Rebecca Barry Hill: Drama abounds in close quarters

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Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) and Rusty Denton (Josh Carter) in Under the Dome.
Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) and Rusty Denton (Josh Carter) in Under the Dome.

What is the dome and when will we find out? That was my first thought while watching Under the Dome (Wednesdays, 8.30pm), Prime's new drama about a town enclosed by a giant you-know-what.

"It's obviously taking their DNA," said my couch buddy as the townsfolk tentatively pawed at the invisible, soundproof shield. So much for my theory it was put in place by a dairy giant fearing a contamination scare.

My second thought was "Freestyler, rock the microphone," which was also my third, fourth and fifth thought, repeatedly. That could make for a fun drinking game any time someone puts their digits on the thing - "straight from the top of my dome!" - and a way to lighten up its slightly cheesy tone.

It was good fun though. When the dome suddenly, inexplicably trapped the township of Chester's Mill, it did a stellar job of separating loved ones, munting trucks and planes, and in the case of one poor cow, carving it neatly down the middle like a Heston Blumenthal barbecue.

It also caused a cop's pacemaker to explode in his chest and two teenagers to start fitting and muttering "the stars are falling in lines", which is hopefully not a premonition for my state of mind come the start of the 17th series.

The show is based on the Stephen King novel, and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and former Lost producer/director Jack Bender, part of the reason for that first thought. Audiences are wary about drawn-out mysteries, and we can't cheat this one by reading the last page. The reason for the dome existing is different, apparently, than that in the novel.

But so far, the garden path is entertaining, in a Twilight Zone-meets-The Simpsons Movie-meets-Final Destination kind of way. It's chilling and claustrophobic, with a dark sense of humour. Although judging by all the amazing hair in that small rural town, it looks as though Rachelle Lefevre isn't the only actor to have stepped out of the Twilight films. Only the music is more OTT than Jeff Fahey's beard.

If you're not too far into that drinking game, you might like to discuss the show's deeper themes: environmental woes, terrorism and the tragedy of not being able to update your Facebook status should you be cut off from the world. Even better, it has Dean Norris from Breaking Bad, who gave a reasonably nuanced performance as "Big Jim" Rennie, the car salesman/town leader who, for some reason, has been stockpiling propane.

Elsewhere, the characters were like macarons: pretty but a little insubstantial (mind you, it was the pilot). A guy called Barbie (Mike Vogel) has killed a man. He's potentially headed for a romance with Julia (Lafevre), a reporter who invited him into her house for the night, explaining, with a weird detachment, that her husband wasn't home because he was probably having an affair (actually, he was Barbie's dead guy). And Angie (Britt Robertson) found herself in a bunker.

So the stage is set for freaky happenings, but mostly it's going to be about how the people trapped in Chester's Mill get on (and off) with one another. Let's just hope they don't play a certain pop song over the only available airwaves.

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- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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