Jericho: The First Season
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS Video
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Running Time: 964 mins
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Review Date: September 25, 2007
A cult hit from last year’s new crop of fantastic television premieres, “Jericho” tells of a small Midwestern town that survived an apocalyptic event. Cut off from all external communications—radio, telephone, and television—the best and worst of the community are showcased as the citizenry struggle to survive and find out what happened to America. Filled with character-driven stories and tense narratives “Jericho” is the show you might have missed during its initial broadcast run—this is your chance to catch up before the new season begins this fall.
I knew little about this show before a friend started complaining that it was being cancelled. His enthusiasm was apparently shared: a vigorous letter-writing campaign convinced the network that this show was worth saving. I was curious to see what inspires this sort of loyalty; when this set arrived in the mail I gave a yelp of joy. My enthusiasm was briefly tempered by the accompanying bag of peanuts (to which I am severely allergic). Thankfully the quality of this show far supersedes the producer’s attempts to kill me.
Focusing on the residents of Jericho, the show keeps tabs on unlikely hero Jake (Skeet Ulrich) and his family. Jake, who becomes trapped in the town while passing through, becomes a reluctant leader in the post-apocalyptic society. Jake’s father, Mayor Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) tries to hold the town together while others like police officer Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) try to keep people alive. There are a lot of stories being told, with intrigue aplenty. Questions about the nature of the bombs and the people of Jericho, such as where Jake has been in the years since he left Jericho and what motivates Robert Hawkins, kept me riveted.
I was worried that this would turn out to be a simple rehash of “The Stand” or a variety of other popular post-apocalyptic fare. When a sibling combination is introduced that includes a deaf farmer and along with two newly orphaned teenagers from different social circles who become fast friends, and we come across a bunch of dead birds, there are easy connections to other material. Thankfully the show avoids many clichés and goes in unexpected directions, staying dark but providing some rays of hope.
Well-produced and featuring a large cast of actors who play their roles to perfection, “Jericho” is amazing. Ending with cliffhangers that are second only to “Heroes” and “Lost” for their emotional resonance, it is our connection to the characters that bring us back each week. Rarely straying into the realm of melodramatic—a real concern when romantic triangles are introduced—“Jericho” manages to entertain without wearing out its welcome or premise, ending on a note that only inspires new questions. Presuming the second season suffers no sophomore slump, I can easily see adding it to my television rotation and recommend you pick up the DVDs and give this a spin before the fall premiere.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. The last few television products I have reviewed have been disappointing. This program, culled from HD masters, looks fantastic. Deep colors, fine details, and exceptional black levels result in a reference DVD. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio enhanced for widescreen televisions, this set is about as good as I’ve seen.
I wish I could gush as much about the audio quality. I have no negative comments to impart regarding either the 2.0 stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The dialogue is mixed nicely and while the music isn’t particularly expansive or immersive, it does the job well.
While not overflowing with extra features this set does have a good amount, featuring a scattered set of commentaries on over half the episodes, varying between executive producer Jon Turteltaub and star Skeet Ulrich, and Dan Shotz and Karim Zreik, the shows producers. Each set is lively and packed with information about the construction of the show, the sets, character development and acting. A few of the deleted scenes also feature commentary, explaining the reason for exclusion.
Additionally there is a documentary on the history of the threat of nuclear attacks and terrorism, along with supposing how the United States would respond. Well-reasoned and though-provoking, “What If?” is a wonderful, if brief, addition to this set. Similarly, “Building Jericho” goes through the creative process behind the construction of the show. Hitting on everything from the originating ideas and the casting to set design and the gradual development of the show from a pilot to a series, this documentary feels rushed, some of the edits cutting off people mid-sentence in order to maximize the information in the time provided.
While the later episodes in this first season were not up to the standards set by the first few, I can still heartily recommend “Jericho” to viewers who heard about the “Nuts!” campaign and want to learn more about the show that inspired such loyalty. The video quality is stellar, the extras are plentiful, and the show drives forward without hesitation. Ending on the mother of all cliffhangers, I am excited to see where the creators take the series now that it has received a reprieve.