Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jericho the New 24

As I sat waiting to discover why the engine light in my car came on the other day, I picked up a copy of Entertainment Weekly sitting on the coffee table inside the dealership. Flipping through the pages I came across a review of the CBS show Jericho – a show I happen to like very much. It didn’t take long to determine that the reviewer was not of the same mind set. When he wasn’t declaring his dislike for the show’s lead actor, Skeet Ulrich, he was obsessing with his idea that the show is based upon conspiracy theories – of course, none of which he buys into.

What became blaringly clear in his writing is that he’s never read, nor is he obviously aware of Pat Frank’s 1959 classic American novel, Alas, Babylon.

Growing up during the Cold War, the threat of a nuclear attack was very much a part of every school kid’s life. We learned that our desks were to be used for protection and that images of mushroom clouds could haunt our dreams.

One of the best books I’ve ever read is Alas, Babylon. I was first introduced to the book in 1977 and to this day, it continues to remain on my all time favorite list. The setting is Fort Repose, Florida and the United States has just been attacked with nuclear bombs. Communities are isolated, the majority of the country’s leaders are dead, communication is almost nonexistent, food becomes scarce, disease flourishes, and those you once trusted become those you must fight for survival. Sounds like a good plot for a television show!

Jericho is Alas, Babylon set in the 21st Century.

For those that fought for Jericho to return to the airwaves…KUDOS TO YOU! And kudos to CBS for listening to their viewers. The first run of this fantastic show brought characters to the screen rarely before seen: a likeable and heroic IRS agent (Alicia Coppola), two kids who become Jericho’s largest suppliers of food, dry goods, and one of the region’s most valuable commodities – salt (Erik Knudson and Candace Bailey), a young deaf girl trying to grow up in a world turned upside down (Shoshannah Stern), and a black undercover government agent who had recently moved his family to this very white Kansas town (Lennie James).

Being an enormous Gerald McRaney fan, I am still disappointed that he is no longer on the show, but the addition of Esai Morales as Army Major Edward Beck is proving to be very interesting to the show’s plot line.

As for the Entertainment Weekly reviewer’s take on Skeet Ulrich…well, I couldn’t disagree more. Skeet’s portrayal of Jericho’s lead hero, Jake Green, is outstanding. During the show’s first episode we learn that Jake left Jericho under a veil of criminal suspicion and eventually went to work for a private American security firm in Iraq. The show begins with the bombs going off as Jake is returning to Jericho.


Skeet Ulrich’s portrayal of a good guy constantly getting mixed up with the scum of the earth, knowing the right choices but not being able to figure how to make them, and being a hero yet always needing to be guided into that role by a mentor figure is like watching the little boy who holds the dam back with his finger. A constant pressure is building, but he MUST keep his finger on that hole.

As the story and characters of Jericho continue to become intertwined as did the story and characters in Alas, Babylon, I have designated Tuesday nights as my new “do not call me” night, which used to be reserved for that hour on Monday nights when Jack Bauer was saving the world. You know, a hundred years ago before season six.


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