utd_art2_0Tonight on CBS, Dean Norris (BREAKING BAD), Britt Robertson (LIFE UNEXPECTED), Mike Vogel (PAN AM, among others) and Rachelle LaFevre (everything ever made), star in UNDER THE DOME (CBS, 10/9c).  The show, which is based on the lengthy Stephen King novel of the same name, follows the residents of Chester’s Mill before and after an invisible dome slices through the air (among other things….in the grossest scene I’ve seen outside of HANNIBAL these days), trapping many people in town, and keeping others out.

The first hour sets up promise of what could be a great show.  The idea of being left to fend for themselves with no help from the outside world is an intriguing premise, and it seems like a no-brainer that someone would adapt the (really good if meandering) book. That person, in this case, is Brian K Vaughan, who you know from a lot of stuff, but most notably his incredibly smart and well done comic series Runaways and Y: The Last Man and his time spent writing for LOST. There’s a great pedigree involved in the show, as Steven Speilberg and Neil Baer are on board as producers, as well.

What stood out to me, aside from the frightening “what if” approach the show takes (what if YOU were trapped in town?), is the sense of doom or danger, plus an urgency felt by the actors, dictated by the script.  Dean Norris is perfectly cast as Big Jim Rennie, the town’s biggest auto retailer and the only politician left under the dome.  You can tell that he wants all the power that he can get but he struggles with the fact that he might have to take all of that on.  Even in failed shows, I’ve felt that Mike Vogel has always commanded attention on screen, but never more so than he does here as Barbie, the mysterious outsider who finds himself the de-facto leader of this merry band of townsfolk.  His chemistry with LaFevre, here playing Julia Shumway (any relation to Gordon remains undocumented), the editor of the local paper whose husband appears to be missing, is palpable, and their push and pull will be fun to follow along.

Other standouts in the cast – Britt Robertson’s Angie is a wise-beyond-her-years young woman who wants out of her tiny town but finds herself more trapped than ever; she and her brother, Colin Ford’s Joe (young Sam!), find themselves home alone, in the most major sense of the word, with their parents trapped outside.  Radio DJs played by Nicholas Strong and Jolene Purdy provide some levity; lesbian couple Carolyn and Alice (Aisha Hinds and Samantha Mathis – always delightful to see both of them) are in town with their bratty daughter Norrie (is her full name North?), the first to fall ‘victim’ to the repeated and frightening phrase “The stars are falling in lines” that rears its ugly head more than once.  Familiar faces Natalie Martinez (DETROIT 1-8-7), Beth Broderick (SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH), and LOST-ie Jeff Fahey round out a really solid cast.  As many others have pointed out, if there’s one weakness to a really well cast show, it’s Alex Koch’s Junior, who feels too American Psycho to be as “real” as the other characters.

All in all, it’s a show that I’ve already set my series recording for, and I can’t wait to see where they could possibly go next. Will they stick with the source material?  Will it vary drastically?  Will CBS stop calling it an event series, if the show does well, and develops into something more?

Check it out, and let us know what you think!