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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Jericho’ cancelled, decent civilization ends

[This continues — or concludes, I guess, a months-long conversation I’ve been having with myself over at Film.com about the CBS series ‘Jericho’. To read the whole thing, start here, then: more, more, yet more, still more, and the last.]

Okay, time to move to another planet. Jericho’s been cancelled.

It’s not like Jericho was My Favorite Show Ever or anything, though I’d stuck with it despite its many problems, even through the ridiculous months-long hiatus that seems to be the new norm for network dramas this year. What makes me really mad is how representative the Jericho story is of the utter dim-wittedness of network television today.
Like that three-month hiatus the network put the show on starting in November 2006. Viewership had dropped off when Jericho returned in late February, after 12 weeks of no episodes — not even reruns — and this was, apparently, part of why the show got the axe. Who can I smack over this? Could CBS possibly have been surprised that the show — any show — would lose viewers when it disappears for three months? This is not how you build an audience.

CBS’s idiocy is clear in the letter to viewers posted in the message boards of the show’s official site. This is Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President of Programming Operations:

Dear Jericho Fans

We here at CBS have listened to your complaints in relation to the cancelation of the television Show Jericho.

At CBS we never cancel a show without a great deal of communication between our public groups and you the fans.

It was believed that Jericho had lost a significant amount of fans since the original pilot of the show.

We always feel that a show must carry its audience regardless of breaks or temporary periods within the transmission season.

In other words, it’s your fault if you can’t keep up with all the jerking around a network does. Oh, and don’t think letting your TiVo keep up with the show will help: if you’re watching at any time other than the live broadcast, you might as well not be watching at all, as far as the network is concerned.

More from Kelly:

CBS retain the full viewing rights to Jericho, and it is possible that a finale episode could be put into planning for the 2009/2010 season.

Translation: Major Dad’s corpse is gonna rot while you wait for his funeral, which might come along in two years or so. Or not. Suckers.

More corporate droning:

Despite this cancelation we would like to advise you the viewer that CBS offers many great Shows such as CSI-Miami as well as others.

What she means: If you’ve been drooling over Skeet Ulrich, may we suggest that David Caruso would be a good substitute? If you’d like to find out how the war between Jericho and New Bern is going, watch CSI Miami. If you’d like to know who is behind the nukes in the first place, watch CSI Miami.

Is she kidding?

Fans are pissed. I’m pissed. I just invested a television season’s worth of time and attention in this show, and for what? To be left hanging, with the story unresolved and the characters in limbo? And networks should be killing to hang onto the kind of passionate, active fandom Jericho has developed on the show’s official site.

Way to kill TV viewership, CBS. And I don’t just mean for one show: I mean for all shows. Why should any of us viewers you’ve screwed with Jericho trust CBS ever again? Shouldn’t we wait at least a full TV season to see whether you’re going to stand behind a show before we waste our time with it?

And that’s not even why I’m really pissed. I’m really pissed because the humanistic Jericho’s been cancelled at the same time that the wingnut wet dream 24 has been renewed for another two years. Jericho was in many ways the anti 24 (as I wrote on Film.com), blatantly rejecting the kinds of values that 24 espouses — torture, paranoia, suspicion, bigotry — and it didn’t need to create some imaginary liberal paradise in which to do it. No: the world of Jericho, for the characters as individuals as well as for the United States and the planet as a whole, is actually far more dire than the world of 24, and geez, it turns out that reason and justice and crap like that still works, is still worth fighting for.

I justify wasting time on mere fluff like writing about TV and movies by telling myself that looking at entertainment and pop culture in a context larger than that of a single TV series or a single movie is important, that it offers a window into our culture that is important, that even mere fluff isn’t mere fluff. And what this tells me is terrifying. Though I should hardly be surprised, not when Republican presidential debates sound like episodes of 24 themselves, with the candidates invited by the moderator to imagine the total awesomeness of terrorists of their own to torture, and one candidate invokes torture-meister Jack Bauer in a “classic” line that draws “a large round of applause.”

So, sure, Jericho’s just a TV show, but what does its dismissal say about us as a culture?

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  • Jericho fans are fighting back!
    Please sign the petition at
    http://www.petitiononline.com/09272006/petition.html

    And literally send nuts to CBS! visit http://www.jericholives.com/ for great and peaceful protest ideas.

  • JoshDM

    Well, there’s still hope that Veronica Mars can come back for a fourth season re-imagined as a “Quantico” themed show.

  • Reading your comments on Jericho, I had just recently decided to try to get into it if there were a DVD release or something. I particularly liked how you described the torture episode and its contrast to 24, a show that got boring halfway through season 2 and, from what I’ve heard, became downright reprehensible a couple years later. Now, though, I wonder if it’s worth trying to watch it. I’m still upset over John Doe being canceled after one season, and that was back in 2003. Let me put it this way: supposing there were an opportunity to watch the whole season, do you think it would be worth it, knowing that it’ll probably never be continued?

    And seriously, CSI: Miami? What the hell?

  • Micah

    I heartily approve. I’m one of the many Jericho fans, hoping for some news that CBS regrets its decision, and came across this. Keep up the good work. Maybe CBS will manage to dig itself out of the hole it dug by bringing it back for a second season.

  • james meyer

    why cancel Jericho i love this show it was just getting interesting i wanted to see what was going to happen next please dont cancel another good show like tv companys like doing i finaly like a good show an than bam tv companys cancel the show and your the tv companys put on a very stupid show that realy sucks bad to replace them thanx james meyer

  • Thanks so very much for writing this. You put into eloquent words what I could not… in fact, every time I started into another try at “hate mail” to CBS for cancelling Jericho, it would only come out as “AarrgggghhH!!!!! Blurb blah bloo.”

    Excellent contrast/compare with “24,” by the way. I would hope my nation would look so much more like “Jericho” than Jack Bauer’s fantasy world, were that awful day to ever come.

    Is there any chance, any at all, that Jericho could be picked up by another network? Or is CBS, in its statement, essentially telling us we’re all screwed?

  • Jason Vito

    Thanks for your article. Here’s to hoping that CBS comes to their senses when they realize what a bomb their new lineup will be. I feel confident that the new shows will do worse than Jericho, and in the end, I still believe this story is just begining.

  • One other thing:

    “Oh, and don’t think letting your TiVo keep up with the show will help: if you’re watching at any time other than the live broadcast, you might as well not be watching at all, as far as the network is concerned.”

    That kind of makes sense to me. TV is free because advertisers pay the bill, yet anyone with TiVo is probably going to skip through the commercials. So why should TiVo watchers be counted? I think TiVo is moving us to a place where all TV will be pay-per-view.

  • For what it’s worth, I gave up on 24 this year and latched onto Jericho. It’s s shame, really, because I was really getting into it, especially with this new twist in the story involving New Bern and the struggle for power. I guess it’s back to waiting until 10 pm to turn on the TV on Wednesday nights now.

  • Joe the anti-TV Guy

    Jericho was a great *idea* for 21st century TV show, you are so right. I think I watched it for that reason. Love your ‘anti-24’comment: people working together, solving problems, saving the best of the past, innovation and dealing with the present in constructive way , etc. What is constructive about 24? Nothing.

    I think many older people (like me) got into it as we lived through “the bomb’ era of the US vs. the USSR—we were programmed to have anxiety about WWIII and that was why Jericho caught our attention.

    It was not nearly as well written or acted as Battlestar Galactica. Jereicho’s writing and producing was just getting up to speed and the acting was hit or miss as a result of the first two problems. And I have been amazed that no one has pointed out that Jericho really was ‘Battlestar Galactica’ in Kansas.

    What now –except not watching major network TV? The SciFi Channel should take Jericho and give it to the BG showrunners to ‘revision’ as a miniseries and series. It would be a big hit!

  • Jeana

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Don’t give up hope! There’s talk that TNT may be interested in picking up the series; to that end, a lot of us from the CBS boards have begun to invade the TNT boards to plead our case; there’s already a few hundred of us since late last night. There’s a petition that started Tuesday night that as of this moment has 32747 signatures. We’ve also begun the “NUTS!” campaign, in which all fans are encouraged to send an orginal letter to CBS and include therein a packet of nuts (of course you’re free to go further; one poster sent ten pounds!) A sponsor boycott is also getting underway.

    The fight to save Jericho has just begun! There is a savejericho .com, .org, and .info that you can visit for more information. (the .org site seems to have the most.)

  • Katherine

    NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

    *muttered curses and imprecations hurled TV-ward*

  • MaryAnn

    Wow, this is the fastest anything I’ve posted has garnered this many comments. That says something about *Jericho* fandom. :->

    Let me put it this way: supposing there were an opportunity to watch the whole season, do you think it would be worth it, knowing that it’ll probably never be continued?

    Hmm. Yes. I think it is still worth a look, and I have no doubt you’ll have the opportunity to do — CBS or whatever production company owns *Jericho* would be idiotic not to release a “complete series” DVD set. It’s worth it for the scenario, to see that Jack Bauer-style paranoia is not the only possible or effective response to the uncertainties of the modern world.

    Is there any chance, any at all, that Jericho could be picked up by another network? Or is CBS, in its statement, essentially telling us we’re all screwed?

    I would guess we’re screwed. Though anything is possible.

    TV is free because advertisers pay the bill, yet anyone with TiVo is probably going to skip through the commercials. So why should TiVo watchers be counted? I think TiVo is moving us to a place where all TV will be pay-per-view.

    This is true, to a point. I often do not fast-forward through commercials, and I would bet that that is true for many people, so we’re still getting the same impact of the commercials that we would otherwise. But even a TiVoed show, especially one like this, with a rabid following, brings eyeballs to the official site… and *Jericho* has a particularly active official site with lots of fan activity. CBS is to be commended to getting that part of the new paradigm right: it knows, to a certain degree, how to harness fan passion. So that income has to be factored into the equation of a show’s “success.” Granted, advertisers aren’t there yet… but they will be. TiVo/DVR is absolutely going to change the paradigm of the television industry, and pay-per-view is likely going to be a part of what the New TV looks like as Internet and TV converge.

    But that’s where CBS screwed up here: it’s throwing away what is going to be an even more valuable asset in the very near future than it already is: fan passion. One fan who watches a show and TiVos it and organizes viewing parties and spends time on the official site is going to be far more important than twenty who just watch a show as a pre-bedtime distraction.

    I think many older people (like me) got into it as we lived through “the bomb’ era of the US vs. the USSR—we were programmed to have anxiety about WWIII and that was why Jericho caught our attention.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “older.” I’m 37, and I grew up absolutely convinced that I would die in a nuclear war. I watched *The Day After* as a junion-high-schooler. I’m way post-Cuban Missile Crisis. I don’t even remember Vietnam. I’m not sure I’m ready to consider myself “older” yet. But you’re right: I’m still not over my nuclear anxiety, and probably never will be. (Which is why, in fact, *24* is effective on one level, too.)

    It was not nearly as well written or acted as Battlestar Galactica. Jereicho’s writing and producing was just getting up to speed and the acting was hit or miss as a result of the first two problems. And I have been amazed that no one has pointed out that Jericho really was ‘Battlestar Galactica’ in Kansas.

    Most shows, I think, don’t really hit their stride until their second or third year (and, accordingly, *Jericho* was just starting to hit its stride). But few shows are given that long to find an audience. That’s not just CBS but every network these days. If something isn’t a hit immediately, it’s gone. And that’s a shame.

  • The Truth

    Heading into another election year, CBS really can’t have people thinking about topics like Jericho sheds light on. Now with FOX you would expect shows like 24, but for the big 3 networks it’s time for warm fuzzy thoughts, peace, love and harmony. Fantasy or not this whole Jericho thing might expose a soft under belly of a few individuals for whom they will push an ideology for.

  • denise

    CBS had a loyal fan base they just dismissed. They got lazy with their lobotomized CSI episodes and cheaply made reality shows. I hope Jericho gets picked up by NBC or another station. Please keep writing articles and getting the word out!!!

  • ceti

    Actually, I believe Jericho is/was better than Battlestar Galactica, in at least the characters were likeable, even that ol’ rascal Jonah Prowse. Will we ever figure out Valente’s agenda? How much damage has been done to the US by Ravenwood/Blackwater? Aargh!

    The kicker of course is the continuing renewal of absolute drivel on the tube.

    Time to boycott CBS. Then again, I’m in Canada which has decided to remain neutral in the three-sided civil war that was brewing before being preempted by cancellation.

    Double Aargh!

  • Jericho was the one show I watched on CBS. Now it’s gone. Sayonara, Tiffany Network.

  • Trish

    I completely agree with your comments. CBS is absolutely crazy to not stick by this show! It is one of the very few worth viewing from the beginning. At this point, I can’t trust CBS to watch any new shows that appear in their lineup. It is shameful that they cancel a show and then use the excuse that it’s because the viewership went down during the hiatus that CBS imposed on the new drama in the first place!!! That is pure LUNACY!!!

  • go to jericholives.com- they are fighting to keep the show alive – – i agree with all of your comments and the new cbs shows look awful!!!!!!

  • Franky

    A terrific post on how TV Stations destroys shows nowadays…

    Just like FOX did with Firefly……

    :—–|

    BRING JERICHO BACK!

  • David C.

    You are spot on, MaryAnn! The bone head move by CBS bodes ill for all television in general , and serials in particular.

    I am done with CBS. I hope someone like TNT picks up Jericho and its 8 Million viewers.

  • Chad B

    Damn straight!!! CBS management are a bunch of out of touch thumb sucking crime drama loving idiots!!!
    They must have had a grudge againt someone working with Jericho because CBS MADE SURE IT GOT CANCELLED by giving it absolutely no chance what-so-ever with the way they presented it.

    NUTS CBS!!!

    Save Jericho!

  • Squashua

    AICN is rallying the masses

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/32716

  • Jeff

    Bravo…great article. Describes just how it seems that a lot of people are feeling these days. I suppose Jericho may not have been the right show for everyone…some nitpicked it’s technical innacuracies while overlooking the deeper messages, and I guess other’s just don’t have the attention span. Thus we have shows about real people eating bugs for money, etc. I also don’t think CBS handled it and promoted it correctly. Jericho was a show for the thinking folks, and judging by the buzz going around the internet at the moment, the people who were into it were DEEPLY hooked. I hope the buzz keeps going and the fight to save the show is somehow successful. The show is a real gem, and if given the time and proper promotion such that more of the right type of people could experience it, more would get hooked. Plus, if word starts getting out through the media about the commotion this is causing, it would give more folks a reason to tune in next year and see what they’re missing and what the buzz is all about. CBS has an opportunity to turn things around and make this a win-win situation for us all.

  • Magess

    CBS better not become the new FOX.

    I truly don’t understand what networks expect. Isn’t it a written rule that every time you change the date and time of your show you’re going to lose viewers? Isn’t it reasonable for people to expect that if something stops airing halfway through, then it must have been canceled, even if they don’t do a web search to confirm that it has been canceled?

    I hadn’t really thought of Jericho as the anti-24 before reading your articles, but I think it fits. 24 became outlandish and laughable some time around the end of season 2. And yet it lingers. I have no idea why. I tried watching this season, and it was… eh. Until they captured the bad guys halfway through and then suddenly it became the Jack Bauer melodrama hour. And then I didn’t care one whit and stopped recording it.

    Also, re: your comments on Major Dad dying… I had the exact same reaction. I knew it was sad. I wanted to be sad. All the proper elements and planets were in alignment for me to be devastated. And it just didn’t happen. Not sure why.

    And thank you for calling Skeet the Johnny Depp for TV. I thought I was the only one.

  • “And thank you for calling Skeet the Johnny Depp for TV. I thought I was the only one.” —Magess

    “[Here’s a picture of] Skeet Ulrich, one of the stars of the movie Scream. Skeet, uh, Johnny Depp called. He needs his DNA back. If you could get on that.” —David Spade, Saturday Night Live

  • REDNECK RAMPAGE

    About 10 or 11 years ago there was a show on CBS called Due South starring Pual Gross. It was about a Canadian Mountey who came to Chicago to find his fathers killer. It was an indirect comedy/drama and I thought it was awsome. CBS decided to cancel the show after the first season so that they could put on more show like Becker and other lame comedys. When most of the new line-up flopped they brought Due South back. Then they canceled it again after season 2. The same result happened all over again. This time in season 3 most of the supporting cast got tired of being jerked around and didnt come back until the finnal 2 episodes.

    How much you wanna bet that CBS tries to use jericho as a safety net if these new shows flop?, I hope they can get most of the cast back for it. I believe this show has propeled most of the cast into the getting noticed section of hollywood.

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