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TV Review: Jericho – Series Premiere

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The problem with Jericho is that it sees the Apocalypse as an annoying inconvenience for the American way. While the promo image of a child on a rooftop watching as a nuclear bomb detonates in the far horizon is undeniably compelling, the producers of this series have done little to capitalize on the drama that image evokes. Instead, they've opted for a derivative story premise heavy on paranoia and apple pie platitudes.

At its heart, Jericho, like most post-apocalyptic stories, is a western. The prodigal drifter (Skeet Ulrich) rides into the sleepy town of Jericho, Kansas on his prized steed (in this case, a '69 Plymouth) to claim the inheritance his grandfather left him. He of course runs into opposition from the town's mayor (Gerald McRaney) who is also the drifter's father.For reasons yet unexplained, the drifter's mysterious past is called into question. The drifter, jaded as he is, prepares to leave Jericho, but not before saying hello to the town's schoolteacher (Sprague Grayden) and briefly reuniting with his high school sweetheart ( Ashley Scott.) The drifter quickly has enough of the town, especially since it was only a stop full of memories best left forgotten, and heads west for San Diego. As luck would have it, though, his plan is stopped short when his trusty Plymouth is totalled, thanks to his and another driver's rubbernecking a mushroom cloud on the horizon.

It seems Denver was nuked, but whether it was an attack or an accident is unclear, since the resultant electromagnetic pulse has left the town utterly isolated from the outside world. Jericho has become, in effect, the wilderness outpost of civilization. But the denizens of Jericho are either remarkably resilent or blissfully stupid in the wake of this disaster. Sure, there are hints of mass panic, but a few patriotic words from the mayor quickly quell any potential uprising. Even when word eventually comes (via a phone tape message) that Atlanta was also nuked, the citizenry rallies behind the mayor and his message of unity.

None of it is very compelling, much less believable. Even when word comes that Atlanta has also been hit, the citizens become momentarily jittery, but once the mayor gives yet another "We can beat anything if we all work together" speech, the populace nods unanimously in agreement. There's not one word of dissent voiced. Not one. That's not only unrealistic, it's bad writing.

The pilot does set up a few plot points that might develop in coming episodes. There is a mysterious shooting, the mayor's bid for reelection against an opponent who "has his own agenda," budding romance — oh, and those mystrerious nukes — were they accidents or were we attacked? And if so, by whom?

If the Jericho pilot is any indicator, they'd probably be well-advised to answer that question within the next six episodes.

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About Ray Ellis

  • Jim Gallno

    I live in a small town and have sometimes thought that if San Francisco or Sacramento were nuked, I’d survive, at least initially. I wonder what would come next. Would law and order completely breakdown? Woud fuedal society return?

    How did the bombs arrive? Suitcase? Missle? What did we do in retaliation? Is the whole world in the stone age?

    I hope the story has time to develop. I think it is different and interesting. We have enough law and order, CSI, type programs.

  • B. Daniels

    I rarely watch commercial TV (mostly Discovry and History) but the leads to this series caught my attention. After the first episode I was hooked. I find the mystery compelling. I am sure the critics are correct when they question the mayors “rah rah” speach, the bar scenes in the midst of a catastrophe, and the zombie like attitude of the general population (except for the stars of course) but I find this a remarkable story with just enough clues to tie me to the TV through the endless commercials to find out who the black guy is and what prodigal son did after he left Jericho.
    I compare this to the serials I used to watch at the saturady afternoon movies in the 50’s, except for the certain death of the hero.

    Is there a book I can read to get to the answers sooner?
    Cheers!

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    You’ll be pleased to know that CBS has committed to at least a full season of Jericho. While I stil think that much of the series is contrived, I must admit that they are moving the plot along, although it is beginning to ring of Lost.

    To my knowledge, there is no book available yet, but I’m confident that fans will flood the world with all sorts of trivia publications.
    Thanks for the comment. oh, and–

    Cheers back atcha.

    –Ray Ellis

  • Southerner

    Jericho is a poorly done Hollywood knockoff of a very good 1950s book titled ALAS BABYLON.

    The show is full of technical details that are just plain wrong, particularly geography.

  • http://www.quantummedia.ca Larry David

    Has anyone wondered why this show is on the Sci-fi channel? Unless they are being attacked by aliens I can’t see why it would be considered sci-fi.

  • Northern Star

    You know if this series were any lower under the radar it could crawl.

    Sure, its pretty glossy considering the subject matter but its light years ahead of the fluff that passes for prime time TV since who knows when.

    You can learn a lot here by paying close attention to certain shall we say, details?

    Remember that pilot episode of “The Lone Gunman”?

    For all of those who don’t have a clue, go back to sleep.

  • Melissa

    love the show but wish it would move faster. If it doesnt it wont make it much further. Still have so many questions like who is jake and what about the black guy he seems very shadey.

  • Grace

    I love the show and can’t wait until next Wednesday. I am hoping it will be picked up for another season.
    Love McRaney and Skeet Ulrich!

  • AnOpinion

    This is one of the better shows I’ve seen in the last few years. With TV full of ‘reality’ shows and ‘who shot Mr. Burns’ style CSI shows, it’s nice to see someone with the stones to show something like Jericho. It’s funny how fast everyone blames, or at least is quick to buy a story that Iran/China/Tradition “anti-america” enemies are behind it, however it’s starting to look like the ‘enemy’ was actually someone within their very own government… Clearly this show won’t last, as in this day and age it’s politically incorrect to show America as weak, but kudo’s for making it a full season, CBS!

  • scout

    Never got to see this on network, netflix for me…was it really removed due to poor ratings?? Or was it something else.. I have my ideas on it. NO I am not some conspiracy theorist but this was a very good series that yes had its slow moments but overall it really can keep viewer attention.. I would love for it to come back even if it was a sy-fi series..

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