"The walls will tumble..."
Every year, there’s at least one show that I actually like, I just don’t have time to watch it. This year that show will probably be “Jericho.”
In all honesty, I had no intentions of liking it. The reviews were not very good and the concept was a little scary. Yet, somehow, I found myself getting engrossed in the premiere, no matter how hard I tried not to.
The show begins with Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), who returns to his hometown of Jericho, Kansas to convince his father to give him the inheritance he was left by his grandfather. Jake is surrounded in mystery, especially when he tells three different people three different stories as to where he has been the past few years. His father, Johnston (Gerald McRaney), the mayor of Jericho, refuses to release the money due to Jake’s immaturity. So despite his mother Gail’s (Pamela Reed) protests, Jake leaves for San Diego.
But a funny thing happens on the way to San Diego. People in Jericho start noticing a mushroom cloud in the direction of Denver. People are especially freaked out because it’s a time when world tensions are running high. Then, phones and TVs no longer work and Jericho is unable to communicate with the outside world. Plus, there is a bus full of school children on a school trip that has not returned. Johnston is forced to spring into action, while fighting off the grandstanding of his mayoral opponent. It gets tougher when Jericho loses power and people start getting violent, but a mysterious ex-cop named Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) advises the police on what to do as if he has some kind of knowledge about the situation.
Meanwhile, Jake is involved in a head-on collision with another couple who were driving and gawking at the mushroom cloud. The couple is killed, but Jake survives and walks away wounded to get help. He is stopped by two school children who take him to the bus which ran off the side of the road when a crazed deer (apparently affected by the cloud) jumped in front of them. Their teacher has a broken leg and is unable to help them (and apparently the driver is dead), so when a little girl on the bus stops breathing, Jake uses a pocket knife to perform a tracheotomy on her with the kids’ juicebox straws. Jake then manages to drive the bus out of the ditch, unsure whether they have enough gas to get back to town.
Dale (Erik Knudsen), a neighbor of the Greens, gets a message from his mother who is out of town with her boyfriend. An explosion is heard on the tape. Gail tells Dale she’s sorry that his mother was in Denver. He wasn’t, she tells him. His mom was in Atlanta.
The sheriff’s department scours the back roads looking for the missing schoolbus and think they’ve found it; but then realize too late that it’s a prison bus. The sheriff and at least one deputy are killed, although no one in town is aware of it.
Jake manages to get the bus back to town and his dad tells him he did a great thing. They all wonder how things will look tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jake’s ex-girlfriend (Ashley Scott) runs out of road on the way to pick up her fiancé at the airport.
As I’ve said about so many of the new shows this season, the biggest problem is where the show goes from here. Obviously there are plenty of romantic possibilities and there’s the whole mystery of where Jake’s been and why he wanted the money, but after that? Clearly “Lost” has managed to pull it off for two seasons, but I’m not sure this show can follow that formula.
Putting the future aside, though, there’s something strangely compelling about the show. I like the combination of family drama and sci-fi and Skeet Ulrich is a good leading man. And Gerald McRaney was born to play the stern father/sympathetic mayor.
However, I have to believe that with a concept like this one that “Jericho” is bound to spiral out of control. I hope that I’m wrong, but I’ve already added too many shows to my plate to find out.
“Jericho” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.