Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TV preview: Jericho

• Nuclear drama in 2006? Yep, and Jericho does it well.

Genres: Drama, suspense
Logistics: CBS, 7 p.m. (Central) Wednesdays
Cast: Skeet Ulrich, Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed, Lennie James, Ashley Scott, Spraque Grayden, Michael Gaston, Brad Beyer, Kenneth Mitchell, Erik Knudsen, Shoshannah Stern
Verdict: &&&&

A mushroom cloud blossoms on the horizon of the small western town of Jericho. Is it an accident? An attack? As the panic-stricken denizens ponder these questions, it's hard not to marvel that a producer would want to mine this territory now. It's not giving away too much to say that it is, indeed, an attack of some sort — by the end of episode two, there are some clues, but no clear answer — making this a sort of The Day After for the terrorism age. But the prospect of a nuclear attack surely doesn't speak to the viewer in the same way that it did in 1983, when that infamous television miniseries aired. The good news is that Jericho gets off to such a promising start that it shouldn't matter, and the underlying curiosity of where this story is going is sustained. Episode two, "Fallout," is stronger than the pilot, as Mayor Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) tries to get his townsfolk herded into basements and the old fallout shelters before the radiation clouds arrive. His son, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), returned to town just before the bomb hits, and finds himself swept into the unfolding drama before he can get back out of town. A tense subplot in "Fallout" finds Emily (Ashley Scott) unwittingly in the company of two escaped prisoners posing as deputies; her attempt to escape culminates with the arrival of the fallout. A former St. Louis cop (Lennie James) manages to get an old radio working and decodes a Morse code message, but he stuffs the paper in his pocket and tells no one what he has learned. Just what's going on here? Will the citizens survive underground and try to carry on? With the hope that this will be more than just a story of rebuilding, I'll tune in to find out.

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