Red Right Hand: PILOT (P)REVIEW: JERICHO
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

PILOT (P)REVIEW: JERICHO

So. Jericho. Not bad.

The logline: A small Kansas town is thrown into chaos after a nuclear disaster cuts off all power and communication with the outside world.

Here's the thing. I wasn't familiar with Stephen Chbosky's writing before this, so I was going entirely off of previews going into this. I didn't expect to like this much. In fact, I expected to just aimlessly click on some bookmarks or start thumbing through some comics while I was watching this and then by the end of act two not even be paying attention anymore.

Didn't happen.

Though there hasn't been much of a show like this on TV, it just felt like an idea I'd seen before. In fact, I'm fair sure two (not one, two) of the Slamdance teleplay finalists touched on this last year, so maybe this is a matter of the idea finally getting to the pint where it has to happen just so the pitches stop. (I call this the vampire western paradigm, based on comments from a producer who was talking about pitches she gets and had mentioned that every other pitch she hears seems to be a vampire western and that it was a good way to get on her bad side. I thought to myself, if this idea is so prevalent, maybe someone should make it...at the very least, it will kill all the other vampire western pitches.).

It starts off a little slow as Jake (Skeet Ulrich), son of the mayor (Gerald McRaney), returns to town for the first time in years. He's our introduction to most of the town. He's also a bit of a screw-up, so you immediately know this will be a tale of his redemption. It was looking bad to me, predictable. And to be honest, some of this is very much by the numbers of what you would expect from the premise, but credit goes to a couple of clever reveals, like the one that indicates the scope of whatever-has-happened.

And that's what it is. Whatever-has-happened. The viewer is in pretty much the same boat as the everybody-knows-everybody townsfolk. Everybody knows everybody except Rod Hawkins (Lennie James), who claims to be a former cop and wants to lend a hand, and he does so effectively. There must be something wrong with him. There's a strong possibility of it in fact, but I think it might be some misdirection. I'm hoping it is.

It seems to me that this is going to explore some of the ideas of the first season of Lost, but in an entirely more reasonable manner. That of redefinition, of the self and of a mini-society. The whatever-has-happened could well be a big reset button for all the citizens of Jericho and not entirely unwelcome to some of them. It's still a world we don't much know (unless you lived though Gulf War III, in which case there may be some familiar things in this for you), but there aren't secret organizations and black cloud monsters.

I'm down for this one until they give me a reason not to be. That could just as easily be episode 2 as episode 22.

The characters all feels like very familiar archetypes and there isn't anything in the pilot to suggest it may go otherwise. The writing doesn't have any particular pop to it or a real sense of voice, so this is clearly going to go from ep to ep in quality, I think. If they don't play dumb, it could really become something.

Will it last? I don't know, it might be a little too sedate to really grab a big crowd, but it's up against Bones, a sitcom block and some reality crap and it leads into Criminal Minds, with which it may be a nice match.
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan