Under the Dome [Pilot Review]: The ‘King’ holds viewers hostage.. uh-gain.

So, yet another show set in a small town where weird stuff starts happening…

This time: a transparent forcefield violently appears (out of nowhere) and causes chaos for all its residents, cutting them off from the outside world.

Hold your horses. Under the Dome comes from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, executive produced by Jack Bender (who directed the bulk of the episodes of Lost), inherited from the master of everything evil, Stephen King.

And it’s scripted by another Lost alum Brian K. Vaughan, who has written.. oh.. only arguably one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. Y: The Last Man!

Now we’re listening.

Thankfully, CBS serves up this 13-episode summer series based on King’s 2009 novel with much love. Our premiere is set in Chester’s Mill (or “Anywhere”, Maine.. since it’s King), where main characters are established; their rightful places ignited. The town showcases enigmatic drifter Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Bates Motel’s Mike Vogel), journalist Julia Shumway (Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre), feisty waitress Angie McAlister (Secret Circle’s Britt Robertson), Deputy Linda Esquivel (Detroit 1-8-7’s Natalie Martinez; ha, remember that “Chris Moltisanti, the Cop” show?), and councilman “Big” Jim Rennie (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris). While appearances can often be deceiving in new TV, Dome explodes after the first 10-or-so-minutes with pure concept intensity.

If you’re looking for Michael Chiklis, don’t ask me.

Who immediately stands out thus far for this Deacon of Dweeb? “Big” Jim — not to be confused with “Hillbilly” Jim, or better yet, “Slim” Jim — is just about the opposite of Norris’ Hank from Breaking Bad. Jim’s all a stunning smile to most of the townsfolk, despite the fact there’s no denying in his suspicious and highly aggressive ambition. Add to that, a ferocious temper and a major dislike for those who stand in his way.

In the opposite corner, there’s Dale “Barbie” Barbara. You wouldn’t expect a guy nicknamed after a buttery blonde former Miss California to keep his wits together and play calm, but that’s exactly the irony. Questions do remain: What brought “Barbie” to the town? And, why does he appear to have a good heart, but we’re constantly driven to believe quite the opposite? Vogel does just the trick at playing docile…which could prove a threatening trait later down the road.

Following this strange forcefield’s debut, the Mill is left dealing with more issues than a Patriots tight-end. People are missing, accidents fill the hospital with wounded, power and radio signals are gone. What– no cell phones and cable TV?!

I think I just heard Moody jump out of his 2nd floor window.

“It’s doesn’t mean it’s the end of times,” says Nicholas Strong’s radio DJ, Phil Bushey (Defiance fans may have issues with this, if there’s even any left..). But, despite all the trauma, I have good faith that this show will not become some disaster-of-the-week ABC Family special.

No wonder it’s the last season of Dexter…

In just this one episode, Under the Dome involves enough character personality and room for exciting development, despite an apparent jumbled ensemble. Hey, it only gives us viewers a chance to admire a few and pull the rug from right under the rest.

Perhaps, more than anything, the show’s potential lies within its own social experiment. What happens when all these people get stuck in this place together with nowhere to go? (Hopefully, not what happens in The Mist…) What about when food and supplies become go short? (Walking Dead, I see you.) Hell, what’s going to be the point of going to work or school? (Alice Cooper grins.) And, better yet, there’s not going to be any influence from the outside world — which is anywhere but Maine — that will be able to place an authority on societal behavior!

Lots of reasons for lots of “wrong” episodes. Wrong is right for TV. Uh, right?

The creators also wistfully tease and brilliantly torture us with an assortment of intriguing mind-benders: Why are some people having seizures when they get close to the “Dome”? How is a town going to get by without a doctor? Will this become the best Stephen King adaptation since Green Mile?

There’s no question that there’s a ton of, well, questions to ponder with Under the Dome. But, excuse me while I mark this quest for all the King’s demanding inquiries straight through my summer calendar Mondays (10/9c).

4 (out of 5) Bibles. Not bad for network TV, eh?!

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