You’ve seen it advertised. Don’t pretend like you haven’t. Channel Ten has been putting promo in every spare nook and cranny it can find, and trailers for it have been making their way onto streaming services all over the web.
Tonight comes the premiere of the much-hyped drama series Under The Dome. The show is set in the town of Chester’s Mill, which suddenly finds itself trapped by an invisible and impenetrable dome, cutting the townspeople off from the rest of the world. As the citizens become gripped with panic, a small group bands together to try and restore peace and civility, and find out what’s caused the mysterious dome, and how to escape it.
Maybe it’s coincidence, maybe it’s advertising taken to extreme levels, or maybe it’s mild psychosis settling in, but I swear I’ve been having dreams that feature this dome recently. But what on earth is the deal with it? And why should you care?
1. Stephen King is writing it.
Boom. There it is. That alone should be enough to get you on board. The man knows a thing or two about suspense — and this is certainly not his first attempt at having one of his works adapted for the screen. Are they all classics? Absolutely not. But you’d be hard pressed to find any ‘Best Of’ critics lists that didn’t include either The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Meor The Shining. The story itself has been bouncing around inside King’s mind for the better part of four decades, and was finally released in novel form in late 2009, to widespread acclaim. Neil Gaiman is a fan of it, too.
2. Stephen King isn’t directing it.
King is many things: Prolific writer, master of high-concept, deft controller of literary tension. But of the many strings on his creative bow, the directing one is the weakest. Like all screenwriters, actors, sound technicians, caterers or just about anyone else who’s ever worked in the film industry, King has long held ambitions to step behind the camera. In the early ’80s, he not only got this opportunity, but he got to do it from a script that he himself wrote, adapted from a short story that he himself wrote. To cap that off, he was handed a cast headlined by Emilio Estevez — fresh off the sets classics like Repo Man and The Breakfast Club.
But thanks to King not really knowing what he was doing (coupled with a self-confessed raging white powder habit at the time), the resulting film, Maximum Overdrive, continually ranks as one of cinema’s all-time great stinkers. And King has not directed since.
The flip side to this is that the fellow they hired to direct the first episode of Under The Dome, a Danish lad by the name of Niels Arden Oplev, just so happens to be fantastic, having helmed the excellent Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. So visually, the show is in much safer hands.
3. Brian K. Vaughan is the series developer and co-writer. BRIAN K. VAUGHAN.
You hear that? That’s the sound of every Comic-Con attendee the world over weeing themselves a little bit at the mention of that name. Vaughan is the series developer and, with Stephen King, co-wrote practically the entire show. Vaughan’s experience in the world of comic books and graphic novels is extensive and extremely impressive. Y: The Last Man? Ex Machina? Runaways? All products of Vaughan’s creation. He’s also penned issues for just about every superhero under the sun, in both Marvel and DC camps. But his prior work is not just limited to the realms of comics. For three seasons, Vaughan wrote and edited for a little TV series with a niche audience you might have heard of: Lost. Helming a series that has both fantastical elements, as well as impossible intrigue, tension and mystery? Under The Dome is in the right hands here.
4. The Simpsons Did It
The similarities between Under The Dome and the major plot line of The Simpsons Movie are well documented. It’d be impossible to NOT draw comparisons between the mysterious dome that appears around Chester’s Mill, and the enormous, town-sealing bubble that got dropped over Springfield.
Both sides have vehemently denied taking influence from the other, with King going so far as to publish excerpts from his original manuscript written in 1979 to prove his originality. At this stage it’s absolutely plausible to simply write this coincidence off as a case of great minds thinking alike — and in any case, if it was good enough for The Simpsons…
5. You love disaster porn
We all like seeing stuff crash or blow up. It’s in our nature. It’s the reason why Roland Emmerich gets to make films like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and it’s the reason why World’s Wildest Police Videos remains a ratings hit. We are, to our very core, a species of rubberneckers. We can’t help it.
And when a small town is suddenly cut off by an invisible and impenetrable barrier, things are going to crash into it. The centrepiece of the trailer features a truck smashing into it at full speed. And it looks AWESOME. Birds, cars, trains, planes, all of these exist in the world ofUnder The Dome, and none of them are going to be safe from horrific, fiery, magnificent collision. Plus there’s that whole intriguing narrative thing, too.
6. Channel Ten is fast tracking it
So confident are Channel Ten that Under The Dome will be a hit that they’re not making you wait months on end for a local screening date (or force you to seek out other, less legal means of acquisition). The show will go to air on Australian TV mere hours after originally hitting US screens. Whether or not this is a smart move or simply blind panic is yet to be fully determined; Ten has had poor results from fast tracking in the past, whereas Channel 7 continues to tightly control its international programming successfully. The bottom line is that if the show takes off, Ten will be claiming fast-tracking to be a success, and more shows will follow. Reducing gaps in broadcast dates across international borders? Yes please.
This article appears on Junkee.