining to King’s yarns. Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Stand By Me were all fantastic films that succeeded in bringing out the best aspects of the source material. Of course, all of these movies were based on novella-length works without the sprawling cast of characters that are prevalent in more than a few of King’s epics. I am not sure I have ever heard anyone argue that the small screen version of King’s masterpiece The Stand could hold a candle to its source material. Such stories require more attention, time, and patience on the part of filmaker and audience. Other small screen adaptations like Rose Red and Bag of Bones produced decidedly mediocre results. Storm of the Century, which has been reviewed on this blog previously was a great success, but King wrote this specifically as a screenplay for television. The Golden Years was dead on arrival as a Stephen King original television series (not based on any of his books), meanwhile the Anthony Michael Hall version of USA’s The Dead Zone was a great success, though the episodes held only a loose connection to the original book who kept the apocalyptic premise as a long-play story arc with constant departures into characters and stories that were exclusive to the screen version. King’s The Colorado Kid has spawned a four season and running Scy Fy original show, Haven. But this is again only loosely based on King’s work.
I, just like many other Stephen King faithful, will await with breath held in anticipation for the release of Under the Dome to audiences shortly, and it is my hope that it can do his work justice, and be a commercial success that justifies a continuation beyond this season. If it doesn’t, we can all still hope for Rob Reiner to get his Dark Tower project lifted off the ground and out of developmental H E double hockey sticks. 😉
Have you read Under the Dome, and looking forward to the series premiere? Or maybe you were not a fan of King’s epic? We, at Great Stories, would love to hear from you!
Chris (for the Great Stories team)