Preview: Jericho 2×1-2×3

Jericho 2x1

In the US: Tuesdays, 10pm ET/PT, CBS. Returns February 12th

In the UK: Hallmark, etc, when the time is right

Cast your mind back a while. Jericho was, for a while, one of the big hits of Fall 2006. An odd mix of right-wing lunacy and left-wing lunacy, it asked what would happen if nuclear bombs went off in almost every city in the US. Soap opera for survivalists, it turned out, with our noble survivors planning farming patterns, how to avoid nuclear fallout and how to shoot at anyone from a neighbouring town who moved – while deciding whether to leave their wives for the pregnant mistresses. All this was married with the tale of a cool black undercover CIA guy who knew that wacky people who thought the US should have attacked the USSR in 1962 were behind the bombs.

As I said – you get lunacy from both ends of the political spectrum in Jericho. But it was more entertaining than it sounds. Honest.

Then oops. After running non-stop all Fall, after the Christmas break, ratings fell off because everyone forgot it was on, and the show got cancelled at the end of the first season.

But you know what? If you send truckloads of peanuts to CBS TV executives, it turns out that they’ll revive a show – for seven episodes at least. And in the vacuum left by the writers’ strike, maybe it could get those stellar ratings back again when it airs next month.

We last left the town of Jericho about to have a great big gun battle with the nearby town over land rights. But what’s this coming over the horizon? It’s the Marines! Really.

Season two starts pretty much from the end of the battle. Who died (if anyone) and who won (if anyone), I’ll leave to your imagination so as not to spoil you. But a sizeable proportion of the season one cast are intact, despite the cancellation, fans will be glad to hear.

But things soon get back to normal, all the same. For anyone who recalls Survivors from the 70s, you’ll be getting a touch of déjà plotting vu at this point. After a series or two of that similarly themed show, in which almost everyone’s died from biowarfare germs and the survivors had to work out how to make their own food and fend for themselves, the writers got bored and civilisation and hydro-electric dams were on the way back by series three. After only one season, Jericho‘s writers have returned TV and more to their survivors’ lives.

You see, there’s a bit of a change of focus. No longer are the tiresome antics and love triangles of season one the main interest: now we’re working out what sort of country – or in fact countries – America would become after such an incident and whether it would be one that its inhabitants would approve of. Iraq or Iran seems to be the answer for the most part.

That’s not to say everything soapy has been thrown overboard, not with hot new younger cast members being brought in to pump up the demographics. And although some might think otherwise, the US isn’t an island and the rest of the world probably would have waded in to help out, so it’s not too implausible that things might be back up and running again. It’s just all a little convenient, that’s all.

On top of the slightly simplistic politicking that has no real resemblance to real life – it’s not like the Republican party is behind the conspiracy or the country has divided itself into red v blue states – we have the continuation of the ‘Hawkins’ storyline. The coolest (and only?) black action hero on mainstream TV at the moment, Hawkins (played by Brit actor Lennie James) is busy trying to prove despicable elements of the new government were behind the so-called terrorists incidents that have now been blamed on the ex-countries of North Korea and Iran.

This is all about as silly – and engrossing – as 24 however, although a new Marine character does up the stakes a bit and bring in his own level of hardness, and the ever-wonderful Daniel Benzali is fabulously slimey as the head of the forces of evil.

Not especially relevant or realistic, Jericho is nonetheless fine escapist entertainment. Season two has little of the deadwood of the first season’s plotting, whether through enforced brevity or the producers having learned from their mistakes, that made it drag at times. Anyone worrying the budgets would have dropped on a resuscitated show needn’t fear, since there are some impressive effects in the first episode, even if it does occasionally feel like tuppence ha’penny’s been spent everywhere else.

If you’re not a fan, I wouldn’t especially recommend joining in without watching season one first. If you are a fan, you might be a little disappointed to see that certain storylines aren’t resolved the way you might like. But you’ll probably be glad to see it back and just as you liked it.

Incidentally, two endings have been filmed – one in case of renewal, one in case of cancellation. I’m not sure which I’d put my money on seeing on TV.

Here’s a YouTube trailer.