CBS' walls against 'Jericho' come tumbling down

Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

You never thought it would happen in your lifetime, but, believe it or not, we now have actual tangible proof that television executives can, and will, listen to their viewers.

It came earlier this week when CBS - swayed by a spirited fan crusade and a mind-boggling bombardment of nuts - pulled an about-face with "Jericho" and rescued the apocalyptic survivalist drama from the cancellation graveyard.

Oh, how so refreshing. How encouraging. How totally stunning.

"Over the past few weeks you have put forth an impressive and probably unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime-time television series," CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler said in a letter to fans posted on the "Jericho" Web site. "You got our attention; your e-mails and collective voice have been heard."

And so CBS has ordered seven additional episodes of the Skeet Ulrich-led series about a small Kansas town struggling to deal with the aftershocks of a nearby nuclear attack. Those episodes will air sometime at midseason next year. However, to assure its survival beyond that, the show will have to improve upon the lackluster ratings it generated over the second half of its first season - a challenge that could be daunting.

But that's a concern for another day. For now, we should dwell on the positives. At a time when disgruntled viewers feel abused by a broadcasting industry that routinely makes inane and thoughtless decisions, it's great for a change to witness a display of old-fashioned customer service.

And not only should this development warm the hearts of rabid "Jericho" supporters, it should add fuel to the hopes of any marginally rated - but faithfully supported - show that teeters on the Nielsen precipice. I, for one, will now never again scoff at fervent fans who launch "save our show" campaigns.

Not that I see this becoming a trend. Examples of shows that came back from the dead remain extremely rare. They include "Cagney & Lacey" (1983, CBS), "Designing Women" (1987, CBS), "Roswell" (The WB, 2000) and "Providence" (NBC, 2002). In addition, "Family Guy" (Fox) was famously revived by robust DVD sales and last year "7th Heaven" (the WB) was given a one-season reprieve when the fledgling CW network brought it back. And then there's "JAG," which was dumped by NBC after its first season, but found new life on CBS.

So why did the "Jericho" resurrection work? Well, it helps that the show has ultra-dedicated fans. Fans like Concord, Calif., resident Carrie Kroeger, who immediately after CBS axed the show, went into "mourning" and posted this terse remark on my blog: "TV is dead to me."

Those fans rallied together to make some major noise in the form of protest petitions and e-mails. But mainly they overwhelmed the network with nuts. (The crunchy things you eat, not crazy zealots). Yes, they pelted the CBS offices in New York with several thousands of pounds of peanuts. (No word on whether they were dry roasted or not, or even shelled).

The nutty strategy was pegged to "Jericho's" season-ending cliff-hanger, which found the citizens of Jericho on the brink of war with a neighboring town. During the confrontation, Ulrich's character uttered, "Nuts" - a reference to a historic moment during World War II, when U.S. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe used the word in response to the Germans demanding an American surrender at the Battle of the Bulge.

Obviously, the "Jericho" fans didn't surrender either, fighting the good fight until they coaxed CBS into submission. The last line in Tassler's message to those diehard devotees?

"P.S. Please stop sending us nuts."

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.