Jericho, Kansas became my second home. Robert Hawkins was the guy I most hoped to have a conversation with every week. Stanley and Mimi deserved to have a life together, one built from the ashes of Bonnie’s heartless death. Never in recent memory do I recall a racing heart or shouting “It’s 11:00 already?” at the closing credits of any other television show. Like it or hate it, you can admit that there hasn’t been anything on the idiot box like Jericho in decades.
So why is it being canceled for a second time, then? We’ll it’s not for lack of enthusiasm or cliff-hangy storylines. A little background might be in order. The first time Jericho was canceled was blamed by the network on low viewer turn out. Weary Nielsen numbers were the gage by which CBS measured the show’s success. Even in this podcast, streaming video, digital video recording day and age, and with CBS.com’s own decision to offer the product for your viewing pleasure at a later date, the company chose to be taken in by a marketing research company founded over eight decades ago (ironically, in the same year that television was first demonstrated). Two other genius moves by the network, placing the brand new show up against seasoned competitor American Idol and giving the fledgling series a nearly-two-month hiatus between cliffhangers, didn’t give Jericho a snowballs chance in a nuclear attack. The residents of cut-off-from-the-world Jericho were doomed before the mushroom cloud silenced Denver. To answer CBS’ own online marketing, it was clear ‘who dropped the bomb’.
Hail those devoted fans! After CBS’ Nina Tassler announced to the surviving masses that Jericho, the Program, had also fallen victim to forces inside its own government so to speak, the throngs of devotees came out of every corner of America — and soon the world — to save the little town of a few thousand people. As if you haven’t heard, as an echo to the last line spoken by Jake Green in the series season finale, and in a coordinated attack of their own, mounds and mounds of peanuts were dropped on the doorsteps of CBS at both ends of America (currently not yet the ‘Allied States of’, by the way) by fans now calling themselves ‘Rangers’. In the end, the onslaught was overwhelming; the retaliation was relentless. CBS heard the will of the people and conceded to their demands. Jericho would be back, if only for a seven week ‘test run’.
OK; so here’s where CBS and Jericho‘s own producers shared the ones in potential rise or demise of the show the fans believe in. To agree to bring the beloved show and just leave it at that would be a set up for failure. To bring back a show that was not truly believed in by those who hold the scissors in the cutting room would be no different than blowing up your own country to show its vulnerability. The unfortunate fact is, that’s exactly what happened. In the weeks prior to Jericho returning to television, CBS lightly played with the NUTS! campaign. They offered a few commercials and baited the audience with a repeat of Season 1’s episodes.
“See the show the fans demanded”, offered the ads. And for a brief few weeks, the CBS aired a sampling of episodes we had seen in the fall. There were three random, non-sequential episodes, completely defeating the purpose of this serial suspense–thriller. The SciFi Channel was offered Jericho in repeats and the program was set to be released on DVD.
But hard pressed were you to find Skeet Ulrich on the talk show circuit. I scanned Oprah‘s schedule and never found an interview with Pamela Reed. When a month had passed after the announcement that the show would be back, it seemed as though we were again left wondering what had happened. Was it a hoax? Had everyone changed their minds and decided the show was better left as a cliffhanger, on the brink of attack from neighboring New Bern? Even after the announcement of a second season was aired, the broadcast waves seemed to be clear of anyone from our favorite ZIP Code.
Season 2 of Jericho returned to unfortunately poor numbers. Never breaking the six million viewer mark, the show’s ratings were lower than the last episode of the first season. But once again, it was the prehistoric Nielsen system that was being tracked. An argument was made regarding the difficulty of tracking the online and download viewers. But the screen writers didn’t find it difficult to locate this exact information, then let the networks know the were getting boned. No matter, Tuesday, March 18th and with high anticipation, we fans sat around our tubes and waited for the ‘scenes from our next episode’.
To clips of action-packed scenes, we were first told to return in a week for the exciting season finale. “It’s all been leading to this,” the announcer promised, and we were left feeling good, confident that there couldn’t be any other option than to give us Season 3.
The following Friday, after a a mere two days of elation, the final bomb was used to finish us off. Once again, CBS’ Nina Tassler offered her appreciation and condolences. This time however, she was steadfast. “Without question, there are passionate viewers watching this program; we simply wish there were more,” was her lamenting consolation. Yet series producer Carol Barbee said in retaliation that the fans were “…watching it on the Internet and streaming and iTunes downloads, all those things that are not being counted.”
Now if Jericho was a reality show…