, part-The Day After
, television's first Code Orange serial drama very effectively taps into palpable post-9/11 dread. The residents of Jericho are literally in the dark when they are cut off from civilization in the wake of a nuclear blast. Has the United States been attacked? How many cities were destroyed? Was it terrorists, or something way more sinister? It is up to Johnston Green (an Emmy-worthy Gerald McRaney), the town's mayor (and series bedrock), to calm the community, keep its citizens from turning on each other, and protect them from predatory outsiders. Johnston's son, Jake (Skeet Ulrich), a "screw-up," returns home just prior to the blast following a mysterious five-year absence. Jake is at odds with his estranged father, who is running for reelection, and his brother, Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), his deputy. Nor is he welcomed back by his former girlfriend, Emily (Ashley Scott), now engaged to a man who is missing following the blast. With the fate of America in the balance, one would think that "small town problems" wouldn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy new world, but it is Jericho
's human dramas that resonate most deeply.
On the most cherished TV shows, characters come to feel like family. Jericho's characters come to feel like neighbors. Dale (Erik Knudson), the orphaned teenage outcast, forms an unexpected friendship with the town's spoiled mean girl, Skylar (Candace Bailey). Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), just arrived in town, introduces himself as a former cop from St. Louis, but his secret basement command center suggests otherwise. Gray Anderson (Michael Gaston), a mayoral candidate, politicizes the disaster to undermine Johnston. Stanley (Brad Beyer), a farmer, falls in love with his condescending IRS auditor from Washington, D.C. (Alicia Coppola). And Eric plans to leave his wife, Alice (Darby Stanchfield) for bartender Mary (Clare Carey). But at the heart of Jericho's first season is Jake's hard-earned redemption in his family's (and Emily's) eyes (suddenly, he's a regular MacGyver, able to perform a tracheotomy with a juice box straw!). Star Trek has its Trekkies/-ers and Laurel and Hardy its fraternal organization, the Sons of the Desert. Jericho has its "Nuts," who, in heroic It Takes a Village spirit, mounted a monumental campaign to rescue the series after it had been cancelled. Fans posted a barrage of videos on You Tube and deluged the studio with peanuts (the significance is explained in the season finale). "What is it about this town that has you so addicted to it?" someone asks Emily at one point. Just watch a couple of episodes, and you'll also be hooked. This First Season set should rally Jericho's army and inspire new recruits. --Donald Liebenson
The second season of the cult favorite Jericho shows in gritty, emotional detail why fans adore this show. It's intelligently written, and manages to make its out-there concept not only believable, but mesmerizing. Part post-apocalyptic sci-fi, part Western, part conspiracy thriller, and part juicy human drama, Jericho in its second season explores how the citizens of wee Jericho, Kansas, are coping six months after a nuclear bomb destroyed most of the town--and the fabric of the country. The layers of character and plot development, rare on network TV, continue to surprise and develop. Our hero, Jake (Skeet Ulrich), is helping put the pieces of his town and life back together, while hostile forces from neighboring towns plan attacks. And the mysterious Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) is hiding in town with a literal smoking gun--a nuclear warhead that may prove the attacks were carried out not by Iran and North Korea, but by internal forces. Hawkins is on the run, and Jake is in on his secret. Amid all this chaos arrives Major Beck (the charismatic Esai Morales), who's been sent by the acting Western government to instill order in Jericho. "The nightmare is over," he intones to the shaken townsfolk. "Order will be restored."
The nightmare is far from over, however, which accounts for Jericho's intense drama and creative storytelling. The viewer is never totally sure whom to believe, keeping the viewer just off kilter just enough to want to watch another episode, and then another. Extras on the boxed set include terrific audio commentaries on virtually every episode, which lend even greater appreciation to the set designers and cinematographers. There's a featurette, "Rebuilding Jericho," giving fans insight to the conception of a post-apocalyptic America, and deleted scenes, and perhaps most interesting to devoted fans, an alternate unaired ending to the season finale--worth watching just to see where the creators imaginations can take them. --A.T. Hurley