20080313

The Main Line

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History Loves Company: This odd show Jericho

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Teachers come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them work for everyone. One of my most favorite was Mr.Orth who, with a booming voice, was a one man theatre bringing history to life. We met him towards the end of his career so my classmates and I received the benefit of some 25 years of storytelling. With his metered delivery and clever use of the cliffhanger he had us, in class, on time each day and quietly awaiting the next installment.
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I bet Mr Orth would like Jericho. Because, no kidding, Jericho teaches American history like he did. Well, almost like he did because what Jericho is really good at is supplementing the knowledge passed down from our history teachers. Replanting seeds that grow into impulses to investigate anew to see if the writers are really referencing what we think. I can actually envision some progressive history class of the not so distant future using Jericho as a sort of Transformer who can twist, turn, invert and oscillate to become the real deal.
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Yes, you could teach a whole class working backwards to American history from this show. Jericho’s imagery is iconic Americana recalling and claiming an era as our own. By our own I do not mean belonging to us, but rather that the whole of American history is our moment. Early on in the show, after 23 nuclear bombs have exploded in as many American cities, the show proceeds to break down divisions between old and new. Electric lights are replaced by candles and lanterns and almost instantly history begins repeating itself in this wild, wild, wasteland.
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Much is accomplished on Jericho through mood and lighting. The camera work can be sweeping or tight with Imagery evoking everything from a devastated and almost heartless heartland to a countryside on the mend. The environments of the show are its descriptive passages; shafts of light for the characters to pass through and stir up dust. At its finest moments Jericho is gorgeous.
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I have to admit I fell in love with the possibilities of last season. I loved the concept of losing modern conveniences and the characters returning to roots of rugged individualism. I loved not knowing how bad things could get and that two men from two different towns about to go to war with one another could sit in a truck and the one who was a captive could say: “Johnston Green Right? Two years ago you came over to New Bern and finished fourth in a bass fishing contest. I finished second.”
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That is why when Jericho came back in February and began to tell a story of reconstruction I silently mourned a little. I thought the lights would come back on and Jericho would lose its edge. I no longer think that. In the last two weeks a young girl was murdered after valiantly defending her home and her brother, one of Jericho’s most peaceful, seized the opportunity to walk straight up to the man responsible and after only a moment’s hesitation, shoot him in the head.
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This is not a show that’s lost its edge. It is a gripping wholly American drama enacted by an amazing cast and conceived by people with a real passion for moments whether they be a shot which avenges the death of a loved one or a shot heard 'round the world.

Jericho with its riveting story telling is a real lesson in entertainment and on television that makes it a delightful oddball.

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3 comments:

Jericho Returns said...

Riveting and brilliant!!

Thanks Tero.

KIC said...

Great little piece. Good points. I know that as much as I intellectually know that scenes like Johnston and the New Bern guy happened during the civil war, seeing that was a gut punch and horribly sad. It is that visceral here and now quality that Jericho gives that makes it important to this day and current viewers. It's one thing to read a book about something a hundred years ago and another to relate it to yourself with immediacy.

terocious said...

Jane,

Thank You.

kic,

That is a perfect description of how I felt watching that scene play out. You're right, Jericho taps deep into our national memory and brings to light tales from our collective imagination. It is a great show.

-b