There's a lot to fear under CBS'Dome.
For the residents of Chester's Mill, trapped under an impenetrable, barely visible dome in this 13-part adaptation of Stephen King's novel, the source of the fear is fairly obvious: They're domed in. They have no idea where it came from or who dropped it, no way to get out, and no way to let anyone else in, leaving them at the mercy of unknown forces outside the dome and their own home-grown crazies inside.
For CBS, the fear of the unknown stems from viewers, who may be reluctant to commit their TV summer to yet another extended-mystery series. And for viewers, that reluctance to commit is compounded by the quite sensible fear that once again, they're going to be sucked into a Stephen King production that gets off to a roaring good start, asUnder the Domecertainly does, only to peter out in a silly, unsatisfying solution.
After all, they've seen that King collapse happen even in his best TV works:The Standand, in even more disappointing fashion,It, a terrifically scary miniseries that imploded when the previously unseen terror became manifest. And as a giant spider, no less, which was still better than the time-eating dust bunnies ofThe Langoliers.
Granted, all series and miniseries are a commitment risk, and we can all name highly praised shows that started out well and floundered quickly, sometimes by episode two. But it only seems fair to point out from theDomeoutset that King's TV track record is particularly dismal.
So consider yourself warned -- and then move on to the hope thatDomeproves to be an exception. We could all use a good summer TV diversion around now, and if tonight's entertaining, intriguing premiere turns out to be a fair guide,Domecould be just what we've needed.
Give this toDome: It doesn't waste any time. We get our first mystery in the first scene, as we watch Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel) bury an unidentified body and then try to hightail it out of Chester's Mill. His escape is cut short by a herd of cows, one of whom is about to be domed in half in what is sure to become the show's signature image.
So now this apparent murderer is trapped in town. And what's worse for the other residents, he's hardly the most dangerous dome-mate among them.
Their first concern is that dome, what is it and who lowered or raised it. (It can't be the government, Dale insists, "because it works.") Their second is what to do when planes and cars crash into it (two of the hour's more exciting effects), or when its mysterious powers cause children to babble and pacemakers to malfunction.
But their main, very well-conveyed fear is that being trapped is going to snap the already strained threads of civility holding them together -- and holding the power-hungry Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) in check. Perhaps the town's newspaper editor (Rachelle Lefevre) or deputy (Natalie Martinez) can constrain him, unless, of course, they have dangerous secrets of their own.
And in that claustrophobic tension you have the main thing working inDome'sfavor: What happens to these people may be of more interest and import than why it happened. Eventually, viewers will expect an explanation for the dome's appearance, but the series should be able to get along for some time without that, as long as the effects of the dome's arrival continue to play out as well as they do in the premiere.
As for those fears that the final answer will be a let-down, consider this: By my TV calculations, the pleasure provided by the first two hours ofItmore than compensated for the pain caused by finale. Bad ending and all, I'd watchItagain tomorrow.
AndDomeagain next week.