POSTED BY ELIZABETH GUIDER
They went “nuts” to get it back but now the big question is whether the online fans will go bananas for the return of “Jericho” in January. The even bigger question is whether the CBS series can lure enough new viewers to convince the Eye network to extend the series order beyond the current commitment of seven new episodes. (Some 3 million TV viewers had deserted the show by the end of the spring, leading to its cancellation.)
Exec producer Carol Barbee is one who thinks the trick can be pulled off — and her quickly reassembled production team is poised to gun it if the greenlight order does come down. One thing that might help: The release of season one on DVD beginning Oct. 2 and this summer’s repeats of the cult fave on CBS. Plus a whole bunch of promotion, courtesy of the Eye’s newly pumped up promotional partnerships with some two dozen online platforms, from Comcast to Joost.
The seven episodes that will be shot during the next two months will be, per Barbee, “greatly compressed’ but also “quick-moving,” with the focus laregely on the town of Jericho itself as it struggles to rebuild itself.
“Obviously we had to become lean and mean and our attention will now be on fewer characters,” Barbee told journalists at the ongoing Television Critics Tour Thursday in L.A. She also said that there would be less time to shoot, seven days per episode, but that the team would try to deliver “the same punch.”
(Pictured above, left to right, Barbee, "Jericho" stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James and Ashley Scott.)
Although there will be occasional flashbacks to the cataclysm that struck the small Kansas town, there is no current plan to dwell on the central Gerald McRaney character, who was killed off at the end of season one.
Fortunately, most all the other actors involved were available to reprise their roles including Skeet Ulrich as Jake and Lennie James as Robert. Their mission upcoming: no less than to save the world. There will also be an official engagement during the upcoming storyline — that between the characters of Mimi (Alicia Coppola) and Stanley (Brad Beyer).
Barbee said it felt perfectly natural to think in seven-episode arcs, though emphasizing that there will be plot resolutions on several fronts but also “an opening outward” in case there is a call for more episodes through the spring, and a third season.
“We’ll be ready, willing and able to get back into production if asked,” she said. Chances are that call would come down after three or four episodes have aired and ratings have been assessed by CBS brass, meaning the end of January.
That retooling is a scale-back from the original second season 22-episode story arc that was already being prepped for a regular soph call. The larger arc would have included more time devoted to the New York story and on the other towns that survived.
Are there shades of the situation in Iraq in this new story arc?, Barbee was asked. Quite so. There is a parallel, she suggested, with those warring factions and the occupying force (namely the U.S. military) in that region. The new episodes, she said, do deal with “how one would react and who one would become in the face of disaster.”
And yes, it definitely touches on “who I am in relation to the government. In some cases you have to lead your government and be responsible. It is about what it feels like to be people held apart by a government.”
Is she ready to parry whatever swipes from the Sean Hannitys of this world? You betcha.
-- Elizabeth Guider