follow me on Twitter

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Review: Jericho


    “JERICHO is a drama about what happens when a nuclear mushroom cloud suddenly appears on the horizon, plunging the residents of a small, peaceful Kansas town into chaos, leaving them completely isolated and wondering if they're the only Americans left alive. Fear of the unknown propels Jericho into social, psychological and physical mayhem when all communication and power is shut down. The town starts to come apart at the seams as terror, anger and confusion bring out the very worst in some residents.”

    I love Post-Apocalyptic stories, I always have. I probably comes from the dirge of them while I was growing up. Everything from the fantastic like MAD MAX, to the attempted realism of THE DAY AFTER to the TV variety of DAMNATION ALLEY has stuck in my brain and formed a sort of personal survival guide that’s sprung directly from the fear tainted zeitgeist of the times. I grew up during the cold war, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what would happen if everyone got really stupid and pushed a button. As far as TV shows are concerned, there’s been little to show for it as a genre. Of course there are really only three types of post-apocalyptic stories. There is the Nuclear fallout one, ala we are responsible (mostly handled in movies and books rather than TV series), and the one based on some sort of biological pandemic, where once again we are responsible (SURVIVORS, TRIPODS, JEREMIAH), and finally the “It-came-from-outer space” one where either aliens or asteroids, or possibly both if you really want to hit the summer blockbuster by force some day, which also has few television examples with maybe V coming closest even though that was more military state than post apocalypse. In each of these scenarios, either a great deal of the population is wiped out, or just the adults and “society has to rebuild itself. There’s been shows like the Saturday morning show ARK 2, but most of the stuff was from ITV or the BBC, until now. You see though this is going to be about JERICHO, there is another one out there that I haven’t seen yet called THREE MOONS OVER MILFORD (this is the space one, where the moon has split into three bits and is causing people to behave strangely until the earth gets screwed from the lack of the moons pull and stuff, on the ABC Family channel. What’s different about these two shows to the standard PA scenario is that they both take place just as the event happens, and what we see is what is almost never seen in these kind of shows which is what happens to the first people to survive. Granted, the pandemic shows generally dealt with this but the nuclear ones of the same ilk haven’t really been made until now. So, is Jericho really any good?

    I’d have to say that I liked it. It stars Skeet Ulrich as a wayward son returning home for a quick visit to his grandfather’s grave, and to ask his father (Gerald McRaney) to sign off so he can get the money his grandfather left him. His father, played wonderfully and stoically by McRaney, whose been totally reborn in my eyes as an actor after his portrayal of Hurst on DEADWOOD, is also the town’s mayor who is running for re-election. Well of course, Skeet doesn’t get out in time, becomes a reluctant hero and all that good stuff and the town starts to tear itself apart, and all because a nuclear explosion wipes out Denver, which they can see from their small town hundreds of miles away. Things get even hotter when they also learn it isn’t isolated, because Atlanta is gone too. But, that’s all we know. We as an audience don’t know any more than they do and that’s nice. What we’re left with is a sort of social experiment (sure, I know LOST) where hopefully what we’re going to see is how people deal on a day-to-day basis after being effectively cut off from society. I’ll be honest, there’s some treacle in the dialogue, but you’re going to get that and it isn’t that awful. The performances are nice, the cinematography is beautiful, and the real reason I know I liked it was the fact that the copy I watched was corrupted and the image would stop every now and then and pixilate, and I’d have to jigger with it to get it to work again. I guess, as far as the pilots I’ve seen so far, this has really good potential to become something creepy and humanizing, and who knows, if it lasts to the second season, we might even get to see something really disturbing like the US Military invading one of its own towns to “rescue” (read regain control) of the country bit by bit. Who wouldn’t love to see it turned on its head ala Steinbeck’s THE MOON IS DOWN. I sure would.

    {NOTE: I'm sure I missed some tv show examples from the past, but this is a fluffy review not a Masters Thesis.]


    zenzer said...

    I too love a good apocalyptic yarn. And tuned in for that reason alone. I am fascinated with plays on society breaking down and the individual drama resulting from the need to survive. Jericho will surely provide that but I am concerned with the mise-en-scene of the pilot, it just felt flat and un-stylish. Almost like the creators of Judging Amy (or any other "written for aging viewers" CBS drama) shot and edited this thing.

    Yeah the mushroom cloud shot with the kid of the roof was nice (if not forced) but this thing may never escape fights over canned goods and repeated mayoral speeches to pull the town together. I am curious how they are going to maintain a "trapped" town. Are there going to be excursions, wanderers from the "wasteland"?

    I will be back for episode 2 but this thing is on a short leash.

    Fabricationist said...

    No doubt it had a a feel of CBS decrepitude about it, and I agree the who gets the gas errupting into idiocy is a little over done these days, but like you said, it has potential. Part of what makes it feel geriatric is that Gerald McRaney is on it, the last thing he did for CBS was TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL and then his own spin-off show PROMISED LAND. Hopefully with his rebirth on DEADWOOD, he'll start calling everyone a cocksucker and make the town do his bidding. With my set-up here right now I may never see any more episodes. I'm sure Skeet's going to go on the road, they'll probably rig up a school bus so it's a sort of camp on wheels with a short wave radio for sending in reports. Well, maybe not. Here I go polishing someone elses show again.