Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'Jericho' season two review

Oy, I'm not looking forward to the reader mail I'm going to get from today's "Jericho" review:

No one wants to be the jerk at a party who loudly complains that the dip tastes bad, the music is too loud and the guest of honor could stand to switch deodorants. So I would strongly advise any "Jericho" fans reading this column to stop right now and get back to celebrating what you accomplished. You brought your favorite show back from cancellation with the most effective Save Our Show campaign in decades, if not ever, and tonight you get to enjoy the first of seven season-two episodes. So go crazy, have yourself a good time and make sure you have plenty of peanuts handy. Just please, stop reading, because I'm about to say some unflattering things about "Jericho."
To read the full thing, click here.


K J Gillenwater said...

First let me say, I like "Jericho." But I did go ahead and read some of your review...I didn't want any spoilers, so I sort of glossed over the details. And I will actually agree with some of what you say. The flat quality and cheapness (I blame CBS for that. A lot of their shows have that quality), the corny dialogue.

However, there is something that keeps bringing me back.

Last season, I watched the promos for the next week and thought, 'Oh, please, that is just going to be so cheesy.' I would watch the first 5 minutes and get sucked right back in.

I think part of the reason I like it is that it reminds me of those so-bad-they're-good movies of the 80s like "The Night of the Comet" and "Red Dawn." Perhaps there is an inner teenager inside of me who secretly longs for this kind of drama.

I don't know.

But as long as Heather is still on there, and the IRS chick sticks around with her farmer boyfriend, I'm happy to tag along.

David J. Loehr said...

Amen, Alan. With all of the worthwhile shows that have been cancelled and championed over the years, let alone those unfairly crucified--hello, Nothing Sacred, wherever you are--I am stunned that Jericho is back from the dead.

The ideas are fascinating, yes. The execution is excruciating, the dialogue forgettable and the characters cardboard. When I have watched, I wonder what good writers could do with the same concept.

As for "Nuts," clearly 20 tons of nuts has more effect than thousands of cards and letters from approximately the same number of people. Though I think the Cagney and Lacey might still be the most successful fan revival, since it was cancelled twice and came back. Maybe us Nothing Sacred fans should have clogged ABC with bibles and phone messages in Latin. (That was appointment television for me the season Cupid was on, which is why I'm enjoying catching up with that now.)

Anonymous said...

I was a fan of Jercicho last season....at first. By the last few episodes, I thought they were getting both more boring and more ridiculous. I was actually glad it was canceled, because even though I wasn't enjoying it, I still couldn't help but watch. And I will watch tonight, to see how the cliffhanger is resolved. And I am sure I will get sucked in again.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this as well. Although I'll likely watch these 7 eps, it will be as pure guilty pleasure entertainment and not in enjoyment of the show it could/should be.

Last season's "Halloween" episode pretty much epitomized the problems of JERICHO for me. Here they are trying to survive, after an nuclear attack, but, of course, they take time to dress up the town and have the kids go trick-or-treating!?!?! Plus, I think that episode dealt a lot with Jake's brother's affair and divorce a lot too. Lord. Almost had me screaming at the screen "focus on surviving!! then worry about whether you want to leave your wife!!"

It was always the conspiracy stuff that intrigued me but, after SLEEPER CELL especially, I'm sure CBS wouldn't let them be too dark, too long in any one episode, much less a story arc.

That said, one time I watched an episode before my wife (who only like the conspiracy stuff) and marked down for her when the conspiracy stuff came on (and she'd just fastforward through the rest). Of the approximately 44 minutes of the show, less than 3 dealt with the conspiracy.

Anyway, as kristin succienctly said "as long as Heather is still on there, and the IRS chick sticks around with her farmer boyfriend, I'm happy to tag along" ... especially as it will only be 7 episodes.

Not having the better half of "Simon and Simon" will definitely be a loss (though he was grossly underused).

Anonymous said...

My dirty little "Jericho" secret: I knew it was pulp, and I was amazed that there was a fan revolt and that CBS brought it back. I agree that the execution is average. The acting was wooden and the story had plotholes you could drive a tank through, so they did. On the boards I frequent, all of these things got lambasted and picked apart. But the Hawkins character and his part of the story was totally compelling (he has a A-bomb, y'all)and that kept us coming back.
So, I guess I'll watch for the Whine and Cheese....

Karen said...

Oh, preach it, my brother! Alan you hit every single nail on the head: the intriguing concept ruined by the pedestrian execution, the compelling performances of McRaney (how do you kill your best actor??) and James (the only character who actually keeps my guessing), the nonentity-ness of Ulrich (who seems incapable of expressing helplessness any other way than by putting his hands on top of his head), and the generically bland dialogue. The only other character I found at all interesting was the vicious New Bern mayor, Constantino, because he's played by the same actor who plays insecure and pompous Detective Lassiter on "Psych," a fact no one but I seemed to pick up on.

I snorted when the "nuts" campaign began, and was aghast--AGHAST!--when it succeeded. Seriously? So many great shows cancelled, so many passionate campaigns waged ("Firefly"? "Roswell"?) and networks choose to bring back stuff like "Jericho" and [retch] "7th Heaven"?

It's a mystery to me.

I imagine that, if your post warnings are heeded, only people who also didn't like "Jericho" will have read your column and will be posting here, so I expect to be in congenial company. But I would just love to hear from a hardcore fan, to see his or her response to your totally valid critique.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be the guy who loves it when people tear into things they hate, but, wow, I loved reading your review. It had my laughing and cackling at my desk. Then I got to the VORP line. Tears flowed from my eyes.

Anonymous said...

My biggest issue with Jericho: wouldn't multiple warheads going off across the country trigger some severe environmental breakdown?

Excellent review, Alan. Sums up my issues with the show. But... I'll give it a shot tonight nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I am a hardcore fan (although not so crazy that I sent nuts to the studio executives), and I think everything Alan said is right. Most of what y'all have said is right, particularly this:

Last season's "Halloween" episode pretty much epitomized the problems of JERICHO for me. Here they are trying to survive, after an nuclear attack, but, of course, they take time to dress up the town and have the kids go trick-or-treating!?!?! Plus, I think that episode dealt a lot with Jake's brother's affair and divorce a lot too. Lord. Almost had me screaming at the screen "focus on surviving!! then worry about whether you want to leave your wife!!"

Other than the scenes with McRaney, the family drama stuff drove me crazy, because they weren't that good. (And I think that McRaney only signed on for one year, and wasn't interested in coming back if the show was renewed. Correct me if I'm wrong.) It mostly took away from the fun of the show's premise.

Many fans love more than just the cheese. I think it attracted a lot of viewers who were interested in the science,such as it was, and how right or wrong they got it. Others liked certain characters enough to keep them coming back. But, Jericho has that intangible something that appealed to a lot of people. It's so wrong it's right.

I can't explain why I like it. But I like it enough to be irritated that, in my area, the 10PM season premiere is being pre-empted by a basketball game, so it won't air until sometime around 3AM.

Anonymous said...

I'm like 7:36 a.m. Kristin; I know there are myriad probs with "Jericho," but I keep watching anyway. It's dopey fun.

And no, I didn't read your review, Alan, but I may later on.

Anonymous said...

Intrigued by the save-the-show campaign, I started Netflixing "Jericho" in early January. You are certainly correct that the concept of the show is much more interesting than the execution. Every once in a while they include some detail that feels real, and that is when the show is at its best, but more often I have watched in amused disbelief at the characters' reaction or lack of reaction to the new world they are living in.

However, as I am finishing up the later episodes of the first season, I have noticed a change. In the early episodes, I was doing a lot of mocking of the show as I watched. Recently, I find that I don't start picking apart the stories until after the episodes are over.

I also agree with you regarding Skeet Ulrich. I don't dislike him, but I have thought several times that the show would have benefited if they had cast a different lead.

To your list of actors who rise above being merely serviceable, I would add Alicia Coppola, who made a character who could have been one note something more, and who has deftly handled both comedy and drama.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, Alan, aren't you now on the flip side of your own position on Lost, when you sniped at those who were disappointed in the premiere with your "Can't Please Everybody" digs at the start of your Episode 2 review? I don't watch Jericho, but it's funny you're worried about a rabid fan base attacking you for disagreeing (even though you're backing your opinion with concrete examples of what bugs you, as those who were disappointed in the Lost premiere did). I really liked Episode 2 of Lost, yet stayed out of the discussion because, for the first time on your site, I felt you as host and moderator had set a tone that discouraged openminded discussion and differences of opinion.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On the Dole, I'm not sure I understand your beef. That Lost review was far from the first time where I've mentioned that my opinion diverges from some of the commenters (see my frequent defense of the Baltimore Sun storyline in this season's Wire reviews), and I don't think I was being harsh or discouraging dissent.

People are welcome to disagree with anything and everything I write about. Any attitude other than that would be hypocritical, given what I do. The point of this review wasn't "stay away from me, please, 'Jericho' fans," but "I know this is a happy day for you, 'Jericho' fans, so you might not want to spoil it by reading my honest opinion of your show."

Anonymous said...

Alan, just want to start by saying I'm not trying to pick a fight, but wanted to express my disappointment. I completely understood the point of your Jericho review. You were being honest about your own take on the show, but respectful that others would have much more affection and enthusiasm for it. And you didn't want to rain on their parade.

My point was that I felt those of us who were let down by the premiere of Lost approached it the same way, but didn't get much respect for our minority opinion. Your post on Episode 2 opens with an entire paragraph somewhat suggesting that E2 proves our opinion of E1 wrong.

In particular, your lines "From the Department of You Can't Please Everybody" and "I would hope that Confirmed Dead would quiet some of those complaints" functioned as a pre-emptive strike, implying that if you liked E2, you'd been wrong about E1, and if you didn't like either, you were a wet blanket without valid opinions. (Granted, some of the commenters after your initial post were much more prone to shut down dissent than you in your initial post, but, like I said, I felt you'd set a bad tone.)

Sorry if this seems oversensitive on my part. I really respect the work you do here, and the respectful environment you've established for insightful and provocative commentary from all corners. It just seemed like the Lost posts were taking an uncharacteristically narrowminded approach. Seems like most of us E1 dissenters were won over by E2, but shouted down in the discussions of both episodes.

Unknown said...

I remember asking myself why I kept watching the show during the first half of last season, but then after the mid-season break, the show basically became the Hawkins/Jake are AWESOME hour, and I got sucked back into it. I honestly don't pay much attention to the "family drama" portions of the show. I'm mostly waiting for the next time Hawkins acts super badass and takes someone down.

Unknown said...

I haven't seen season 2 yet, but I can't argue with Alan.

Here's the reasons why I watch the show:
* Lennie James, secret agent, and his bomb in the basement.
* Stanley, Mimi, and Bonnie.
* Heather.

That's it.

Except for the farm family and Heather, the Family Drama sections of this show are not compelling. Yeah, who cares if you leave your pregnant wife or not- there's BOMBS that went off. Who CARES who the mayor is now? Skeet Ulrich is attractive but wooden. Oh, and Dale and Skylar are a creepy, creepy couple that I do not want to watch on the television.

Mainly, I just watch it for the Hawkins/bomb drama. The overall story is much more interesting than the rest of the show. Maybe I just watch it because I like that concept, if not their total execution.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, Alan, I loved you before, but slipping VORP into your newspaper column? You kill me.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to start a campaign to get Chris Parnell hired back on SNL, yet again, by sending Lorne Michaels tons of Mr. Pibb and Red Vines.

Jericho doesn't really grab me either, but anything that gives Alicia Coppola steady work is objectively good.

P.S. Here's a quotation that On the Dole might want to take to heart: "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anonymous said...

P.P.S. The thread he's complaining about is here. I just double-checked to see what I did wrong, and apparently it was the part where I expressed my opinion and used facts and logic to back it up. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Jim Treacher, despite your negativity towards me, trust that I mean this in a friendly way:

If I had a complaint about something you wrote, I'd address it to you (as I did in that thread you link to). My beef here was that Alan's Lost E2 post started off by poisoning the well against the dissenting voices of E1, and the language he'd used struck me as much like what he feared Jericho fans would hurl at him for his review of that show.

Feel free to disagree with me at any or all times, but please don't put words in my mouth. I don't know you personally, I have no problem with us disagreeing, I respect your opinions and your right to them, and this should all be in good fun. No need to pick fights where they don't (and shouldn't) exist.

Anonymous said...

What's VORP? I didn't want to be spoiled (however minorly) or drink from Alan's haterade for Jericho, so I missed that ref. Thankee :-)

Anonymous said...

It means "Value Over a Replacement Player". It's a baseball statistic (if it's in other sports, I'm not aware of it) that's often revealing of what the player brings to the table.

I forget who coined it, but I'd guess Baseball Prospectus or Bill James.

Anonymous said...

More specifically...

"Value Over Replacement Player. The number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances."

Anonymous said...

oh alan,

pull that big ol' stick out of your ass an lighten up on jericho.

those of us who love it, love it just for what it is.

and you have always been a "if i can't say something nice..." kind of guy.

so... if you can't say something nice...

Anonymous said...

"Jim Treacher, despite your negativity towards me"

I have no negativity towards you. Unless anybody who disagrees with you is "negative."

By the way, "poisoning the well"? You certainly have a flair for the dramatic.

Anonymous said...

on the dole, you say you respect others' opinions, yet you rag on Alan for expressing his--on his own blog, no less. You can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

The reason fans love this show so much is because it feels real with its low budget filming and special effects (I think CG is way over done and not believable now a days) and it has a little bit of everything so it appeals to a much larger audience (Love/Family Drama=Women, Fighting/conspiracy=Men) I am female and personally I love all of it from the love stories and drama to the battles and conspiracy theories.

Jericho is one of the most original shows I have seen in a long time. I think the actors do a great job because they make it feel like this could be you and they don’t overact which is one of my pet peeves, I hate over-actors!!

Anonymous said...


I'd like to believe that my comments above can be read and understood correctly, and that the shift in tone after the first post conveys that I recognized I may have been too harsh at first. But maybe I just come across as a pompous windbag, a blowhard bully, or a rash dimwit. I don't know how to express my thoughts and my points better than I tried to above. I guess I'm ill-suited for this blog format. I meant well. I grow weary. Have fun. Sorry to Jericho fans for the semi-hijack of this post.

Christy said...

I love post-apocalypse tales and want to like Jericho, but it has always had moments that were painful to watch. Last night's episode just makes it too insultingly anvilicious and political to tolerate. So we get to see what Hollywood thinks a world lead by a Cheney (R. Wyoming) leadership would be. How dated is that?

Anonymous said...

I put Jericho in the same category as "heroes": great ideas, mediocre execution. However, both shows are often very fun to watch, and highly addictive in a format like DVD where you can just bounce from one to the next. Though Lost and Battlestar are much better shows, they are only a bad/cheesy moment or two away from becoming "Heroes" or "Jericho." I also think a lot of why the fans wanted the show back was the utter, utter cliffhanger of a season ender. It really hurt to see that and know the show was cancelled.