Monday, February 4, 2013

CBS and I Are Going 'Under The Dome'...

I have been in a love affair with Stephen King for almost two decades now. It's not a secret; I wrote about it in my book, even though it might be taboo for some since I was just a child when the love affair began, and he a full-fledged adult with a wife and an addiction. And thanks to him, I am willing to give CBS another shot.

 
It's no secret that most of the eye network's programming is just not for me. They cater to passive television viewers, and I have never been one of them. While I respect Nina Tassler's strategy and understand the mentality behind "Why fix what isn't broken, ratings wise?", I am also saddened by how formulaic and unrisky the brand actually is. But then CBS announced they were picking up Under The Dome, an adaptation of King's 1072 page novel about a small town that inexplicably finds itself cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible force-field like barrier. And suddenly, I sat up and took notice of this channel I usually had reserved for those who physically couldn't change the channel on their old TVs.

As a series, Under The Dome was being developed for Showtime, and in all honesty, that is probably where it would be best served because you can get away with things on Showtime that you just can't on network television. King's version is very violent at times, as the town is full of corrupt officials who use the Dome as an excuse to instill a reign of fear and terror. It's that whole "big fish in a little pond" mentality that gets exaggerated in times of distress. In the first few pages of the book, for example, Junior Rennie beats his girlfriend to death and stuffs her in a pantry so he can visit her later. Naturally that doesn't make for much external conflict-- the character is carrying around the secret for most of the book-- so in the script he just kidnaps her and locks her away instead. Now the show can deal with their interactions and a live victim who can expose this bad kid, raising the tension and the stakes across the board. Same with Dale Barbara, who is the clear hero in the book and even an underdog of sorts. In CBS' version, he is shadier; he is new in town; he has a violent past. Without pages and pages of prose, designed to give the audience insight that the other characters don't have, we're bound to walk away from CBS' version of Under The Dome with the same sense of paranoia and unease as the people physically trapped. Who can really be trusted? What's really going on here? Do they even stand a chance?

This was the trailer for King's version of Under The Dome when the book was released three years ago:


and this is the first teaser for CBS' version airing this summer:


I'm not going to dive into an analysis of all of the differences between the script and the book. That comes with any adaptation, but especially King's. I'm not going to compare the CBS series (once I actually get to see the pilot) to what "could have been" at Showtime, nor the book itself. I'm simply going to sit back and marvel at the risk CBS was willing to take and enjoy the entertainment ride. You could argue that I am finally giving CBS everything they want from viewers like me, but really it's not that I won't be analyzing the details; it's just that I know how the story turns out in the book, and knowing definitively where something could end changes the way one watches. Or at least how I watch. 

The point is, I don't think I've ever been this excited to watch anything on CBS, and I think if you read the book first, you will be, too. I attached to it on a different level than most might have partially because I always wanted to grow up in a small Stars Hollow-like town, but I hated the mentality that came along with that (not from everyone but from some of the authority figures-- oh, you know what, I'll just say it: I have a problem with authority figures in general, and it seems to get worse when what they have authority over is something tiny and unimportant in the grand scheme of things-- which is a big, big theme of this book). Also, I started thinking about the book on another level: the feeling of being trapped where you are, regardless of if you actually are physically stuck there or not. It's what I do. I read deeply into things; I project my own issues; I study. Out of King's recent (post-1970s) works, "Under The Dome" is in my Top 2. I'm actually in the process of re-reading it now, and I am happy to lend it to anyone who wants to do so next.

So...CBS better not f*** it up!

PS: Check out www.underthedome.com  How would YOU fare if you were cut off from the rest of the world!? 


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