The Stephen King experiment begins on CBS Sunday night, an open-ended series adaptation of "Under the Dome." The novel ran 1,100-plus pages, but still the show's creators have been given free reign in taking the story in new directions, which could be interesting. Or not -- has anyone but the most deranged fans actually read the unabridged version of "The Stand"?
The pilot spends very little time establishing whatever passes for normality in the seemingly idyllic town of Chesters Mill, Pa., before slamming a big ol' invisible, impenetrable lid on it. Like ants trapped under a jar, the various residents and a few interesting outsiders bang against the glass a few times before accepting the event with remarkable calm, although the stage is clearly set for a "Lord of the Flies" scenario -- "Revolution" in a teacup.
No one believes more thoroughly in Monsters and Heroes than King, and even those who have not read the book can assume an other-worldly aspect to the dome; as one character observes early on, it can't be government-issued because, you know, "it works." Adaptations of the novelist's work have been very hit and miss, and the television landscape is now littered with the sort of stories King made popular. But now that the NBA finals are over, it's the next Big Summer Event, so you don't want to miss it. CBS, Mondays, 10 p.m.
VIDEO: Summer 2013 TV preview
It's hard to believe that no one thought of a reality show with a "Ten Little Indians" murder-mystery conceit before, but here it is now on ABC. in "Whodunnit," a carefully cast group of contestants show up at a Manor House where they are greeted by a lugubrious butler who informs them murder is in the air. Before you can say "isn't this the house they used as a joke in 'Episodes,'?" the first player lies "dead," with her teammates scrambling to solve her murder. Those who succeed, or come close, are safe for the next round; those who muff the clues are tagged as possible victims. There will be alliances, there will be bad behavior, but there should be an element of "playing along" that is not as strong as it should be, at least in the pilot. Also, the deaths are quite dramatic and strangely upsetting -- as far as I can recall, Dame Agatha never left anyone twitching on the floor with glass shards in her face and exposed electrical wires around. ABC, Sundays, 9 p.m.
Time has been kind to "Rizzoli & Isles," muting the originally cartoonish differences between the two main characters -- Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), a liquid-eyed, tomboy-tough homicide detective, and Tess Isles (Sasha Alexander), a high-fashion medical examiner with no social filter -- and making their finish-your-sentence friendship increasingly real. Likewise the various family members, including Jane's mom, played by Lorraine Bracco, have settled into comfortable rhythms that lightly tether the often-crazy cases demanded by a TNT procedural (in the season opener, a state senator is assassinated) to richly imagined real-ish life. TNT, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.
CRITICS PICKS: What to watch, taste, hear and more this weekend
Meanwhile make sure you're still watching:
"Family Tree," the new HBO comedy from Christopher Guest, which just gets better and better as ancestry-seeking Tom Chadwick (Chris O'Dowd) comes to L.A., or Glendale to be exact, to meet his American cousins, who include characters played by Ed Begley Jr. and Guest himself. Between the vestigial tail and the monkey puppet Skype, last week's episode defined the subtle limits of satire. HBO, Sundays, 9:30 p.m.
"Borgen." OK, it's in Danish, with subtitles, which means you can't be texting or folding laundry while you watch because you might miss something. But it is so good, it's worth an hour spent rediscovering the pleasure of simply watching something. And if you've missed the beginning, you can catch it on the KCET website. KCET, Fridays, 10 p.m.