Last summer CBS had a surprise hit with “Under the Dome,” which returns for its second season at 10 p.m. Monday on KDKA-TV.
The series, about citizens in a Maine town that’s inexplicably covered by a clear but impregnable dome, is based on a novel by Stephen King, who wrote Monday’s season premiere and appears late in the episode as a diner patron.
It certainly has more King-style dark humor than a typical “Dome” episode. And also more deaths: Two of the show’s more sympathetic series regulars appear to die in Monday’s episode, a somewhat disappointing turn of events.
But disappointment is par for the course with “Dome,” which CBS billed as “the television event of the summer” last year, which suggested it was somehow special and not just another TV series.
But “Dome” didn’t tell a story with a beginning, middle and end as some viewers expected; instead it ended on a cliffhanger just like any other serialized show. And “Dome” offered few answers to the main question that literally hangs over the series and its characters: Why is there a dome over this town?
At the end of last season, villainous Big Jim (Dean Norris, “Breaking Bad”) was about to have his psycho son, Junior (Alexander Koch), execute Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel, “Pan Am”) for the murder of radio station worker Dodee (Jolene Purdy), even though it was Big Jim who murdered Dodee.
Barbie gets out of the hangman’s noose as the sky flashes, folks in town hear a strange noise and many faint to the ground. Then all things metal start being pulled toward the walls of the dome, which makes for some entertaining (and mildly horrific) special effects scenes.
“Dome” showed promise at its start last season but grew tiresome as it went along. The characters never developed much beyond cardboard cutouts, and the soapy plots often seemed like heel-dragging in place of answers and forward plot momentum.
Monday’s second-season premiere offers a reset of sorts: Junior is 90 percent less psychotic and even Big Jim seems to have a revelation that he needs to be nicer through sightings of dead townsfolk. (“What are you, the Ghost of Christmas Future?” he says to the second dead person he sees.)
There’s also a very King-like theme that gives the Dome itself agency: Maybe the Dome wants someone to kill Big Jim or maybe the Dome just wants the killing to end. This will either appeal to viewers or leave them chuckling and shaking their heads.
In addition to killing characters, the season premiere also introduces two newcomers, a Chester’s Mill High School science teacher, Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome), and a cabin-dwelling loner, Sam (Eddie Cahill), who may have a connection to some of the existing characters. There’s also a new Mystery Girl who almost drowns in a lake and then wanders around town ominously.
“Under the Dome” won’t be confused with good TV – and often last season it was borderline bad TV – but depending on where the writers take it this year, it might be empty-headed, summer fun. At least it’s not a lame reality show or a procedural rerun.
There was a time when CBS was king of the soaps, back when “Dallas,” “Knots Landing” and “Falcon Crest” ruled the airwaves. But for almost two decades, CBS has instead been a home to procedurals with few serialized shows succeeding.
“Under the Dome” and “The Good Wife” are rare exceptions, but they succeeded by dint of genre elements in “Dome” and smart characterizations and sophisticated storytelling in “The Good Wife.”
So how to explain CBS ordering “Reckless” (9 p.m. Sunday, KDKA-TV), a sudser that attempts to meld some procedural elements with soapy shenanigans from CBS’s 1980s serials? It doesn’t seem to fit on today’s CBS at all, but here it is, filling some time on hot summer nights.
CBS wants “Reckless” to be seen as a steamy soap, but its first two episodes are merely lukewarm when it comes to bringing the sexy.
Star Cam Gigandet (“Twilight”) gets a gratuitous shirtless scene in the premiere, but there’s little that’s actively sexy here unless you count rubbing a cold can of soda on your neck (because, it’s the South!).
The show, written by Dana Stevens (“What About Brian”) and executive produced by Western Pennsylvania native Kim Moses (“Ghost Whisperer”), is set and filmed in Charleston, S.C., but in the first two episodes, the series doesn’t take much advantage of its location beyond a few bridge shots.
Mr. Gigandet stars as Roy Rayder, a divorced attorney who talks the talk of Old South gentility (“It’s the South, you don’t just say whatever pops into your mind!”) but isn’t at all believable as a Southern gentleman.
Roy butts heads and flirts with Jamie Sawyer (Anna Wood, “Deception”), a defense attorney from Chicago. The pair often square off in the courtroom and then meet at night for drinks, work chatter and casual flirting.
“I see a Yankee lawyer in expensive shoes who doesn’t know how to work a Southern jury or a Southern D.A.,” Roy tells her.
“Believe me, Roy,” Jamie replies, “under the right circumstances I would know exactly how to work you.”
Jamie dates Preston Cruz (Adam Rodriguez, “CSI: Miami”), a cop who works with Terry “King Dirtbag” McCandless (Shawn Hatosy, “Southland”), who is cocky and corrupt.
Terry gets fellow officer Lee Anne Marcus (Georgina Haig) fired, leading Jamie to file a lawsuit on Lee Anne’s behalf. Naturally, Ray, recently installed as city attorney by his powerful former father-in-law (Gregory Harrison), has to defend the police department.
That’s the ongoing story, but each episode also has an open-and-shut case – the procedural element – including a murder case in the premiere and a custody battle in episode two.
Fans of old-time network soaps may find something to enjoy here, but despite the promise that “dark secrets simmer behind every door and threaten to tarnish the genteel façade of seductive Charleston,” “Reckless” is decidedly bland and evinces almost none of the sense of place CBS proclaims.
WPGH gets getTV
Pittsburgh’s WPGH, which at one time had Country Network on a digital subchannel, will soon get Sony Pictures Television’s classic movie channel, getTV.
GetTV will air as a digital subchannel of WPGH, Channel 53.2, beginning July 1. Programming will include an Independence Day double feature featuring films starring former first lady Nancy Reagan (“Hellcats of the Navy” at 7 p.m., followed by “Crash Landing”), a birthday marathon of films starring Barbara Stanwyck on July 16 (beginning with “The Miracle Woman” at 11 a.m.) and crime dramas airing Thursdays at 7 in July, including Humphrey Bogart in “Dead Reckoning” on July 24.
Bingham cast on ‘Matador’
Former Pittsburgher Margot Bingham, seen last fall in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” has landed a recurring role on El Rey Network’s “Matador” as a CIA analyst. The series follows a star soccer player who’s actually a covert operative for the CIA and debuts at 9 p.m. July 15.
Locally El Rey is available on DirecTV (Channel 341) but is not yet available on Comcast or Verizon’s FiOS TV.
This week AMC announced it renewed Revolutionary War spy drama “Turn” for a 10-episode second season to air in 2015.
Late last week the cable network renewed “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul” for a second season, but it comes with a string attached: “Saul,” which was supposed to debut later this year, now won’t begin its first season until early 2015
TNT’s “The Last Ship” got off to a strong ratings start, drawing 5.3 million viewers to its premiere broadcast Sunday night. ... Lifetime is making a behind-the-scenes movie about teen show “Saved by the Bell,’ which will debut at 9 p.m. Sept. 1. ... AMC marathons its hit “The Walking Dead” over the July 4 weekend, airing all four seasons of the zombie drama starting at 9 a.m. July 4 and ending with a season five preview at 9 p.m. July 6. ... Next week TBS celebrates the 25th anniversary of “Seinfeld” with four episodes each weeknight and the show’s five most memorable episodes (“The Contest,” “The Outing,” “The Junior Mint,” “The Puffy Shirt” and “The Yada Yada”) at 5:30 p.m. July 5. ... Showtime comedy “Web Therapy” deviates from its usual summer air pattern this year, rolling out its fourth season beginning at 11 p.m. Oct. 22. ... Given the success of cable shows about young Amish run amuck, is it any surprise that TLC will do a show about Eskimos “Escaping Alaska” (9 p.m. July 27)? ... Showtime’s “Californication” airs its series finale at 9:30 p.m. Sunday. ... Duquesne University School of Law dean Ken Gormley will offer commentary on the scandals of Bill Clinton’s presidency in National Geographic Channel’s “The ’90s: The Last Great Decade?,” airing at 9 p.m. July 6-8.
Tuned In online
Today’s TV Q&A column responds to questions about “The Talk,” TV ratings and paranormal TV. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on “Cappelli & Company,” “Tyrant,” “The Leftovers,” “Freedom Summer” and “Vicious.” Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv. This week's podcast includes conversation about “Orphan Black,” “Tyrant” and “Falling Skies.” Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.