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Dark Times Ahead for ‘Jericho’

Jericho, CBS’s new nuclear holocaust drama starring Skeet Ulrich, Gerald McRaney and Ashley Scott, has some inherent problems from the get go.

The show focuses on Jake Green (Ulrich), a guy who looks like he’s running away from something. He apparently left his small hometown of Jericho, Kansas in a big hurry but is now returning after a lengthy absence to pay respects to his deceased grandfather, get a little TLC from his mom (Pamela Reed) and try to get some money from his stern dad and mayor of the Jericho, Johnston Green (McRaney), who is none too happy with his son’s choices. And there’s the girl he left behind, Emily (Scott), who spots him on the street and after small talk, pointedly asks, “Where have you been, Jake?” He doesn’t really give her an answer.

But everything is about to change as suddenly, on the distant horizon, a giant mushroom cloud is spotted —yes, that kind of mushroom cloud indicating a nuclear bomb explosion. The townsfolk become decidedly concerned. To them, it looks like Denver has been hit, but they come to find out there have been other bombings in other cities, including Atlanta. Eek. Meanwhile, Jake proves himself as he rescues a busload of stranded kids, even performing a rudimentary tracheotomy on a little girl. That’s a handy skill to have.

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Soon, the lights go out, panic sets in and people start turning on each other. What to do? What to do? This is where Jericho starts to unravel. The dialogue gets a bit sappy as Mayor Johnston tells an angry mob he loves this town, dammit, and isn’t about to see it go to hell in a hand basket. They’ve all got to stick together and try to figure out what to do next. As a whole community. Brother to brother. Oh, brother. 

After breaking out in the ‘90s with films such as Scream and As Good As It Gets, Ulrich is makes somewhat of a comeback with Jericho. As Jake, he is able to tap into that “I’m-really-not-a-screw-up, Dad, just-misunderstood” persona. TV vets McRaney and Reed also lend some credibility, despite having to say some hokey lines.

Bottom Line:  What would a small town do if isolated by nuclear war? It’s a good premise considering America’s current climate of fear in the country’s ongoing ‘war on terror.’ Whether the theme is provocative enough for the series to survive the the cutthroat world of TV dramas is another thing.

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