Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'Jericho' Returns

On occasion, I'll get DVD advance screeners for series I really don't follow. When that happens, I like to give the DVDs to someone else I know who watches the show and can write a more-informed review of it than I can.

I didn't get into "Jericho" (CBS, 10 p.m.) when it first aired last year, because I'm not a huge fan of post-nuclear bomb scenarios. But the series, about a group of Midwest survivors after a nuclear attack and their struggle to survive, drew one of the most successful fan campaigns in recent memory when it appeared "Jericho" would be cancelled.

Thousands of fans sent packets of nuts to CBS, a reference to star Skeet Ulrich's line in the series when the enemy wanted the town of Jericho to surrender.

So I sent the first three episodes to my brother, Alex, to review, and this is what he said:

"In the season premiere, we pick up where last season left off, in the middle of a war between Jericho and the neighboring town of New Bern. An angry Jake Green ("Scream" star, Skeet Ulrich) leads the fight for Jericho after the death of his father, Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney, "Major Dad"), against New Bern and it's twisted leader, Phil Constantino ("Psych" co-star Timothy Odmunson, in a far more serious performance).

The two are brought in face to face and the fighting ceases, when an Army Colonel from the new Western Government now set in Cheyenne, Colonel Hoffman ("NYPD Blue's" Esai Morales), leads an army faction to calm things and the incursions.

In this seven-episode season, several changes are evident from the first, 22-episode season from last year. The cast has clearly been streamlined and a lot of the extraneous character development of both major and supporting players has been reduced to almost nothing. It's a major negative and makes this show feel more like a miniseries rather than a complete television show.

Major characters like Johnston are gone, as well as Johnston's widow and Jake's mom, Gail Green ("Kindergarten Cop's" Pamela Reed); other characters like Dale Turner (Erik Knudsen) have been reduced to guest stars.

Other changes see several romances like Jake's, with former girlfriend, Emily Sullivan (Ashley Scott) or Jake's older brother Eric (Kenneth Mitchell) with sexy barkeep Mary Bailey (Clare Carey), reduced to side items, while the one romance the show is focusing on is local good guy and farm owner Stanley Richmond (Brad Beyer) and his growing relationship with former IRS auditor Mimi (Alicia Coppola).

Besides the show focusing on the Stanley-Mimi coupling (which was the show's sweetest in its first season), the show focuses mostly on Jake and his partnership with the character of Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), a former CIA spook who had tried to stop the nukes, but after being unsuccessful, hid in Jericho with his wife and two kids. The shocker we learned at the end of season one is that Hawkins is hiding another Nuke in his basement.

It appears from tonight's season premiere that Jake and Hawkins will be now working hard to fight the shady Cheyenne Government, which has quickly seized power over states west of the Mississippi and even changed the American flag to now reflect the new Government. The two allies will not only be trying to stop this Government and their 'Blackwater' style private army they're bringing to town, but they will also be working to convince Col. Hoffman (Morales) to switch sides and work with them and examine what is really going on with the new government.

Though I can't say I will get as much out of this shortened, seven-episode mini season of a scaled down "Jericho", it's better to have even half a show than none at all. The characters still have a lot of heart and you really buy their struggle and pull for these people. I am personally pulling for good ratings, so that CBS will open the door for a third season this fall."

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) gets into the business of picking a new winner by bringing the 24 hopefuls to Hollywood. My early money is on that biker chick from the Atlanta audition, whom Paula Abdul compared to being a female Chris Daughtry.

Over on ABC, there are new episodes of "According to Jim," "Carpoolers" and "Boston Legal" beginning at 9 p.m.

The new season of "Big Brother" (CBS, 9 p.m.) kicks off, making us appreciate the end of the writers' strike a whole lot more. "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) is also new.

Finally, "NOVA" (PBS, 8 p.m.) explores Astrospies, about spy satellites in space during the Cold War.

4 comments:

zodin2008 said...

I'm looking forward to the return of "Jericho" tonight and I suppose I should be happy to even have 7 episodes, vs. none at all. Still, you have to wonder about the logic of not giving the show a longer leash to really delve better into character arcs and character development, rather than a streamlines mini season.

I am also very excited that the missing TV shows will all finally bet getting back to work this week.

I am grateful that it seems like most of the shows I watch (including "Jericho") will be returning over the next 3 months including The Office, Scrubs, 30 Rock, Bones, Supernatural, Smallville, Ugly Betty, The Shield, Battlestar Galactica, and of course "Lost" has already been back and now it appears will get an extra 6 or possibly the full 8 other episodes.

On the flipside, two of my favorite new shows, "Chuck" and "Pushing Daisies", are not coming back now until the Fall (though thankfully both will come back), two more good new shows appear to now be dead, "Life" and "Journeyman", and two other favorites are also off until September and January, respectively, "Heroes" and "24".

I'm just grateful it's all over.

Phillip Ramati said...

I'm not sure if Life is completely bereft of life, yet. It's still listed on TV Guide's strike chart as having no new episodes until fall; other shows, like Journeyman and Bionic Woman, are pretty much officially dead. But Life generated ratings that were about the same as Chuck's, which likely will be renewed, and actor Damian Lewis has drawn a lot of buzz for his work, so I'm still holding out hope.

zodin2008 said...

Phillip,

You sound like a fan of a dead TV show, not a realistic Television reviewer.

First of all, the reaction to Lewis' oddly quircky performance was MIXED at best. Seriously, go look at the various reviews. One of the biggest complaints I read about the show was Lewis.

Now he grew on me, but that's not to say I would put him in the lead cting category class of say a Kiefer Sutherland, James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, and Edward James Olmos - among others.

Also, every single website I am seeing now basically touts "Life" as being toast. You kay have a 1% shot it returns - which is better than the 0% "Bionic Woman" has, but it appears "Life" is probably done.

That's a show that would have been a much better fit, brand-wise, with NBC Universal subsidiary, USA.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, both TV Guide and the LA Daily News are both reporting it looks like Life will resume production next season, so I'm staying optimistic.