Cast: Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under"), Morgan Spector ("Boardwalk Empire"), Alyssa Sutherland ("Vikings"), Danica Curcic ("Silent Heart"), Okezie Morro ("Red Tails"), Darren Pettie ("Ghost Town"), Isiah Whitlock Jr. ("Veep")
Airs: The series premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday on Spike TV
The premise: The residents of Bridgeville, Maine, find their humanity put to the test when their small town is overwhelmed by a mysterious mist containing unusual and frightening threats. This new series is based on "The Mist" novella by Stephen King but features original storylines and characters. Season one consists of 10 one-hour episodes.
Highs: Although quite different, the 1984 "The Mist" novella and the 2007 film directed by Frank Darabont both focus on a group of people trapped in a grocery store, with a small bunch that manages to escape. The combination of situational pressure along with an incongruous mix of personalities leads to an intense environment. For the television series, executive producer/writer and Danish Academy Award winner Christian Torpe spreads out those environments, with new characters in plots true to the original Stephen King story.
We meet the Copeland family early. Kevin Copeland (Morgan Spector) and his wife, Eve (Alyssa Sutherland), are trying to help their teenage daughter, Alex (newcomer Gus Birney), the victim of a brutal crime. Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro) is a soldier with amnesia who wants to warn people of the mist, but no one takes him seriously. Nathalie Raven (Frances Conroy) is a nature lover and the first person to notice the strange happenings in Bridgeville.
Initially, the show seems to be just another small town drama. Then the mist starts to roll in, and chaos ensues. Families are broken apart, communication is shut off and confusion abounds. Unlike the film and the novella, the TV series provides three severe settings. One group is trapped in a mall, another in a church and a third in a police station. This mixing of diverse characters and locations allows relationships and characters to evolve in unexpected ways.
The main character in "The Mist," however, is fear. Fear begins to take over the town's inhabitants, and how the characters deal with it is startling. Some are paralyzed; others want to run. Some rationalize the situation, and a few step up to the challenge. Most viewers probably will hope that their best qualities would arise if faced with a similar dilemma, but everyone likely can relate to those who freak out.
Lows: Although Bridgeville is pretty, that's only skin deep. That goes for the scenery and the characters. Viewers' introduction to the major players is a shallow one, so it's hard to relate to them once things start going south. Kevin and Eve are different types of parents, and their daughter's tragedy tears them apart. The town sheriff (Darren Pettie) thinks he's an alpha male but is really a coward. We've all met characters like this, but the setup for their relationships is so brief that viewers will hardly have any reason to care about the results, at least after only one episode.
Grade (B+): "Nine meals from anarchy. You take away food, you take away water. Nine missing meals later, that's when people start doing bad things," is a quote from one of the characters in this series. Watching a society crumble makes for a voyeuristic experience. How desperately will people behave to survive? Who will they become? After a promising start, I'm looking forward to watching more of "The Mist" to find out.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.