Thursday, September 21, 2006

2006 SERIES DEBUT REPORT: "JERICHO"

As a really obscure TV reference, 'Jericho' is not the TV series spin-off from a Patrick Macnee MOW......

For the second time this year, another TV show is built around a possible end-of-the-world scenario. But whereas 'Three Moons Over Milford' is more in the vein of 'Northern Exposure' meets 'Gilmore Girls', 'Jericho' has the potential to be similar to some of the old plots on 'The Twilight Zone'.

A small town in Kansas finds itself cut off from the outside world after the townsfolk see a mushroom cloud form on the horizon where Denver should have been. (I can just imagine how that played out in the Colorado TV markets! Make note to self - check Joanne Ostrow's take on the show.....)

'Jericho' was being trumpeted months ago as the CBS answer to 'Lost', but I'm not feeling that vibe. Despite its premise, it has the traditional feel of CBS shows of the past; more in keeping with a Cold War 'Waltons' in a way.

A lot of the other reviews have bemoaned the fact that Gerald MacRaney is now doing this after being so indelible as George Hearst in 'Deadwood'. Life goes on in Toobworld, though, and you can't go back so there's no use kvetching about it. And MacRaney needs to work just like the rest of us. If he was forced to wait until dialogue and plots on a par with that in 'Deadwood' came along, he'd be on the dole.

And he's pretty good in this show, even if he is covering familiar territory that doesn't take much effort his part. He's the patriarch of the central family in the cast, and the mayor of Jericho, Kansas, to boot. So the show will naturally gravitate around him. Pamela Reed plays his wife and Skeet Ulrich is his oldest son Jake, the black sheep of the family only recently returned to town. (Luckily he got out of Denver just in time.)

The pilot took its time setting up the characters, using the six degrees routine as we saw how they intersected with the members of the Green family. And I think this slower pace was called for, to give the audience time to get some kind of handle on each of them.

The one character still with an air of mystery about him is named Hawkins, a black man recently moved into town... or so he claims. For someone who was an ex-cop, he seems to have a pretty good handle on what to do in a crisis mode that would seem to have been more in keeping with somebody with experience on a federal level. (This is the guy who should have been heading up FEMA, not Brownie!)

And his accent was kind of dodgy, so I looked into the actor who plays the role and it looks like he's a Brit.

Perhaps that will come into play in later episodes. It could be that he's a government observer and the whole town is being tested to see what its response would be if this had been an actual emergency.....

Duck and cover!

We got a taste of the first primal panic from the townsfolk after the explosion, as they fought amongst themselves over the gasoline supplies. I'm guessing sooner or later, suspicions about Mr. Hawkins will feed into deeply buried prejudices among the people as well.

Among the other characters who promise subplots to fill out the season are a teen loner misfit who's lost his Mom (maybe both his parents, but I think she was off in Atlanta with a boyfriend), Jake's ex-girlfriend, a possible new love interest in the schoolteacher, an old high school buddy and his deaf wife (sister?), the mayor's political rival, and a deputy raising his kids alone (I think) who looks like he'll be thrust into the job of sheriff before he's ready.

(Getting back to 'Three Moons Over Milford', they dealt with this scenario as well, but in a humorous way, and Sheriff Wochuck has been a delight in the show.)

You can't exactly say that Jake and the schoolteacher met cute - I've been queasy about seeing pen-tube tracheotomies since an old episode of 'Quincy'. And I'm going out on a limb here with this guess, but I'll bet it turns out that Jake's brother already had feelings for the schoolteacher and this will cause friction between the two brothers.

I'll probably be proven wrong; I usually am, not that it ever stops me!

My only real complaint was at the end when the ex-girlfriend was seen driving out of town to meet her new boyfriend in Wichita. (I'm pretty sure he's a goner. If his plane was in the air when the bomb exploded, the EMPs would have caused that bird to just fall out of the sky. Ummmm.... wouldn't it?)

The complaint is that I couldn't exactly tell what the hell was all over the road. I've read elsewhere that it was charred remains of animals, but the scene was too darkly lit for me to make it out properly. I thought it was the remnants of a plane that crashed. So I guess I'll have to wait until she heads back into town to tell people what she saw, causing them to all feel further isolated.

Being so cut off from even the neighboring towns (How far away is the next town, anyway?), it reminded me of an episode of 'The Outer Limits' (both versions) called "Feasibility Study". In it, an entire neighborhood was transported to an alien planet and there was a ring of toxic gas that kept them penned in their area.

Now, had that been adapted into a full-length TV series, maybe it would have had the heat of 'Lost'.

I'm a big fan of 'Bones', so I'm going to give 'Jericho' a few more weeks (unless the 'Bones' plots for those two weeks are too compelling. Last night's? Feh.) before I switch back to FOX.

Of course, the baseball playoffs may be coming up faster than I expected, so I may be spending more time in Jericho than I initially planned. It's not like there are any other options in that time-slot. And the combination of 'Jericho', 'Lost', and 'The Nine' sounds pretty good to me.

Now on to the major Toobworld aspect.

Even without the nuclear explosion in Denver and the possible one in Atlanta and elsewhere, I think this show would have to be shuttled off to a new TV dimension courtesy of 'Sliders'. Once you hear the voice of the President on the radio, you can tell it's not supposed to be Dubya. The diction was too good. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

It doesn't sound like I can pass it off as either Jed Bartlet or Matt Santos either. Which is a good thing, since I've already decided 'Smallville' takes place in the same dimension as 'The West Wing'. And since the town of 'Smallville' is in Kansas as well, Clark Kent would finally have to deal with the events of the outside world.

Quinn Mallory said that there are thousands of parallel Earths with variations from each other. 'Jericho' for the time being will just have to settle for being on its own with no other shows to join it. Unless we consider 'Whoops' and that classic Burgess Meredith episode of 'The Twilight Zone' as having been broadcast earlier than they actually took place.

Why not? Misery loves company, after all......

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

3 comments:

Brent McKee said...

The road was covered with dead crows. Makes sense - birds caught by the radiation and flying away would take time to die.

bluesky said...

This tv show is a very good public alert notice. The show gives very good information on what could happen and what must be done in a nuclear disaster. I am surprised it was not blocked by the other networks or the U.S. Government. With times being what they are, and nuclear war being a threat used more than is comfortable, this tv show is very much appreciated by me. We have never outside the Cuban Missile Crisis, been this close to disaster. For this reason, I think a show such as Jericho is a wonderful sourse of information, and the plot of the show isn't too bad either. Great show!

Toby said...

Thanks for checking in!