Television Series / DVD Review

Jericho: The First Season

Distributed By: Paramount

First Aired On: CBS

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Sometimes you don’t know just how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone.  When I first started watching Jericho, I thought, “Wow, what a great concept!”  Sure, the nuclear attack thing had been done before, but never as a television series and never on this scale.  When the network talked about cancelling Jericho, I rallied with everyone else, arguing the point and sending my support toward the various groups who worked toward saving our show.  We only got one more season, a shortened one at that, but at least most of our questions were answered.  And then, it was gone.  Good thing they released DVDs of both seasons.  Watching them now, I realize just how much I miss this show.

            The show began its run in 2006, centered on the inhabitants of the small, quiet town of Jericho, Kansas.  When a nuclear cloud appears over the horizon, the lives of the inhabitants of Jericho will never be the same.  Discovering that communications between themselves and the outside world are virtually non-existent, the town members realize that they have no idea how widespread the attacks are, who conducted the attacks…they could very well be the sole survivors of a nuclear war for all they know.

            The show mainly focuses on the Green family.  Father Johnston (Gerald McRaney) is the longstanding mayor of the town.  His wife, Gail (Pamela Reed), is somewhat of a matriarch of the town.  Oldest son, Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), is Johnston’s aide while youngest son Jake (Skeet Ulrich), is a former bad boy who has just returned to town after years of absence looking for some monetary aide.  But, we discover that Eric is no saint either, married to Dr. April Green (Darby Stanchfield) while having an affair with Mary Bailey (Claire Carey), the owner of the local tavern. 

            Other residents of the town include Stanley Richmond (Brad Beyer), a farmer who has been tending to the needs of his family’s fields and those of his deaf sister, Bonnie (Shoshannah Stern), since their death in a car accident years ago.  Stanley is being audited by IRS agent Mimi Clark (Alicia Coppola) for tax evasion.  Gray Anderson (Michael Gaston) is the thorn in Johnston Green’s side as the co-owner of the local salt mine and Johnston’s boisterous mayoral race opponent.  Trailer park kid Dale Turner (Erik Knudsen) is the local nerd of the town who works at Gracie Leigh’s (Beth Grant) grocery store and is seen as a loser by others his age like resident rich girl Skylar Stevens (Candace Bailey).  Heather Lisinski (Sprague Grayden) is the brainy teacher with love and dedication for her students and the town she lives in.  Emily Sullivan (Ashley Scott) is also a teacher and the former girlfriend of Jake Green who is none to happy at his return.  And then there are the Hawkins, a family of four who have just recently arrived in Jericho.

            The premiere episode opens with Jake’s return to town and the nuclear explosion that takes place as he prepares to leave Jericho.  Until that moment, we have only scratched the surface as to what the residents of Jericho are about.  As the rest of the pilot unfolds, we discover that we need to alter our view of some of Jericho’s residents, Jake Green in particular, who ends up being a hero in this episode.

            With each successive episode of Season One, the citizens of Jericho face another hurdle.  In surviving the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the minds of Jericho’s survivors real as they come to the realization that many of their loved ones may never be seen again.  Next is fallout from the bomb we know has gone off in Denver.  Then there is the lack of communication and the need to know more about what happened.  Later, an electromagnetic pulse knocks out every form of communication and every electrical item in the town.  Things become very difficult without electricity and fuel.  Then the mayor becomes ill and the town faces the realization that they are running out of medical supplies at a rapid rate.

            Each week, the town of Jericho and its citizens face a new challenge and the Green family, along with their friends and the mysterious Hawkins family, must come up with a new way for the town to survive.  This was the real draw of the show to me - the seemingly endless possibilities that faced the town as they learned how to survive on bare minimums - no electricity, no communication, dwindling food and medication supplies, a cold winter on the horizon, etc.  Every week brought a new and reasonable challenge that you could puzzle about along with the members of the town.  Sometimes you came to the same conclusions as the residents of Jericho, but sometimes a monkey wrench would be thrown into things creating a whole new scenario. 

            Another draw was the subplot involving the Hawkins family.  As the weeks passed, we learned that Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) isn’t just the estranged husband of Darcy (April Parker-Jones) and father of Allison (Jazz Raycole) and Samuel (Sterling Ardrey), but there is something mysterious about this man.  He seems to know a lot more than he should for a former cop out of Louisiana.  We eventually learn that he had some sort of involvement with the attacks that have taken place throughout the United States.  Of course, if I told you what that was, Mr. Hawkins might have to kill you so I’ll keep it a secret until you watch the series and find out for yourself.

            The creators of Jericho gave us clues as to what would happen each episode in the form of a string of Morse Code that would appear quickly between the opening scene and the rest of the episode.  What a clever concept!  Those of us who know Morse Code realized this right away, but it took others a lot longer and possibly inspired some to learn a form of transmission that helped build our nation and will be an important form of communication for years to come.

            The actors had incredible chemistry with one another.  The powers that be that decided on the casting were amazingly accurate.  I have always been a fan of Skeet Ulrich’s work (Scream, Into the West) but I think Jericho was his defining moment.  In this television series, Ulrich showed a dramatic range that I always knew he had.  His chemistry with Gerald McRaney made for a very believable father/son team.  It was great to see Ashley Scott (Birds of Prey) in a television role worthy of her abilities.  Her acting has improved over the years and Jericho only served to prove that fact offering her a decent role in which to show off her abilities.  I also enjoyed seeing Brad Beyer again (Third Watch), this time in a much nicer and quite sexier role. 

            The writers deserve a great deal of credit on this show.  Not only did they offer us a believable storyline…and, believe me, this storyline could have gotten way out of hand and totally unbelievable…but they offered us intrigue and puzzles that kept us coming back for more.  More importantly, the show wasn’t all doom and gloom and the lighter moments in the face of disaster helped solidify the bonds between characters and viewers, helping to make these characters seem more realistic and therefore more believable.

            This is a series with episodes I could watch over and over again, finding new things I may have missed and enjoying every minute of it.  In fact, watching Season One on DVD made me realize how much I missed the show.  I would watch one or two episodes and think, “Oh, just one more.”  After that, I would curse the clock that wouldn’t allow me enough time to watch just one more episode.  That’s how much I love this series.

            The Jericho: The First Season DVD features bonus features such as deleted scenes, commentary by cast and crew and two documentaries: Building Jericho and What If?  In Building Jericho, we learn just how much went into creating the storyline, keeping the storyline credible, creating the sets, choosing the actors, the reasoning behind the Morse Code and so much more.  What If? provides an interesting look at the creation of the nuclear arms race, how possible something like what happens in Jericho actually is and how prepared we as a nation are for a nuclear attack.

            Jericho: The First Season is an incredibly enjoyable DVD that I predict I will be watching again and again in the future.  Although I do mourn the loss of several songs that were featured in the original episodes but replaced upon creation of the DVD (I have always wondered why they never make music deals while the episodes are airing that will secure the rights to use said songs in the DVD compilations of television series after they are off the air.), I do applaud the new music that was added in.  Everything about this show is exciting and compelling and I would recommend it to anyone - sci-fi fan, conspiracy theorist, drama lover - you name it, Jericho is the show for you.


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