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TV Interview

'Under the Dome' exec Neal Baer: 'We know how the show will end'

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Adapted from the Stephen King novel, Channel 5's US import Under the Dome has been one of our cult TV favourites this autumn. The big-budget sci-fi series has been brimming with tension and mind-bending mysteries and we're totally hooked as we head towards the season one finale in two weeks' time.

Digital Spy caught up with one of the show's exec producers, Neal Baer, to get some scoop on the show's future.

How pleased have you been with the reception in the US and the UK to Under the Dome?
"We're so gratified that people have really embraced it because you just never know. I've been really fortunate in my career; I did ER for seven years and Law and Order: SVU for 11. I thought, 'That's not going to happen again'. And then it happened. We had 20 million viewers the first week in the US. I feel very fortunate that viewers have taken in all these characters and have welcomed them and want to see them every week."

This is your first sci-fi show. Have you been surprised by the reaction of fans?
"I went to Comic-Con and oh my goodness. Just the costumes alone, the people there become these characters and these characters are part of their lives, so that really gave me cause for excitement. These people are really demanding so it focuses you. You really need to do a great job."

Dean Norris as James 'Big Jim' Rennie in Under The Dome S01E01

© CBS / Michael Tackett

Under the Dome on Channel 5



Sci-fi shows can often frustrate fans with their lack of answers. How have you tried to deal with that?
"I think that it is important to give answers. We're answering all the questions about the drugs and also going to say who the monarch is - the monarch will be crowned and we will find out who the monarch is by the end of the season. So I think it is important to give answers and have new mysteries in the process, and each answer can lead to another mystery but can still enthral. That's definitely what we try to do.

"I think doing ER was good practice because we had so many characters with different storylines. Also I am a physician, it's kind of like going on the ward where you have, like, 14 patients - you have to know who each one of them is, what their different problems are, what the diagnosis is, what tests you've done, what tests you want to do, where you are in the process. Each storyline is a patient and I'm keeping track of all of them."

Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway in Under The Dome S01E01

© CBS / Michael Tackett

Under the Dome on Channel 5



How closely will you be working with Stephen King on season two as the show veers further away from the novel?
"We're going to work very closely with Stephen because he's writing the first episode of the next season. So, whether or not he pulls things back from the book we'll have to see. I'm going to meet with Brian K Vaughan (the show's creator) in November to work with Stephen on the first episode. We have a lot of ideas, some are from the book and some are new ways to go, and Stephen himself wrote a letter to Entertainment Weekly saying: 'Don't expect it to be a word for word translation because the book itself is only seven days'. He thinks that this show is a really engaging way to do it, so he's always really been an advocate for us."

Did you always plan for a second season and how many seasons have you got mapped out?
"We were hopeful that we would get a second. First of all, we know how it's going to end and that it's different from the book. So people say, 'Oh you know how it ends, why should I watch it?' The answer is, because the journey is great and the ending is great and nobody else knows it. We hoped that it would go longer than one season that was always the plan, but you just never know until the show airs and we'd already shot ten episodes by the time the first episode aired so we couldn't go back and tweak things. We were really going by Stephen King on a lot of it.

Mike Vogel as Dale "Barbie" Barbara in 'Under The Dome'

© CBS / Brownie Harris

Under the Dome on Channel 5



"The other thing that's interesting about this is that we got a pick-up for 13 episodes, which is really rare these days. Usually you shoot the pilot and then you have to wait three months between the pick-up and the pilot. But for us, there was no time to tweak or assess, we just kept getting told, 'You have to write faster, you have to write faster, just go'. So it was exciting but terrifying."

If you know the ending, what would be the ideal length for the series?
"Five seasons would be great, we'd love that. Also we'd like to keep it to 13 episodes, not 22. That's always been a challenge for shows, especially sci-fi shows, because that's a lot of episodes to maintain mythology. It's not as hard with something like SVU where it's a new story each week. I think 13 episodes is ideal and I think that's how we were able to surprise people. People didn't think viewers would watch a show like this, especially in the summer. And we proved them wrong on both accounts."

How many people know the ending?
"I think three people know. Me, Brian and Stephen King. So if it gets out, we know who to blame."

Natalie Martinez as Deputy Linda and Josh Carter as Rusty in Under The Dome S01E01

© CBS

Natalie Martinez and Josh Carter in Under The Dome



You seem quite keen to interact with fans on Twitter. What do you feel that you gain from that?
"I go on live during the show and respond to people and thank them for watching. I don't know if any other show runners do that but I honestly thank people for watching and I do answer their questions and if they say something negative I just don't respond. I don't engage in that. I love doing it so if people come to me with questions I'm happy to answer them and that's such a new phenomenon because we were just putting our shows out there and weren't engaged with viewers before now. Now we're engaged, which is great, but I don't feel the need to justify what we do."

If you could go back and change anything from season one, would you?
"No, nothing. I don't feel like we did anything that screwed it up... well, I hope not!"

Under the Dome airs on Mondays at 10pm on Channel 5. The DVD is released on November 18 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

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