I’m sure by now everyone has heard the story: after CBS swung the axe on Jericho, fans became outraged that they would never know what would happen to the small town in Kansas and its citizens. Ending on a cliffhanger that involved the town of Jericho going up against a nearby town and final sound in everyone’s ears being the sound of gun fire; fans rallied after the word came from CBS that Jericho wouldn’t return and in turn they sent millions of nuts.
Jericho is a show about a small town in Kansas that is one of few towns remaining after a nuclear holocaust strikes the United States. Cut off from the outside world, the town of Jericho and other surrounding towns that weren’t entirely whipped out struggle to survive with what little food and supplies the have. Throughout the series the town receives aid from the outside world and towards the end of the season, surrounding towns that were once their friends were now rivals.
Obviously the big pull in Jericho is the telling of a post-nuked United States. Conspiracies theories aside, it’s a frightening look into what could be should ever a disaster of such an epic proportion ever occur. While everyone is united at first, watching them slowly turn on one another is something that feels like it could really happen. I’m not an expert in technology by any means, but the ensuing power outages and EMP bomb that later sweeps Jericho sets the rest of the series to be a believable telling of what it could be like in a “new frontier” such as this.
Of course the characters in the series are its strongest point. From the get go our characters are remarkably fleshed out, giving you glimpses into who they are within moments of their appearance on screen. When our star of the show, Jake (Skeet Ulrich), is introduced we immediately get a feeling of a man who has a troubled past. His arrival into Jericho after years of being gone and the reactions on some of the characters faces tell volumes about a past that we eventually learn more about throughout the series. While the stories can take a soap opera turn at times, the characters are what kept the fans of the show coming back and demanding more. Another key example of a character that radiates importance without saying much is Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), who is a new arrival to Jericho who seems to have all the answers to their crisis. While he has a valid sounding back story, it’s immediately suspect.
An odd connection between two actors I saw in the series was that of Clare Carey (who plays Mary Bailey) and Alex Carter (who played a Fire Chief). I recognized them immediately from the one-season-run Point Pleasant on Fox where the two played husband and wife. Carter was only in the pilot, which is odd because he’s a fairly prominent actor in television—then again, the fire department didn’t have any large roles in later episodes, so he could have just been a character that was written out of the show after the pilot. Still, I thought it was a cool connection between the two actors.
There were moments in the season that felt like they dragged a little. After a superb first six episodes, by the time I got to the third disc in the series, I felt that it dragged a little. It wasn’t until “Rogue River” that the series really started shining again; for awhile I imagined the show deteriorating in a fashion similar to Smallville—strong start and a weak finish. Much to my delight, however, once “Rogue River” happened, the series never slowed down again and each episode was almost as exciting as the pilot and the “Fallout” episode.
The conspiracy of who fired the nuclear bombs was never fully revealed in the series and we only learn a bit of who was really behind it all towards the end of the season. While the show misleads the viewers once or twice, making us think that the bombs came from Iran and North Korea, we eventually learn it was an internal matter that the US Government knew about. If this is the eventual outcome of the series, then I will be slightly disappointed—even if the show uses current events such as 9/11 and Katrina as standing points, I don’t need to hear about the current inadequacies that the current US government may or may not have. It’s a tricky situation—much like Lost’s mysterious beasts in the jungle bit in the first season, once the audience figures out what’s really lurking on the outside the allure and mystique goes out the window.
Real-world inspirations aside, the thing I enjoyed most about Jericho was the “old west” aspect of it. I didn’t realize it until I was about halfway through the season and saw the boys riding horses in one of the episodes towards the end of the season, but the town of Jericho and the surrounding populace really felt like an old west series. The inclusion of Jonah Prowse (James Remar) as the town “outlaw” especially made it seem like a shootout at high noon would occur and this overall element really added another layer to the show.
Without a doubt the biggest element of the show that intrigued me was the fan support of it. I didn’t watch the show in its original airing due to the large part that I don’t watch any programming on CBS. Despite other members of my family watching it and singing it’s praise, I never tuned in as it was either on when another show I watched was on or I simply because I was already watching too many new shows last season. When I got to the last episode, “Nuts”, I knew I would finally get to see the inspiration for the fans sending tons of them to CBS. I wasn’t disappointed either; the speech that Jake gives to Phil Constantino from the nearby town of New Bern was perfect and I can easily see how fans took the characters plight to heart and turned it into their own mission to revive the show.
It’s clear that the writers and producers of Jericho have heavy plants for the series and I can only hope that CBS gives it the chance the show deserves. Hopefully this time around they won’t toss the show’s schedule around and really give it a shot—it’s that or get bombarded with nuts again. Highly Recommended.
So how does the DVD release stack up next to an excellent series such as Jericho? Well, while I would have liked a bit more of an eye-catching cover, it does the job. It represents the show well, but average passersby won’t even give it a second look—the shot of a guy looking away from a nuclear explosion in front of him isn’t exactly anything that makes a person want to jump to the box to look at it. The rear cover art, while not featuring the star of the show, is a bit more ominous—I don’t know if it could work as the cover of the DVD, but something that sold the feel of the show a bit more would have been nice. The rear cover does have an error on it though; rather than listing “Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James and Carol Barbee” on the “Vox Populi” commentary it shows “Skeet Ulrich; Lennie James and Carol Barbee.” Not a huge error, but you’d think someone would proofread these things.
Inside the cardboard slipcase are three thin-pak cases that house two discs each. Covers for each disc range with the cast of the series, ranging from main to supporting; Jake’s present in all of the covers, with Emily Sullivan (Ashley Scott) and Heather Lisinski (Sprauge Grayden) being on two of the three as well. Disc art features a character on each and menus for the show are motionless with only the morse code beeping over the main menu.
The presentation of the show is remarkable. Great colors, grain where it’s needed and a clear image throughout, the show looks great. The audio, a solid 5.1 mix that actually gets used, is also a nice addition. I’m glad to see that 5.1 seems to be the standard for these TV shows on DVD as it really adds to the viewing experience. There is a lot of needless bass in the show at times, with commercial breaks being sounded by a resounding reverb on more than one occasion. Still, I like bass—obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought a subwoofer about three times too big for my room. The back of the packaging states that some things may have been edited out from the original broadcast, but since I didn’t watch the show as it aired originally, I don’t know what was left out.
Moving onto the special features we get a mixture of deleted scenes for twelve separate episodes. All of the deleted scenes come with commentary by producers Dan Shotz and Karim Zreik and there are some really nice things left on the cutting room floor. Mostly character elements, but they’re worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the series.
Next up are five commentaries on “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”, “Fallout”, “Rogue River”, “Red Flag” and “Vox Populi.” All of the commentaries are fun to listen to, with Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James being the biggest clowns on the tracks. Executive producers Jon Turtletaub and Carol Barbee keep the tracks on-topic with comments about the production of the specific episodes and other technical aspects.
“Building Jericho” is your typical making-of featurette with interviews from cast and crew. We do get to see a lot of the set that we don’t normally see, which is very cool—it takes some of “wow” factor out of the show when you realize it’s all on a sound stage, but how they hide everything and still manage to make it look as great as it does is a true testament to the technical team working on the show. The actors chime in with their comments on the show and how much fun it is to work on it. There’s back-patting all around and not a single mention of the show being cancelled at one point. Guess they’re saving that for the second season DVD, complete with a full count of how many nuts were sent to CBS.
The final extra is a “What If?” extra that is a “revealing look at how the nuclear arms race evolved since the end of World War II.” This extra isn’t really related to the show other than the nuclear aspect and it doesn’t do much else than scare the bejesus out of the viewer. Nuclear war is always a scary prospect and this documentary doesn’t do much to help ease the fear—in fact, it does the opposite.
Overall the series has a solid representation on DVD. Fans will be able to watch their favorite episodes over and over while they wait for the second season to premiere (as of this writing it is still unscheduled) and it will hopefully bring in a few new fans (I already plan on lending out my copy to help rope in a few more viewers) so that the show can have a very successful return to air. Recommended.
Jericho: The First Season is now on DVD.