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TV Review: Jericho Pilot Episode

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Jericho definitely has promise. It starts off strong; the filming, editing, and scoring create an intriguing ambience. During the opening sequence with The Killers’ “All These Things that I’ve Done” playing, we see the young hero-to-be making his way home. It not only sounds good, but the lyrics work to set up the plot.

“When there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more song
One more song
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on

“I wanna stand up, I wanna let go
You know, you know – no you don't, you don't
I wanna shine on, in the hearts of men
I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand” 

The upbeat tune makes us feel hopeful, and we actually forget that trouble is ahead but honestly, trouble already begins when the characters start to open their mouths. Some of the dialogue is so immature it makes me wince. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

The premise of this show is that some sort of overwhelming disaster will hit the town of Jericho, Kansas. To introduce us to the town and it’s members, we see Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), who has been away for the last five years, come home and reunite briefly with his family and friends. We also are introduced to some other folks who, presumably, will have their place in the story.

A conflict is illustrated right off; Jake is trying to win his father’s approval, and also needs trust funds or some sort of family monies Jake’s grandfather had left for him. His dad, Mayor Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney), plays it a bit on the gruff side, telling Jake he needs to prove himself first. Jake is frustrated but resigned, and when he says goodbye to his mom (Pamela Reed), we see him refusing money she tries to slip him. From this we learn his mom is on his side, and Jake is trying to not be sleazebag. It’s a few simple moments that convey what is needed.

But in other places, things are much more heavy handed. In this industry – sometimes those behind the scenes feel they need to make certain things more obvious, assuming the audience won’t pick up subtleties. Attention Jericho writers: Give us a little credit! 

There’s a scene where Jake has been injured, but has enough strength to come to the aid of school children stuck in a bus. After performing some daring first aid he manages to get the bus rolling and attempts to drive the kids and injured teacher back to town. But now his own injuries are starting to flare, and as he fights exhaustion he mutters lines like, “Got to stay awake.”

Seriously?

Now, from what I have already seen in this pilot episode, young Ulrich is a handy enough actor. I would have trusted him to convey his fatigue laced with fear by facial gesture alone. 

There’s more like that. Jake’s dad, Mayor Green is working his way into a motivational speech. Again, McRaney has the acting chops, he’s paid his dues and he’s likeable enough. But when he’s interrupted by a worried Jericho citizen with the comment, “We’ve heard this speech before” – I say to myself, “Yes, me too!” and I don’t live anywhere near Jericho! 

I’m not saying the dialogue is consistently bad. But there are segments like those that slide into ‘contrived’ territory. Another scene, though intriguing, was pretty morbid. That ‘daring first aid’ I mentioned earlier was an emergency penknife tracheometry. Daring yes, but to have the rest of the children looking on? A bit gruesome, that.

I also found some of the editing to be a bit uneven. The first scenes have the requisite amount of expository dialogue so we can care about Jake and the rest of Jericho. But when we get to the actual reason why they all need to be cared about – the first glimpse of the horrific mushroom cloud – the scenes start jumping around like crazy. We are shown vignettes of everyone’s reactions to this catastrophe and the sudden shift in timing is disconcerting. Of course, I’ll grant this all could have been quite intentional to show peace and complacency suddenly changing to worry and confusion. It just felt odd to me.

I do find myself liking this show in spite of these shortcomings. I wanted to see what happened in the second episode, especially when an empty prison bus is discovered on the outskirts of Jericho. I also wanted to know more about the helpful but mysterious Mr. Hawkins, (Lennie James) the former cop from St. Louis.

About that second episode- I did enjoy it, perhaps even more than the first. There are escaped convicts, old friendships renewed, and new ones emerging. We learn a little more about Mr. Hawkins, and he learns more about what’s going on. There is also a closing scene involving red thumbtacks that was quite chilling. Watch for it.

Jericho airs tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern on CBS.

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About MaryKay

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    I caught this episode halfway through (meant to watch it all, but got distracted by Jon Stewart) and from what I saw I’d agree with you fully.

    Good potential, but didn’t live up to it…yet. Will definitely check back in to see what else goes down.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Yeah, there is potential Mat. I’m hoping it does live up to it. I have to say, I reallly loved the opening couple of minutes…even if they were (as someone put it, cliche. Still, it worked for me.

  • John

    Jericho was absolutely awful.

    The dialogue was atrocious, and everything was so cliche it wasnt funny. A prison bus has crashed and is now open!… yawn… what a surprise. Just like every single book or movie or show dealing with a catastrophe.

    A good concept, but horribly executed.

    Lost remains in a class of its own.

  • http://dotcrawl.wordpress.com Matt

    Just a stupid show. The nuclear apocalypse setting was a good idea; everything else wasn’t.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Jericho? From the Bible? Where the walls came tumbling down. And Skeet, well, can’t get the image of him in Scream out of my head (he was one of the killers). It does seem (and I have not seen this) as this is rehashed business. Sounds something like Stephen King’s The Stand without all the good stuff.

    Thanks, Mary K!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Why thank me Victor? : ) Hey,I liked the show. I hope they fix the weak spots. We’ll wait and see.

  • http://russsorealm.com Edith Russo

    Who played the music? It was awesome!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Edith, The Killers did the first song, and Snow Patrol (Run) did the last one, I am not sure about anything in the middle…(this was for the first Ep)

  • jennifer

    hey im from aus saw jericho last night on australian tv, awesome show i think it is a great idea about the global screening of the show it makes it more exciting, great review by the way.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Thank you Jennifer – nice to get a response from down your way.

  • http://theglenblogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I like this show. Inexplicably, so far at least, I like it. It has holes big enough to drive…well, to drive a nuclear bomb through. But the way they are holding some things back (who did it?), creating an aura of mystery around others (who is Mr. Hawkins? Why is he keeping key information from the others? And whats up with the red tacks?) will keep me around at least long enough to see what plays out the next few weeks.

    Some of the writing is a little Andy Griffith corny to be sure, but I like the way they are holding back the big stuff to let the characters breathe a little.

    For now, at least I’m sticking with it.

    Thought your review was really a good one too Mary.

    -Glen

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Thanks Glen-

    Some of the writing is a little Andy Griffith corny to be sure

    Ha! This was a good way to put it.

  • http://www.scrubfm.com Travis

    Just another Aus fan here. I started watching Jericho have watching Ep2 Fall Out, and now, well i had to go download the first two Eps to catch up on what i have missed, but so far im liking what i see. I see some people are not really liking the show, but me LOVE IT, then again, also me been a 24 Fan could have something to do with it to.

    Cant wait to see some more action.

    OH keep up the good job with the review thread.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Travis –
    Well Jericho has a ways to go to compete with 24, but it showed some interesting stuff. I haven’t had the chance to watch anything but those first two eps. I’ll try to check in when I can.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • nat

    omg dont mention 24 please..every time a season ends i get upset lol…nothing to live for without 24 ….at least The OC is starting on Tuesday..yay!!….but i loooove 24 sooo much, it is the best most skilled argh series i have ever viewed!!

  • Jens

    Hello,
    I come from Germany and like to watch the Pilot of Jericho Season1.
    But It is not possible for europeans to download it from CBS.com
    Can anybody help me to download the Pilot?
    Thanks Jens

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Jens, if you go to the CBS website (cbs.com) you shouuld be able to download whole episodes through innertube.

    Good luck!

  • Marta

    Great- What am I going to do when the first season finishes in Spainnnn. Wait for the 2nd to come as soon as possible.