Jericho, Hallmark

by | Jan 12, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Engaging disaster drama in which the residents of a small town in Kansas become isolated after nuclear explosions devastate a number of cities. But after the first episode, it’s not the impending peril of radiation sickness that the inhabitants should be worried about but a lethal, virulent strain of Heartbeat-it is.

What was good about it?

• The sense of estrangement from the outside world is effectively established even before the bombs start to go off. Protagonist Jake (Skeet Ulrich) drives back into Jericho after a number of years away, and he is able to lie convincingly to almost all of his old friends he meets as to his whereabouts in that time.

• And this becomes more impressive as the townsfolk gradually realise they are cut off from the outside world as the televisions shut down and communications are disrupted.

• Meanwhile, the police force is portrayed as a bunch of untrusting hicks who would sooner lynch an out-of-towner than invite him in for lunch.

• The first nuclear explosion is at first not seen directly, but instead by the golden glow on a boy’s face as he is perched on the roof of his house during a game of tag.

• When resident geeky loner Dale plays back a telephone message from his parents, which is abruptly cut off by the catastrophe, it’s assumed they perished in the nearby Denver. It’s only when the message is played to a wider audience that he discloses that his parents were in Atlanta, not Denver indicating the holocaust is nationwide.

What was bad about it?

• As with many pilot episodes of drama, much time is spent mapping out characters leading to some awkward, incongruent dialogue. As Jake returns home he is greeted by his family, his brother greets him with “Hello, brother”; while Rod Hawkins (Lennie James) greets everyone with his full name and a potted history of his life. And even the gravestones are in on the act – below his name Eric Green has all the possible relationships to anyone in the show – beloved father, grandfather and husband.

• When Jake is distracted by the mushroom cloud as he drives back to Denver he collides with an oncoming car. But a close up of the road reveals that it was the other car – not that of heroic Jake, who maintains a straight line even if he’s just witnessed the death of millions – that strayed from it’s lane, utterly absolving Jake of all responsibility for their deaths.

• The school bus goes missing allowing that fiery chasm of banal drama – the endangered child – opening up a passageway to TV Hell. This means that as Johnston – Jake’s father and the mayor of Jericho – tries to calm the worried mothers they can emotionally blackmail him with “would you say that if your child was out there?”

• And when the injured Jake stumbles upon the bus that crashed after the driver was distracted by the mushroom cloud on the horizon, miraculously all but one of the children are uninjured except one – Stacy, who happened to be the daughter of the most vocal of the distraught mothers berating Johnston.

• What’s more her wound – heavy bruising to the throat that causes her to stop breathing moments after Jake turns up – is just the sort of injury that his army training enables him to remedy by puncturing her throat with a straw. Despite bleeding heavily from his car crash, Jake must then valiantly steer the bus back to Jericho after the two adults on the bus were conveniently rendered incapable of driving by a broken leg and unconsciousness. Once the exhausted Jake has made it home, he and the teacher exchange names and Johnston gazes proudly at his prodigal son. A whole chapter ripped word-for-word from the dramatic book of clichés.

• It’s only when it’s revealed that another vehicle that crashed was a bus ferrying dangerous felons to prison, however, that it truly plunges into the realm of the absurd. It now resembles that moment the Day Today’s hilarious spoof of 999 when an out-of-control helicopter narrowly misses an old woman up a stick in a field.

• Snow Patrol’s Run used as the fade out music at the end of the episode, and then Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars being heard moments later on After You’ve Gone. Are we being haunted by Snow Patrol? Are they stalking us like an aural Banquo, forever lurking at the fringes of our consciousness ready to swoop in with soporific melodies?

• Although we liked Run when we first heard it, we can now see it for what it truly is. Run was the propaganda pamphlets sprinkled from the air by an army on the brink of invading, telling the populace how they are so much kinder than the current administration. But Spitting Games was the tanks of tedium rolling menacingly through the streets, executing any dissenters. And Chasing Cars was the marital law, the curfew that prohibited any civilian from venturing out after dark else they are condemned to a paralysing, near-death MOR coma. But listening to the radio these days, you begin to wonder if such a coup hasn’t already occurred.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

12/01/2007

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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