Case Number 12140

JERICHO: THE FIRST SEASON

Paramount // 2006 // 964 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 3rd, 2007

The Charge

Nuts.

Opening Statement

Known mostly for the rabid fan campaign that kept it on the air for a second season, Jericho will show anyone that opts to spend some time in its post-apocalyptic Kansas world that the uprising was well-deserved.

Facts of the Case

When Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich, Scream) rolls into the small town of Jericho, Kansas in his bad-ass muscle car and sporting a bad-ass look on his face, he wasn't planning on throwing his fortunes in with this estranged family and the townies in a battle for survival in a post-nuclear wasteland.

Someone lit off a series of nukes around the country and as the U.S. attempts to reform itself back into a cohesive government, the people of Jericho must deal with their own problems, which range from the melodramatic (infidelity, bullying, political tension) to the hard-boiled (resisting rogue mercenaries, creating a civil defense squad, clashing with bandits) and no matter the problem, you can bet Jake will be called upon to take part in its resolution.

When a mysterious transplant named Hawkins (Lennie James) shows up with his family, a murky back-story and a satellite-equipped laptop, things get really weird, and Jake and crew will discover that Jericho's role in what's to come is far greater than anyone expected.

The Evidence

Go watch this show. It's good and worthy of your time.

I recall being intrigued with the premise for Jericho last season, but I couldn't quite make room for it in the TV rotation, which is even more a pathetic statement than it sounds. But after the publicized hullabaloo following the aggressive campaign to resuscitate the series (CBS had axed it, the fans revolted, CBS reinstated it for seven episodes in 2008) and the fact CBS was rerunning the shows, I jumped in.

This show is the shiznit.

The creators have taken a great scenario -- a nightmare scenario if you will -- a global cluster-f of Biblical proportions, and tightened the focus of the storytelling on one town and its slack-jawed inhabitants, revealing how they react and how they persevere. Does the 21st century devolve into the Wild West? Does anarchy and Great Plains totalitarianism replace town meetings? Jericho tackles these questions, but there is never a sense that the writers are proselytizing about human nature. They just create some interesting characters, dump them in this incredible world, give them guns and what happens, happens.

Before I continue, I need to warn you that there may be some corny moments in the beginning that may deter you from sticking with it, but I urge you to soldier on. The show sometimes wandered into the soapish wilds, and the Smoky Mountain Christmas atmosphere that permeates the town in the first few episodes doesn't quite mesh with the nuclear trauma that just rocked the casbah, but I'm telling you, put your head down and power through, because once the mythology kicks in, this series becomes as engrossing as any I've seen in a long, long time. CBS obviously grasped this, as their reruns sliced out a huge chunk of the beginning episodes (forcing us to catch up with them on the CBS website), and picking up where things start to get really interesting.

And they do get really interesting. And really kick-ass. Which brings me to the two major reasons Jericho rocks: Lennie James and Skeet Ulrich. Their characters emerge as two of the most compelling, hardcore dudes on network TV, and in the final five episodes or so, they collectively rise to Jack Bauer-like awesomeness. The Hawkins mystery is expertly plotted and when his back-story is finally revealed, the payoff is huge and satisfying. And James turns in one of the best performances you'll find anywhere on the small screen. As for Ulrich, the guy has found his groove here, blending the bad boy flair he developed in his film career with a core of decency to create a fine hero. Supporting actors are all very good, though some of the lesser arcs were more filler than anything (teenager Dale's rise to the Retail Dark Side, for example). Still, the show is so good, even the romantic subplots grooved me, and that's rare.

Season Two promises to expand the larger-scale story of the nukes and who was behind them, and the Season One finale packed both an emotional wallop and some sublime balls-to-the-wall action, leading perfectly into the show's reprieve.

And I'm right back to the where I started: go watch this show.

The DVD set is serviceable, but, frankly, not quite worthy of such a quality hour-long. Picture quality (1.85:1 anamorphic) is solid, though having seen the show in high-definition when it re-ran was a slight spoiler. The 5.1 surround sound is a nice addition, however, especially during some of those aforementioned action sequences. It's with the extras that I expected more. "Building Jericho," a behind-the-scenes documentary is nice, mixing cast and interviews with on-set footage, grouped in show-specific elements (casting, production design, etc.), but "What If," a featurette on disaster preparedness, is incredibly lame. Experts sit around and talk about '50s atomic paranoia, the dysfunction of Hurricane Katrina and post-modern terrorism. Credit due for actually linking nukes with radical Islamists and not, say, the CIA or Halliburton or neo-Nazi Eurotrash, but the thing's a snoozer. Five episodes are granted commentary tracks with actors (Ulrich and James) and crew (director Jon Turteltaub and producer Carol Barbee) and each disc features a handful of deleted scenes with optional commentary. What's glaringly missing? The feature on the show's fan base and the remarkable campaign to bring the series back to air.

Closing Statement

I regret not tuning into this series when it first aired and, thus, being part of the problem. But now I am among the faithful and will be there with bells on when the show returns. Highly recommended.

The Verdict

Nuke guilty!

Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* English
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 964 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Making-of Documentary
* What If? Disaster Feature
* Deleted Scenes
* Cast and Crew Commentary on Five Episodes

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0805663/combined

* Official Site
http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho/