Jericho: The Return could easily be subtitled “Revenge of the Peanut Gallery.” After diehard fans flooded CBS with thousands of peanuts (by some counts, 40,000 pounds worth) protesting the show’s cancellation, Jericho got a seven episode reprieve. It’s do or die time now for the post-apocalyptic series set in Kansas, and it’s returned as a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream.
It appears now that the “September” attacks launched against 23 cities and resulting in some 15 million deaths didn’t originate in North Korea and Iran, after all.
Nope—it was an inside job plotted by some kind of shadow government in collusion with equally shadowy corporations. And they were so meticulous in their machinations that the dim-witted American public was utterly clueless. Nukes have that effect on people.
What made the first season of Jericho a ratings fiasco was its mom and apple pie version of the apocalypse. The premise of a small town in Kansas cut off from the world, struggling for survival in the face of unimaginable destruction, was never explored in anything resembling reality—or even satire.
The kind of uncertainty that was the premise of the series breeds either panic or ennui, but in Jericho, a lets-pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps speech by Gerald McRaney’s character invariably brought the town together. Admittedly, in the second half of the season, a bit of paranoia was brought into play, mostly in the form of the town’s feud with the neighboring town New Bern, but even that came across more as high school rivalries than survival instincts. Even as they warring factions prepared for their final showdown at the season’s finale, it came across as a crosstown rivalry.
If the first season didn’t hold up to scrutiny, Jericho nonetheless built a small, but dedicated fanbase. Perhaps the campaign to save the show was based on economics, or maybe they just didn’t know that peanuts are more akin to beans than nuts. Either way, they’re unlikely to notice that the amped up, albeit abbreviated, Season Two takes the series more deeply into the valley of the lowest common denominator.
Where Season One focused on survival, however naively, Jericho now claims to focus on rebuilding and reconstruction. Taking its cues from everything to the American Civil War to the war in Iraq, with a little bit of the American Revolution thrown in for luck, the series now goes for a play at relevance to current events. It ends up being a series of clichés we’ve seen too many times before. Even more sadly, any “statements” it makes come off more as comic book morality than three-dimensional realism. Things take an ominous turn to be sure, but they presuppose that Baghdad and Jericho are interchangeable.