Nellie Andreeva

In a departure from its signature drama procedurals, CBS has given a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Steven Spielberg and Stephen King‘s Under The Dome, a drama based on King’s bestselling 2009 novel, which will be produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Television. The series will air next summer and will mark CBS’ biggest effort with original scripted fare in the off-season in years with Under The Dome and Unforgettable. Under The Dome tells the story of a small New England town suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. The town’s inhabitants must deal with surviving the post-apocalyptic conditions while searching for answers to what this barrier is, where it came from and if and when it will go away. I hear the project’s writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) kept the general conceit and many of the characters from the book but also introduced new characters as regulars and tweaked some details and backstory for the existing ones. I hear King has blessed all the changes. As for the book’s much-talked-about ending, which has divided King fans, I hear the series won’t follow it, and as in success, CBS would like to do another season.

CBS landed Under The Dome in turnaround. The supernatural thriller was originally set up at pay cable sibling Showtime in August 2011. When Amblin sensed the project was not moving forward at Showtime, they asked the network to release it and took it out to the broadcast networks. In an effort to keep the show in the family, Showtime entertainment president David Nevins, who liked the project despite feeling it was not right for Showtime, recommended it to his CBS counterpart Nina Tassler, who was interested. The network subsequently laid the show off at CBS TV Studios, which will produce it with Amblin; attached veteran Neal Baer, who is under an overall deal at CBS  Studios, as showrunner; and brought in original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo helmer Niels Arden Oplev to direct the first episode. The network has history with Oplev — in his U.S. debut, he directed the pilot of the CBS procedural Unforgettable, which coincidentally will be Under The Dome‘s companion on the CBS summer schedule unless the network changes its plans. “This is a great novel coming to the television screen with outstanding auspices and in-season production values to create a summer programming event,” Tassler said.

In further corporate synergy, CBS and sibling Simon & Schuster, whose Scribner imprint published the book in November 2009, will cross-promote the TV series and book in advance of the show’s summer launch with the April 2013 rerelease of trade paperback and electronic editions from its Pocket Books imprint. In addition to the CBS broadcast, Under The Dome will have a multi-platform window available for each episode shortly after the network airing.

Under The Dome has been a passion project for DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider, who nabbed the rights to King’s novel shortly after it was published to strong reviews. She is executive producing the series with Spielberg, King, Baer, Vaughn, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Under The Dome will be distributed domestically by CBS TV Distribution and worldwide by CBS Studios International. Amblin is with WME; King and Baer with Paradigm; Vaughan with Verve; and Oplev with ICM Partners.

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