There seems to be a mixed opinion on CBS’s “Under the Dome”, and you can’t blame the critics who bash it, despite Stephen King bringing his own writing this season. As a novel, “Under the Dome” was another brilliant sociological horror study by King. But when you have a series with limited space on where the characters can go, even network executives at CBS must have been squirming in their seats wondering what more could be done in a second season. It turns out the attempt is to just keep bringing more questions than answers in each episode, which can quickly frustrate audiences. Also, the more people turn on one another, the more it becomes less like exciting summer TV than drudgery.
This isn’t to say social chaos doesn’t go over well any time of the year if you include the continual smash seasons of “The Walking Dead.” There, though, they have a whole world to explore where we’re still awaiting new discoveries. Regardless, the concept of having small or limited spaces in a series probably isn’t over if “Under the Dome” doesn’t get a third season pickup after this summer. It doesn’t have to be just sci-fi either to provide more sociological lessons about people than any other concept.
What other areas could the confined/limited space genre be used in for television to show how creative things can get when characters have to learn how to get along with one another?
Show Ideas for the Limited Space Concept
If everyone has to insist that sci-fi is the only way a show about a confined space could work, then you might as well start with the nearest genre: Horror. Anyone who’s seen the movie “[REC]” know how well this can be done and how a whole movie can be constructed around a group of people stuck in a quarantined apartment due to a terrorist attack by one of the residents. It’s an idea that worked well in a movie, but would a series with a different confined space each week become a boon to the confined space genre?
The anthology series hasn’t been around for a while, though audiences are warming to the idea of changing casts more often to keep a show fresh. A “[REC]” series would also bring the found footage idea to TV where videos showing people trying to survive in a cramped space for days would bring riveting TV every week with a different scenario.
In that regard, you almost wish “Under the Dome” would have confined the cast into a room rather than giving them freedom to walk around outside.
How About a “Twelve Angry People” Series?
Staying on the anthology idea, we have yet to see a show about what goes on behind the scenes of juries. We’ve all seen the classic 1957 film “Twelve Angry Men”, and perhaps some remember the slightly inferior remake for television in 1997. Rather than remake the same story, why not have a different fictional jury each week locked in a deliberation room to find a verdict on complex legal cases? The insights to what goes on inside deliberation rooms today would be insightful for those who’ve never been called to participate on jury duty before. Plus, with each scenario different, you never know what’s going to happen and whether someone will be strangled from across the table.
As a cable anthology series, this could give a chance for more A-list movie actors to come aboard for one-shot acting appearances.
The Biggest Challenge: A Group of People Lost at Sea
Only Alfred Hitchcock managed to hold an entire movie showing a group of people stuck on a lifeboat together in 1944’s “Lifeboat.” No one has been able to ever duplicate such a thing again, though TV is a whole different beast when it comes to doing daring things lately. What would happen if a series ever started that showed the same characters every week in a very confined space? Would it work with the right acting, suspense, and situations?
Somebody is likely working on it as the greatest experiment in character development. Having them on a small boat together would be the new equivalent of “Gilligan’s Island” without being a comedy. Then again, perhaps comedy can still be found in the confined space genre, or at least within the common realm of drama-comedy. When you have more than a half-dozen people trying to survive together in a small space, it’s not always going to be about going for the jugular as a survival of the fittest.
At least “Under the Dome” broached the idea that you don’t need a vast universe like “Game of Thrones” to spread your wings in creating interesting situations in limited spaces. Even the most interesting and gut-wrenching scenes in “Game of Thrones” happened in small rooms rather than out on the battlefield.