CBS orders Stephen King’s Under the Dome to series
I’ve been waiting for the adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘Under the Dome’ for a couple of years now, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect the series to land at CBS, with a multi-season plan.
Fans of Stephen King – and Steven Spielberg – have reason to celebrate today, as CBS announced a straight-to-series order of a show based on King’s novel Under the Dome. CBS’s studio will produce in association with Spielberg’s Amblin Television. While the project had been in development at Showtime for some time now, it has shifted over to sister-network CBS and is being prepared for 13 episode run this upcoming summer.
For those of you not familiar with the novel, Under the Dome chronicles the story of a small town in Maine suddenly and mysteriously cut off from the outside world by an invisible yet deadly dome-shaped force field. Fully enclosed and separated from external help and “influence,” the already dicey small town politics take a turn for the worse when the sheriff dies investigating the phenomenon. UtD is an interesting piece of work by King, as it includes an expansive cast – not dissimilar to The Stand – but manages to create a microcosm of what a smaller post-apocalyptic society could look like.
It is not surprising that Dome is coming to the small screen. Showtime has been working on (what was thought to be) a mini-series adaptation for some time now. I always believed it would fit well on premium cable; while not necessarily as graphic as something like Dexter or Game of Thrones, it’s a deep text that would require the time to explore the nuances. Plus, networks like HBO and Showtime have proven successful with taking chances on unique stories and story structures.
Considering that, I was taken back by CBS’s announcement today for several reasons. A heavily serialized story like this is about as far from CBS’s wheelhouse as a show can be. Fortunately, there’s all the cross-platform upside to incentivize the network sticking with the show: CBS Corp. owns the network, studio and the novel’s publisher. Also, while I’m excited that the networks are focusing more on Summer programming – as cable has proved that there is a viable audience during that time period – this is a big undertaking to get on the air by Summer 2013. Having ordered the project straight to series, they’ll at least skip the pilot review stage and hit the ground running.
Perhaps my biggest concern is the decision to make the project a real series, eschewing the idea of a 13-episode mini-series to tell the whole story. Apparently that was screenwriter Brian K. Vaughan’s intent dating back to when Under the Dome was being developed at Showtime. For the multi-season concept to work, the ending the series has to be jettisoned – though I think the story would benefit from dumping the ending no matter how the series is structured (No spoilers, but I’ll just say that I wasn’t a big fan of how the story was resolved). The novel comes to a definitive end – as out of the box as it may be – so significant changes to the narrative will have to be made to expand past the end of the first season.
Despite these reservations, I’m pretty excited about the announcement. Hell, even if I hated the book, the pairing of King and Spielberg alone would be enough to get me to commit to 13 episodes. I would imagine that production is going to have to ramp up fairly quickly, and we’ll be seeing casting announcements and the like starting around the first of the year, if not sooner. When I first read Under the Dome, the setting and scope definitely lent itself to dream casting the characters in my head. The most natural fit for me was always Ed Harris as Big Jim. Who would you like to see in the cast?