AND, NOT THE REAL THINGComplications Ensue
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jericho is beginning to pall already. We are now four days after the nuclear blasts and ... martial law has not yet been declared and people are still buying corn chips at the grocery? I don't think so. It would be interesting to imagine just exactly what an American town would be like after ten big American cities took a nuclear hit. But it doesn't feel like the writers have thought it through. They've come up with some dramatic situations that a massive attack might provoke. But they haven't figured out how such a shock would ripple through the fabric of society, I feel. And they haven't come to grips with how different things would be. They've got a gas station manager wondering if it's okay to part with some of his gas, because it belongs to the oil company, and the grocery store owner saying it wouldn't be right to pillage a crashed train for food supplies because "that doesn't belong to us."

Why is the only thing on TV an endless loop shot from somebody's TV camera? If anyone's broadcasting anything, why aren't they broadcasting more valuable information? Could it be because it makes a good visual?

How is it no one has a short wave radio? If Japan is still broadcasting, then you should be able to talk to ham radio people in Japan. How is it no one has a satellite hookup to the Internet? (The Internet was built to survive a nuclear attack. It automatically routes around damage unlike, say, the electrical grid.)

In my book, science fiction is best when it changes as little about our real world as possible. Add one science fictional element to our real lives and see how that changes us. Our world, plus nuclear bombs. That ought to be interesting enough, if you actually thought about where that would take us. It might be even interesting enough that you wouldn't need to make plots out of the Black Man with a Big Secret and the Rich Girl's Party.

Some of the other things I'm missing, oddly, are things I missed in early drafts of the show I consulted on. I wanted a strong sense of the town as a community. Not just preacher preaching in the church, but people actually doing things together. In a real town, the sheriff wouldn't be deputizing people 4 days after the attack because people would have been organizing themselves to take care of each other on Day One. There would have been locals outside the gas station with shotguns to make sure gas went only to emergency vehicles. There would have been locals outside the grocery store. There would have been a posse sent to empty that train with all the supplies, instead of one kid miraculously restocking the grocery store in the middle of the night without anybody noticing.

Instead of a town, we just have a collection of people who live in the same zip code. It's not excuse to say that TV handles two people in a room better than a group. Buffy regularly put seven people in a room, which is about all you can fit in a frame.

But worse, we have a collection of people without overall stories. People are reacting, but what do they want. The Pretty Blonde Girl wants her fiancée back, but she's doing nothing to contact him. What does the Mayor with the Flu want? I don't have a sense of clear stories unfolding, except for the now-sinister Black Man With a Secret.

And yet, to compare it to Friday Night Lights -- you have a clear sense of the town, and what it means to live there, and what all the characters want in their lives. Why couldn't the writers of Jericho have built their town in their heads a bit more before they started throwing stories at the whiteboard?

This could be such a rich show. It occasionally hints at the issues it could have delved into, like the brief conversation about torture. But no one seems to be doing the work.


I saw an episode of this (the third one of the season, I think) and don't have a lot of desire to see any more. And I feel very shallow to say that my primary thought was that none of the actors/characters were hot.

See, it was bleak, but bleak is no problem for Battlestar Galactica--which of course, starts with a similar premise of isolated survival of a world-wide disaster.

But Jericho lacked--to use your words--an attractive fantasy. A compelling negative fantasy, no doubt, but nothing attractive about it. On BSG, the bleak near-destruction of the human race is slightly offset by the idea that if it happened, the survivors would include some kick-ass space fighter pilots, and some who are smokin' hot. Even the people on the BSG cast who are by no means sex symbols have compelling faces, memorable expressions, fascinating emotional displays--people you want to watch week after week. The cast of Jericho so far just looks dopey.

That, and the various subplots just seemed horned in. They seemed out of proportion, and it didn't seem like the writers knew how little, in the face of nuclear annihilation, we would care about someone owing back taxes. I was also annoyed by the music. It somehow came to the foreground, reminding us which parts were supposed to be tense, and which were supposed to be inspiring, or whatever.

Yeah. No more Jericho for me.

By Blogger Andrew, at 8:25 PM  

I agree. I didn't like it from the get go. Found it slow and really the only person two people who had any kind of spark were Gerald McRaney and the mysterious Lennie James. Honestly, I'm completely ambivalent about what happens to any of them.

And to continue our spiritual / religious musings of late, how do you name a show Jericho and not actually work the biblical symbolism into the storyline even a little? They could have done some interesting stuff there.

I won't be sorry to see it go. I'm done. I'd rather watch Dancing with the Stars. Seriously.

By Blogger ME, at 11:22 PM  

I agree with you 100 pecent on every point, Alex. Even though Jericho got the go ahead for a full season, I'm not sure I'll be sticking around that long. I mean, four days after a nuclear attack and half the town is drinking and playing cards or pool at the local pub? WTF?

KJC (who is following the Polish version of Dancing With the Stars because her friend, actor Peter J. Lucas, is competing)

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 1:27 PM  

Agreed. Jericho is a dissappointment. Its a fine idea just poorly executed in about every way. It feels like the wrtiers didn't think through the concept at all. Its just a setting for them, not the roots from which the story emanantes (ala BSG).

And I know this isn't exactly the thread but I just read your thoughts on Friday Night Lights and have to add that I am totally in love with this show. Just enthralled. The way you described its "reality" is exactly how I find myself trying to explain it to friends. It's just brilliant. Kyle Chandler is a revelation!

By Blogger Erica, at 4:27 PM  

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