Ever since Mrs. Dolmen, my second grade teacher at the Lutheran school, instructed us to march quickly into the chapel if we ever heard the sirens, nuclear annihilation has kinda, well, obsessed
me. I was raised on Panic in Year Zero!
fer chrissakes, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach
, and Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon.
Yeah, I was a cheery little kid alright.
So just as I felt compelled to visit the old Nevada Nuclear Proving Ground a few months back, shit, I had to watch last night’s series premiere of the apocalyptic Jericho on CBS. This show is a real throwback to the Cold War era’s The Day After, even more so to Panic in Year Zero!, since it’s set in a small town located a “safe” distance from a string of nuclear blasts. I almost expected to see Ray Milland and Frankie Avalon among the folks loading gas cans into the trunks of their cars. And that’s what makes Jericho work for me. It’s not about high-priced lawyers, brilliant surgeons, or dysfunctional detectives. It’s about everyday people. It’s about the lady who runs the tiny grocery store, the return of the prodigal son, a bus full of school kids. And it’s about whether or not they’ll survive everybody’s worst-case scenario.
There was a lot to like about Jericho’s pilot. The performances are fantastic, from Skeet Ulrich (“Scream”) as the son returned home after five unexplained years, to Gerald McRaney (“Major Dad,” “Deadwood”) as the mayor, to Shoshannah Stern (“Weeds”) as a deaf teenaged girl. The set-up of the show’s Lost-like mysteries — the biggest one being what the hell’s happening “out there” — was well-handled. And three of the pilot’s moments absolutely staggered me: (1) the little kid perched on a rooftop, spotting a mushroom cloud on the horizon; (2) the eerie-as-hell recorded last phone call from a teen’s vacationing mother; (3) Ashley Scott’s nighttime drive to the airport being interrupted by sudden, unexpected bumpiness in the road, which turns out to be caused by the bodies of hundreds of dead birds. I’ve still got chills, and yes, I will be watching the second episode next Wednesday night. Jericho is worth giving a chance.
Oh, and I mentioned that Ashley Scott is a featured player on the show. This alone would prompt me to watch most TV series. Ever since the short-lived Birds of Prey, I’ve been a Scott fan. So much so that I might as well take this opportunity to post a nice photo of Ashley here. Even in the face of nuclear war, a man’s heart can melt.