“Jake, people are gonna be looking to you now.”
Season 2 begins Tuesday, February 12th at 10 PM. Season 1 available for free streaming online at CBS.com, also out on DVD. Starring Skeet Ulrich, Ashley Scott, Lennie James, Kenneth Mitchell and Gerald McRaney.
Continuing with the post-apocalyptic theme around here, today brings us Jericho, the CBS show that gained more publicity for getting canceled than it did during its actual run. When CBS pulled the plug on the show after it garnered mediocre ratings, a fan campaign to bring it back actually succeeded for the first time I can think of, leading CBS to renew it for a short second season as a mid-season replacement. With the continuing writer’s strike, these 7 episodes are Jericho’s chance to build an audience with little to no competition.
After I heard about the campaign to save the show, I figured I should give it a shot and I watched the first season online for free and found it to be surprisingly engaging right from the start. The season is pretty consistent throughout and while it does have its weak points it is relatively addicting and watchable.
The show begins with Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) returning to his hometown of Jericho, Kansas, to tie up some loose ends in the wake of a death in the family. He intends to stay for only an afternoon due in large part to his strained relationship with his father (Gerald McRaney), the town’s mayor, and his younger brother (Kenneth Mitchell), who resents the fact that Jake left. It becomes clear that Jake was burdened with being the heir apparent to his father and rebelled, leading to his self-imposed exile from Jericho.
His plans go awry, however, when while driving, he notices a mushroom cloud in the distance, the result of a nuclear explosion in Denver, one of many that hit the United States simultaneously. The series focuses on the town and its tenuous hold on civilization in the face of catastrophic disaster, and on Jake’s ascendancy to the leadership of the town. The show is dealing with pretty dark subject matter, and while it can sometimes be too optimistic, it certainly does not shy away from having its main characters do morally dubious things or having depressing subplots.
Ulrich is solid as the anchor of the show, but his character is a little too competent to believe his checkered past. McRaney is convincing as a leader, and though Mitchell’s character starts out kind of whiney he definitely develops over the course of the season. Plus, he looks almost exactly like Peyton Manning with a beard, which is usually amusing. The most interesting character, though, is Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), a newcomer to the town with a mysterious past and some sort of involvement with the nuclear attacks, though it is unclear until the end of the season where his loyalties lie.
The female characters, led by Jake’s one-time love interest (Ashley Scott) are pretty weak and one-note across the board, especially Jake’s mother, who really should be a stronger character. Also watch out for a few episodes where Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show appears in a serious role as an alcoholic former doctor. It’s a little weird.
There are some problems that crop up in many serials, like the inevitable lame sub-plots (the country boy/city girl stuck in the town romance I could do without), and problems balancing the story of each episode with the overall arc. However, by the end of the season, you get a lot of answers, so that problem is avoided. And the final few episodes end up being really, really good. So, if you’re looking to get your fix of new episodic TV, and you missed Jericho the first time around, it’s definitely worth a look.