20080221

The Main Line

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The Save Jericho Campaign has come full circle; again the show is in trouble. Nielsen viewers apparently are not fans of Jericho or at least apparently not fans enough to stay up past 10. The timeslot CBS chose is being blamed both far and wide for the shows lack of traditionally rated audience. Many are comparing the ratings from last year to now and suggesting that Jericho has less audience for season 2. While this may be technically true I am fairly certain there are more folks watching televison at the 8 o’clock hour than at ten. Science Fiction, which is about the closest umbrella genre you could use to encompass Jericho, has always had a hard time culling viewers on TV. Battlestar Galactica, a critically acclaimed repurposing of late seventies SciFi hokum has only ever managed a weekly viewership of around 3 million. That is slightly lower than Jericho of late and says something about the way the show is perceived.

My older sister will not watch the show "Ugly Betty". She just cannot get past the name. I think a similar thing is happening with Jericho but in Jericho’s case it is that people just cannot get past the genre. Some of us saw the mushroom cloud on the commercials and were intrigued and others just saw post apocalyptic. That last categorization of Jericho I find very amusing as it seems that for hardcore fans of post apocalyptic fiction Jericho just is not post apocalyptic enough. Andrea Newton made reference to the usual suspects of that genre in the title of her essay The Apocalypse Will Not Have Zombies — or Ice. I recommend reading the essay as highly as the author recommends watching Jericho. Newton lays out how all of her preconceptions of the show were off base and then goes on to paint an accurate picture of the essence of Jericho's story.

That essence as it turns out is difficult at best to capture. Especially now that the shortened second season and shaved budget have forced the producers to streamline the product while attempting to stay true to the method of storytelling the fans have come to expect. As I watch each new episode of season 2 I am reminded of my feelings sitting in a dark movie theatre as a new installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was released. That feeling then and now for Jericho was and is WOW! Wow, what a good job of riding the fine lines of the fans expectations and wow what a lot of heart went into this.

A wonderful symbol of the heart and soul of this show was introduced in the episode “Condor”. A flag belonging to the slain former mayor of the town is given to the mayor’s son. It Is the Gadsden flag seen at the top of this article. A replica of the flag Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress for use by the commander in chief of the American navy. On the yellow flag can be found a rattlesnake coiled to strike with the words “Don’t Tread On Me”. Benjamin Franklin was an advocate of using the rattlesnake as a symbol for America. In 1775 he wrote:

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretentions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenceless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”

As usual the writers of Jericho have done their homework. What a fitting fortitudinous symbol for the people of a small Kansas town who find themselves in a heap of trouble with the fate of a nation hanging in the balance.

11 comments:

Jericho Returns said...

Amazing Tero. Thank you. Long live Jericho!

terocious said...

Thank You, Jane. Yes long live this great Show.

A very special Thank You goes out to Ranger Maybei for sending me the wonderful Screencap of Johnstons Gadsden Flag from the episode Condor.

Anonymous said...

way to go terocious ... you hit the nail on the head again ... I was all in to Jericho (one of the nuts ...)during the first season (watched live and recorded to watch again later) ... now that it's at 10pm I have to record only ... I would also question CBS's decision to NOT AIR RERUNS during the writers strike ... they reran their hit shows but not Jericho ... I think they missed a HUGE opportunity by not airing the entire season again (when media attention was up) at a time when people could actually watch and enjoy ... I still love the show but I feel like I'm missing something ... that was a really big jump they made going to the new season and there are just too many loose ends out there ...

SaveJake said...

T........
You had me at "Don't Tread On Me"!
I agree with everything you have said but I feel Jericho is a 'Drama' not SciFi. I don't feel it's something that could never really happen. Scarey eh?! As for your sister, I felt the same way about "Ugly Betty". How can you call someone ugly?

One thing to keep in mind is that the numbers prove that people are not watching TV period. They have lost viewership maybe due to networks not backing the writers. Maybe because we have found so little to watch. The true fans that are Nielsens have so many ways of being counted as viewers whether they watch or not...the real question is how accurate are the Nielsen Ratings? They don't even need to be home to have the TV on the channel they want the ratings to be counted for......!
I don't know why the ratings look so bad...but I have several thoughts on the matter!

terocious said...

Hi Anonymous,

I think we can throw the network not airing the show during reruns on the pile with the rest of the missteps made by CBS. It seems peculiar that the most creative marketers of a TV show should be the shows fans but perhaps it is not that peculiar in this day and age. It would have been nice if the network had a clue as to how to pick up that ball and run with it.


SJ,

I think Jericho is a drama as well but for me referring to it as SciFi has nothing to do with its plausibility. Anyhow I think you hit on one of the key points here which is that Jericho is a show which is hard to classify. I have heard so many stories of people who knew someone who did not want to watch this show because they already had its number and then after they are coaxed into watching it they changed their tune.

As far as Ugly Betty goes it is a really odd title for an American TV series and I did not know what to make of it until I discovered that it was an adaptation of the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea ("I am Betty, the ugly one"). I thought the whole thing pretty cool after this simply based on the way different cultures approach the use of such words as ugly. In defense of the series I think it has done a wonderful job of making people question just what ugly is.(But I notice that you used the past tense "felt" so I may be preaching to the choir.) :-)

AmyV said...

Tero - you are far more eloquent than I. Even if you don't submit this to the Jericho blog carnival for Friday, I'm going to include it; more people need to read this.

SaveJake said...

T...Yes, I 'felt' that way. Actually after my sister told me I had to watch it, I loved the show! I think Betty is a beauty.

Amy....I couldn't agree with more!

kystorms said...

This was a great post, and well worth being reposted in as many areas as we can find for it, thank you for doing such a moving post.

:-)

Rich said...

I don't this all too often, but I'll say it today.

That's a brilliant piece of writing. Loved it.

Best,
Rich

flutterby said...

terocious.........thank you for your wonderful words. Yes, Jericho is difficult to classify. Those of us who have embraced it want to see it succeed and continue on. We simply want it to be given a fair opportunity to reach new viewers. Ratings, time slots, re-runs/re-broadcasts all figure in the end result. It might take a little moving around till it settles in. I hope CBS will agree and give it the best chance they can to succeed.

Balceroregontr said...

Tero, The is nothing I can add to the comments. This was a brillant piece. We didn't watch Jericho at first because the premise seemed too dark to us. Once we did we were hooked. I did like how CBS tried to get different type of viewers with different ads before seasson 2. I do believe that a lot of people have turned off their television because of the strike and didn't realize there was new television to watch. The advertising needed to be done in print too.
Debby from SC