The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network on September 12, 2014.
Or that’s what we call it anyway. The show’s actual title is Under the Dome, but you watch it and tell me it’s not the dumbest show on television. Better yet, just imagine a sparkly snow globe featuring a little forest of trees. Staring at the glittery plastic falling on more plastic is exactly like watching the Under the Dome in its mesmerizing simplicity, except not as dumb.
When ads for Under the Dome started appearing last year, I was curious. If you’ve been following me here, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m a fan of Stephen King‘s work. Though I hadn’t read his book Under the Dome (2009), I knew that it had been generally well received by critics. The TV ads made it sound mysterious enough – town gets trapped under an invisible dome, hilarity ensues – but it didn’t enter the realm of must-see-TV last summer. And the more ads I saw for it, which seemed to intensify in silliness from week to week, the less interested I became.
Enter in a slow weekend a not long ago, and we’re surfing Amazon Prime looking for some new things to add to the watchlist. Up pops Under the Dome advertised as FREE! FREE! FREE! for Amazon Prime members. Yeah right, I mutter. They reel you in with one or two free episodes and then you gotta pay for the rest! But clicking on the show revealed that, nope, the whole first season, along with new episodes from season two, were all FREE! FREE! FREE! We watched a couple of the featurettes and the trailer, and we decide to go for it. I mean, with both Stephen King’s and Stephen Spielberg’s names attached to the fiction/fantasy show, how bad could it really be?
Alas, such naïveté! Also, spoilers ahead. Dumb, dummy spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless.
Under the Dome tells the story of Chester’s Mill, an idyllic, small town in Maine, where families with 2.5 kids, houses with white picket fences, and general stereotypes abound. The cast contains mostly unfamiliar faces, save for a few like Hank from Breaking Bad. (Only he’s not Hank here, he’s a car salesman and councilman name Jim “Big Jim” Rennie. And he tries hard, so hard, to lend this show an ounce credibility, but he can only do so much.) Anyway, one day, literally out of the clear, blue sky, an invisible dome falls over Chester’s Mills, entrapping the local citizenry along with a number of outsiders. Everyone must then (1) concern themselves with figuring out what the dome is, (2) try to get out of the dome, and/or (3) try to lead a “normal” life.
You’ll have to stick with me here as I struggle to put this show into actual words.
So, there’s this dome and all the problems that stem from people being cut off from the rest of the world. there’s “Big Jim” and initially some mystery surrounding propane that’s summarily dropped. Because who cares? There’s stranger Dale “Barbie” Barbara who fulfills the role of reluctant savoir. There’s Julia (no nickname) Shumway, a news reporter who’s determined to get to the bottom of things. There’s a bunch of kids who are great at spouting exposition and the obvious, but are necessary nonetheless because they are part of “The Four” that need to protect the egg. Wait…what egg, you ask?? This egg.
This large black egg occasionally glows purple and shoots out visions in pink stars, and it also brings people back to life. Because, SUPERNATURAL, or something I just made up. The egg is a power source of some kind, and just might be responsible for the dome.
Also, some people think the dome is sentient and “talks” to them. Or maybe it’s God.
Also, Tag from Friends and Dwight Yoakam.
I am seriously not making this shit up.
The biggest mystery about this show is how it got renewed for a second season, because the first one was just dumb. There were a few bright spots, moments that really made me wonder about the possibility of being trapped away from humanity. There were some significant pockets of drama that made for pretty good television. There were some interesting happenings concerning the dome and magnetism and butterflies. But all the good stuff was summarily drowned out in favor of bad melodrama and choppy storytelling. For the most part, every episode left me convinced that the only solution to Chester’s Mill’s problem was mass murder and cannibalism. Only everyone was too dumb to think of that.
There were a couple episodes where the army appeared on the outskirts of the dome, ready with the one and only solution to the problem — blow up the damn thing. Only that didn’t work. However, the blast charred several miles of land outside the dome. Awesome.
There have been a bunch of episodes covering your typical problems of a town trapped under a dome — looting, food and water shortages, the “who’s in charge here?” question. The solutions to them have ranged from “who cares?” to dumb.
Most recently, in season two, some folks have figured out how to get out of the dome. Only, they want to get back in. Heroic Barbie (with a backstory from hell) wants to save the whole town, while others only want to save key characters…er, family members.
Oh, also. I’m not one to harp on diversity in media, because I think some folks have tried and are trying hard to get it right, but you don’t want to be anything other than white and straight in Chester’s Mill, because you’ll probably end up dead or worse…as a useless plot device. In fact, so many plot points have been introduced, killed, and utterly forgotten over a mere twenty-some episodes that the show should have been called Under the Dome: If You’re Not One of the Six Main Characters, Good Fucking Luck!
It’s all just…so…dumb. I really can’t articulate it any better than that. I keep watching the show hoping for some glimmer of an explanation about the dome. That’s all I want. I want to know what the dome is and where it came from. Instead, I’m getting love triangles with dead girls, unsympathetic bickering and bleak politicking, and visions of parallel universes replete with ridiculous premises. Just writing these last few paragraphs about Under the Dome has given me a massive headache.
[ed. 2020: There was a video here, but the link is broken, and I don’t recall what it was about, anyway. Everything about this show was so bad, it’s not even worth taking the time to locate a new link.]
Despite the usual definition of insanity, I’m going to stick with Under the Dumb…Dome, because it makes my slice of life feel like a Nobel Prize-winning effort. I’ve read that season two is setting up for a major cliffhanger en route to a yet-to-be determined season three. Right now, I can’t stomach the thought of submitting to another thirteen episodes of dumbness. But maybe that’ll be exactly what I’ll need next summer.
Or maybe a dome will fall over my little town before then and I’ll be too stupefied to care.
[ed. 2020: I remember both seasons 2 and 3 — pink butterflies, eggs, more dome, and lots of boring, shitty stupidity — as being just as dumb as ever. In some respects, this show marked the last time I tried to care about network TV dramas. A sub to Netflix came shortly thereafter, and everything changed…forever. Um, well…as far as my TV habits, went, anyway.]