under the dome and mr. mercedes

Stephen King isn’t shy when it comes to talking about adaptations of his work. Heck, King has spent the last 40 years complaining about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And now, the master of horror has opened up about two recent adaptations – the TV shows Under the Dome and Mr. Mercedes. Both shows ran for three seasons, and in King’s eyes, only one was successful: Mr. Mercedes.

I’m a pretty big Stephen King fan, but I did not watch Under the Dome. In fact, I don’t think I know a single person who did. But the show ran for three seasons, so it must’ve been doing something right – right? Well, not according to Stephen King. In an interview with the Washington Post, King was asked his thoughts about some of the TV adaptations of his work, and he didn’t mince words when it came to Under the Dome.

Under the Dome [on CBS] was one I felt like went entirely off the rails, because the people are doing things that don’t seem realistic,” King said. “One thing that killed me was you never hear the sound of a generator anywhere. The electric power is fine. Everything looks clean. Everything is great, except that they’re cut off from the world. And that isn’t what would happen. If you ask people to accept those ideas, there has to be a sense of realism that goes with it, that pulls you along.”

In King’s sprawling novel, a small town is caught under a giant impenetrable dome set up by aliens (yes, really). The book itself was King’s satire of the Bush administration, complete with an evil Dick Cheney stand-in manipulating a dumb Bush-like figure. It’s not one of King’s better works, I’m afraid – which is why I never even bothered to check out the show.

I’ve also never watched Mr. Mercedes, the series based on King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. The Bill Hodges books are mysteries, and that I prefer King in horror mode. But King is clearly a fan of the series, primarily because he thinks it does a good job creating believable characters. King himself is great at character building, so it would make sense for him to gravitate towards that.

“The characters seem true to me,” he said. “One of the things I try to do in the books is play fair with all the characters and try to respect them and love them. What I really love to do, and I think I’ve had some success for this, is for readers to feel like they know all the characters. That they’re getting a feel of roundness in the characters, the good stuff the bad stuff. I want you to care about the people. The good people, I want you to fall in love with. … The bad people, I want you to see why they’re bad.”

He added: “A series like Mr. Mercedes, how many episodes are there total? Probably 28 or 29 in three seasons. That’s enough time so that if the characters are just cardboard cutouts after all that time, then you did something wrong, and the people you hired to adapt this thing and who were interested in it did something wrong.”

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