I take one look at Under The Dome and wonder how it’s become so popular. It isn’t a great show by any means. The acting is pretty mediocre, the script is bad at times, and you find yourself thinking the characters are dumb more often than not. And yet there’s a certain kind of charm to it—the Stephen King kind of charm. And that is what makes it so enjoyable is that the show is just so Stephen King. However, to get maximum enjoyment out of this sci-fi series, you have to put yourself in the perfect mindset and understand exactly how this show is set up.
So what exactly does it mean for something to be so Stephen King? Very simply, it follows everything that Stephen King tends to do with his writing. I’ll start by saying I tend to enjoy Stephen King’s writing more often than not. He’s a writer with unique ideas who basically shoves whatever lesson he wants everyone to learn from it directly into the face of the reader (or viewer). At the same time, I think that’s why I enjoy his writing; he is so dumbed down for the average person that you can relax and enjoy a nice little fluff story.
Many of Stephen King’s works on television or movies has always displayed some of the corniest stuff people can imagine. It is a movie that, while many people don’t want to admit it, falls into this category. The Mist is another gloriously cheesy movie as well. The Langoliers and The Tommyknockers, and Rose Red are all some of his mini-series that are so cheesy and downright silly. They seem like they want to be serious, but the acting and storytelling involved just make it impossible to really take seriously.
Under the Dome is much of the same. You see these blatant caricatures and stereotypes, and these people acting in such irrational ways that you can’t help but be amused by it. For instance, that Junior kid? He’s a C-list actor straight out of a straight-to-DVD sci-fi movie, and the character is so absurd. This character is so stupid, and the things that he does and the way in which he acts is so outrageous. He’s clearly insane, but he’s so bad at being insane that you can’t even buy it being natural insanity. I can’t take it seriously, but I find myself still wanting to see this kid die.
And Julia Shumway is a no-nonsense investigative journalist in a tiny town, and she’s always running around and taking everything so seriously. My goodness, with the way this character acts, like believing the lies of a clearly irrational and demented boy like Junior, I’m surprised she can even dress herself in the morning. She apparently screwed up so badly because she didn’t check her facts, but she believes the kid who says the dome fell on their town because some guy randomly came to town.
And the police in this town—they have four police officers! So three of them die and the last one, Linda Esquivel, is literally declared sheriff simply because she is the only one who survives. The best part is how so alarmingly bad she is at her job. She is gullible and doesn’t suspect any shadiness whatsoever going on around her. She’s so bad, but it’s so fun to watch.
Of course, you can’t forget the random lesbian couple that exists in this story to say “Hey, bigotry still exists guys.” It’s so in-your-face that I just groan out loud upon seeing how corny this bigotry is. And yet, that is still charming because of how unashamed they are to just throw it out there.
And the teenagers in this show are so stereotypical that I feel like Stephen King has only seen teenagers last in any 90’s teen movie made. They do sick kickflips on their gnarly skateboards and “Dude” and “Bro” it up all the time. There’s a dumbass bully jock kid who our lead teenager boy has to stand up to in order to get the girl. And if that’s not enough, the subplot of “Duuuuude your parents are outside the dome! You have to throw a sick party and become the coolest kid on the block!” is just so corny that I am constantly amused by it.
The main antagonist of the show is a used car salesman named, and I kid you not, Big Jim. Can you believe that a guy called Big Jim, a used car salesman, is your main antagonist? I can’t deal with how blatantly sinister he is. He barely hides it. He is just a complete bastard to everyone in private and sugary sweet to everyone else. With his sidekick, the corrupt reverend, he is so cartoonish that any scene with him just pops. It’s like they told him “Okay, you’re being pretty evil here, but try to be more like Yosemite Sam.” It’s wonderful.
What is hilarious about all of this is that the lead male, Barbie (yeah, his name is Barbie), is the only one who seems immune to the Stephen King writing of it all. He’s street smart, acts in a rational manner, and everybody notices this. You connect with this character just because he’s the only one who seems like he has a clue, and it makes any scene with him that much more interesting.
The way the masses act here is glorious too, and I love every second of how absurd this story because this concept truly is absurd. I’m a huge fan of science fiction, and I think this concept is interesting. And as I watch through it, I realize that I don’t think this concept can really be done without the massive amount of mozzarella in every episode. But dammit all, they are making it interesting by making a story that can’t be taken that seriously while stringing us along for more answers and further plot points.
So the way that I recommend people view Under the Dome is by sitting back, relaxing, turning off your mind, and laughing at the show each week. Don’t allow yourself to get too involved with the characters and thinking about what will happen to them. Don’t speculate seriously about what may or may not happen. And please, let yourself enjoy the silliness. It isn’t often when you get a show that is somehow compelling if you don’t take it very seriously. Above all else, make sure that you can poke fun at the show as well because I’ve found that’s where all of the fun is.