Tuesday, March 4, 2008

One of the few decent tv shows left

Jericho. The series premiered last season, got canceled at one point at the end of its first season run, and then revived this year as a mid-season replacement (season one is also now airing on SciFi). Since I have an interest in various media (books, films, tv series) dealing with dystopic scenarios of one sort or another, this one is right up my alley.

The basic premise of Jericho is straightforward enough: a small town in northwest Kansas is cut off from the rest of the world in the wake of a nuclear attack that destroys 23 major metropolitan areas, and its residents try to figure out how to survive. In the process, there are all these nifty subplots, including the discovery that the terrorists responsible for the attacks were folks within the US government, as well as get treated to an idea of how a Blackwater-style mercenary organization would operate in the wake of such a disaster (hint: the organization in question basically loots vulnerable towns with impunity).

The acting's well-done, the plot and subplots are interesting, and the action has definitely picked up for the second season. My only complaint - and this is one that I have with just about any series set in the midwest or great plains regions - is aesthetic: it is a bit jarring to see the occasional palm tree show up in the background in a location that I am supposed to believe is just a handful of hours due north of me. That, and the landscape in spots seems just a bit too mountainous; we have plenty of rugged territory out in the high plains, but more along the lines of canyons and mesas perhaps.

I have no idea if the series will get renewed. In some ways, it hits a bit too close to home - folks looking for pure escapism probably don't want to be reminded that the proverbial "end of the world as we know it" is hardly far-fetched. Additionally, the series does require a level of concentration that seems anomalous in our current 15-second soundbite culture. On the other hand, Jericho does seem to be tapping into some of the same vibe that other post-apocalyptic films have tapped into (I Am Legend comes to mind) - namely that there is some anxiety about the near future. Many of us sense that with all the various problems facing us - climate change, the recent peaking of oil production, etc. - that we are truly living in the twilight of an era, and to the extent that we've attached our identities to the status quo find the process of losing that status quo terrifying. Some of the characters in the series find that what they once took for granted as their livelihoods and lifestyles are completely obliterated, and over the course of the first season show some success in forging new identities. Even after the end of the world, life manages to go on - even if the journey is much more precarious. The writers seem to have found a good balance between dread and hope, as the fictional community of Jericho makes its way through the initial months following the attacks and its members figure out what to make of some of the possible futures that await them as they rebuild.

If you have any inclination towards television viewing, this one's worth checking out while it lasts.

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