To be clear, my assessment is based solely on the pilot, but TV projects in my experience very rarely improve as they go along. And if Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, with Noomi Rapace) can't make the first installment come alive, I doubt the revolving door that follows him will have much success.
The claustrophobic premise is that a giant transparent but impenetrable bubble has settled over the deceptively idyllic Maine town of Chester Mills, like an inverted fishbowl. Conveniently, most of the population is at an annual parade in an adjoining town when the dome drops.
Abington native and rapidly rising hunk Mike Vogel, recently seen on Bates Motel, stars as Barbie, a mystery man who is burying a body in the woods when we first meet him. Jeff Fahey is the sheriff with the bum ticker. In 1992, Fahey starred in Lawnmower Man, a film based on a King short story. Coincidentally, Dean Norris (Hank on Breaking Bad) was also in that cast. In Under the Dome, Norris plays Big Jim Rennie, a used-car salesman who sees the town's enforced isolation as an opportunity to run the show. (Regular readers of King know mankind's toxic tendency to despotism is a recurring theme.)
Nicholas Strong (who plays JT on ABC's Nashville) will eventually emerge as Big Jim's rival for power. (That's if the series follows the book. Some subtle changes emerge early, like making the barrier soundproof.)
Under the Dome's ensemble also includes Rachelle Lefevre ( A Gifted Man), Britt Robertson ( The Secret Circle), and a Detroit 1-8-7 reunion of Natalie Martinez and Aisha Hinds.
But who dropped the lid and why? Why had the town already been stockpiling enormous amounts of propane? Why do Chester Mills' teens keep dropping to the ground, foaming and twitching while repeating, "Stars are falling in lines"? And why does no one in this burg have even a hint of northeastern accent?
The series is far less effective than King is on the page at weaving together and pacing the disparate story lines. And at generating fright.
The network is already projecting Under the Dome as a recurring multi-season summer series. Based on just the first episode, it might want to drop a big lid on those expectations.
Under the Dome
10 p.m. Monday on CBS3
Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or www.inquirer.com/daveondemand or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_TV.