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TV: Stephen King-like ‘Under the Dome’ has undergone some changes

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Stephen King on the set of CBS’ new summer series “Under the Dome”, which is based on his bestselling novel about a small town that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by a massive transparent dome. Courtesy photo

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 20 2013 08:22PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:34PM

CBS’ "Under the Dome" is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, but it’s not exactly a faithful adaptation of that book. And the show’s producers aren’t making any apologies.

"Our show is very faithful to the themes that Stephen King put forward in Under the Dome," said executive producer Neal Baer. "It’s every much the same [town] from that book and these are the same characters. But we definitely do take them to some new and unexpected places."

The premise and many of the characters will be familiar to those who have read the book.

"Under the Dome" is exactly what the title suggests. An enormous, invisible dome suddenly descends on the small town of Chester’s Mill, causing immediate mayhem and trapping the residents — and a few visitors — inside.

It’s very Stephen King-like, with all sorts of mysteries and dark undertones. But it is less dark than the novel.

Writer/executive producer Brian K. Vaughan said he’s a "lifelong fan" of King — who is an executive producer and consultant on the series. Vaughan said he was "inspired" by the book but not confined by it.

"I hope fans of Stephen King will love it and enjoy the changes as much as Stephen King has," he said. "He’s been really supportive of us going to some new places with this.

"He’s just been a dream of a collaborator. He’s been so generous with us. He encouraged us. He said, ‘Take it to places that I couldn’t and do something new with it.’ "

The book covers a few weeks; the producers of the TV series are hoping it will run for several seasons.

"You’ll get a very satisfying story with a very satisfying conclusion [at the end of the 13-episode first season]," said Baer. "But it’s definitely our intention that, if this does well, we’d like to come back to the dome for many seasons to come."

How, exactly, that will work, they’re not saying. But one of the reasons they’re diverging from the book is so there will be suspense.

"If it was exactly like the book, then you wouldn’t be surprised every week," Vaughan said. "I’ve already seen the best ‘Under the Dome’ movie possible, which is the one that plays in my head as I’m reading the book. I feel like there would really be no point in doing a direct translation. I’d just send people to the source material and say, ‘Read that.’ "

This isn’t the first time a novel has been adapted for TV. It isn’t the first time that novel has undergone significant changes as it transitions to the small screen.

Baer, whose credits include "ER" and "Law & Order: SVU," compared "Under the Dome" to a certain successful series about zombies.

"I love the ‘Walking Dead’ comic book," he said. "And I’m so grateful that the TV show isn’t just an exact adaptation — that it feels like you get something new each week."

Which is what they’re promising for "Under the Dome."

"I never would have deviated if Stephen King hadn’t been really supportive of it," Vaughan said. "He even talked about how, if we’re lucky enough to come back for a second season, he’d love to write an episode. It’s never been him saying, ‘Oh, you guys got this wrong’ or ‘That was never my intention in the book.’ He’s very much on board."

spierce@sltrib.com

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