Jericho: Season One Movie Review

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Jericho certainly didn't go wanting for ambition. Episode one drops nuclear bombs on U.S. soil, stranding the members of the Kansas town of Jericho in darkness and confusion, fearing for nuclear winter and oblivious to what's just happened. Over the next 21 episodes -- some of which are exceptionally taut -- we'll find out, for the most part.

The early episodes pan out exactly like you'd expect: What would happen if a bomb obliterated a nearby town, cutting off communications and sending a radioactive raincloud your way? Residents dust out the bomb shelters, prepare for the worst, and deal with human nature: Looting, man vs. man, and the question of whether those who are away will ever return.

It isn't long before mysteries start to develop: Several nuclear bombs are found to have been detonated around the U.S... but by whom? And maybe it has something to do with the mysterious Mr. Hawkins, who's got a shady past (and, it must be said, is the only minority in town). The world isn't gone, it's just gotten a lot tougher out there: Strangers regularly appear in Jericho, none of them bringing much good to town.

Jericho smartly balances its battle for survival with political intrigue, slowly doling out the truth about Hawkins and, mid-season, revealing he has an unexploded nuke sitting in his basement. How that plays out (as we discover the conspiracy behind the attacks) pushes the show toward its final episodes, while the town has to contend with a full-on war with neighbors hungry for its arable fields and the valuable salt mine.

Jericho didn't fare too well in the ratings, though it met with excellent viewer response. That saved the show for its upcoming second season: The show had been all but canceled when a write-in campaign gave it another shot. Good thing, too: If there wasn't another season coming up, you wouldn't want to waste 18 hours of your life watching these episodes, which will leave you stuck on a classic cliffhanger.

If Jericho has a weakness, it's in the performances. Skeet Ulrich (as a troubled ex-G.I. who's returning home on the day of the attack) is fine, but his brooding punk routine grows tiresome; he spends most of the series recovering from being beat up by someone or another. We're supposed to watch him come into his own as he deals with the crisis and "grows up," but most of that growth occurs in relation to flashbacks we witness. Other characters are alternately whiny (Pamela Reed) and stoic (everyone else). These cats will do anything to survive, but they're going to touch your heart while they do it, they make sure of that.

Still, Jericho is a great series, and I always looked forward to seeing what would happen in the next episode and the next... and wondering who really set off those bombs. Given the series' sketchy footing now, the real question is whether those issues will ever be resolved.

Cast & Crew

Director : Sanford Bookstaver, James Whitmore Jr., Guy Norman Bee, Martha Mitchell,

Producer : Dan Shotz, Karim Zreik, Josh Schaer, Jonathan E. Steinberg

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Jericho: Season One Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2006

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