Under the Dome Showrunner on Working with Stephen King and Stopping the Soda Epidemic

Mayor Bloomberg will soon have an additional compendium to draw from in his ongoing campaign against Big Gulp-size soda servings. Neal Baer (pictured), a showrunner for 11 years on Law & Order: SVU as well as this summer’s new CBS series Under the Dome, is in the process of writing a book titled SODA: Corporate Profits versus Public Health. Due in stores next February, it pairs the Harvard-educated MD with renowned nutritionist Marion Nestle.

“We’re working on the book right now,” Baer confirms via telephone to FishbowlNY. “I’m really interested in soda’s place in our lives – culturally, nutritionally and politically in terms of subsidies for corn syrup and things like that. It’s a fascinating product that costs next to nothing to make. It’s water, sugar and flavor; and yet, it has this ubiquitous, profound impact on people’s lives.”

SODA is one of two books Baer has on tap for 2014. Next July, there will also be a follow-up to Kill Switch, a mystery series launched in 2012 with LA-based collaborator Jonathan Greene.

Meanwhile, the reviews for Under the Dome, which debuts Monday June 24 at 10 p.m., are starting to come in. When we spoke to Baer, he was in-between production of episodes #9 and #10. Unusually, the show got a 13-episode commitment without going through the TV pilot/approval process.

“Before I became involved, Under the Dome was being developed as a Showtime series at Dreamworks for about two years,” Baer explains. “Ultimately, Showtime decided for whatever reason not to go ahead with it. So it was given to [CBS Entertainment President] Nina Tassler and lined up with the network’s intention to do a summer series to compete with cable, for the first time. Which was really fortuitous for us.”

While the framework of Stephen King’s book remains – the small town of Chester’s Mill finds itself inexplicably sealed off under an invisible dome that prevents people from entering or leaving – Baer and the show’s writers have added in various elements of their own. With the author’s full involvement.

“Stephen was present in North Carolina during the shooting of the first episode,” says Baer. “He reads all the scripts and talks to us, gives us suggestions. So in that sense he’s very much involved and his voice is in our heads.”

[Photos courtesy CBS]

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.