"Jericho: The Complete Series" DVD Review

June 17, 2008 by Zach Demeter

Click Here!I’m sure by now everyone has heard the story: after CBS swung the axe on Jericho, fans became outraged that they would never know what would happen to the small town in Kansas and its citizens. Ending on a cliffhanger that involved the town of Jericho going up against a nearby town and final sound in everyone’s ears being the sound of gun fire; fans rallied after the word came from CBS that Jericho wouldn’t return and in turn they sent millions of nuts.

Jericho is a show about a small town in Kansas that is one of few towns remaining after a nuclear holocaust strikes the United States. Cut off from the outside world, the town of Jericho and other surrounding towns that weren’t entirely whipped out struggle to survive with what little food and supplies they have. Throughout the series the town receives aid from the outside world and towards the end of the season, surrounding towns that were once their friends were now rivals.

The First Season
Obviously the big pull in Jericho is the telling of a post-nuked United States. Conspiracies theories aside, it’s a frightening look into what could be should ever a disaster of such an epic proportion ever occur. While everyone is united at first, watching them slowly turn on one another is something that feels like it could really happen. I’m not an expert in technology by any means, but the ensuing power outages and EMP bomb that later sweeps Jericho sets the rest of the series to be a believable telling of what it could be like in a “new frontier” such as this.

Of course the characters in the series are its strongest point. From the get go our characters are remarkably fleshed out, giving you glimpses into who they are within moments of their appearance on screen. When our star of the show, Jake (Skeet Ulrich), is introduced we immediately get a feeling of a man who has a troubled past. His arrival into Jericho after years of being gone and the reactions on some of the characters faces tell volumes about a past that we eventually learn more about throughout the series. While the stories can take a soap opera turn at times, the characters are what kept the fans of the show coming back and demanding more. Another key example of a character that radiates importance without saying much is Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), who is a new arrival to Jericho who seems to have all the answers to their crisis. While he has a valid sounding back story, it’s immediately suspect.

An odd connection between two actors I saw in the series was that of Clare Carey (who plays Mary Bailey) and Alex Carter (who played a Fire Chief). I recognized them immediately from the one-season-run Point Pleasant on Fox where the two played husband and wife. Carter was only in the pilot, which is odd because he’s a fairly prominent actor in television—then again, the fire department didn’t have any large roles in later episodes, so he could have just been a character that was written out of the show after the pilot. Still, I thought it was a cool connection between the two actors.

There were moments in the season that felt like they dragged a little. After a superb first six episodes, by the time I got to the third disc in the series, I felt that it dragged a little. It wasn’t until “Rogue River” that the series really started shining again; for awhile I imagined the show deteriorating in a fashion similar to Smallville—strong start and a weak finish. Much to my delight, however, once “Rogue River” happened, the series never slowed down again and each episode was almost as exciting as the pilot and the “Fallout” episode.

Click Here!The conspiracy of who fired the nuclear bombs was never fully revealed in the series and we only learn a bit of who was really behind it all towards the end of the season. While the show misleads the viewers once or twice, making us think that the bombs came from Iran and North Korea, we eventually learn it was an internal matter that the US Government knew about. If this is the eventual outcome of the series, then I will be slightly disappointed—even if the show uses current events such as 9/11 and Katrina as standing points, I don’t need to hear about the current inadequacies that the current US government may or may not have. It’s a tricky situation—much like Lost’s mysterious beasts in the jungle bit in the first season, once the audience figures out what’s really lurking on the outside the allure and mystique goes out the window.

Real-world inspirations aside, the thing I enjoyed most about Jericho was the “old west” aspect of it. I didn’t realize it until I was about halfway through the season and saw the boys riding horses in one of the episodes towards the end of the season, but the town of Jericho and the surrounding populace really felt like an old west series. The inclusion of Jonah Prowse (James Remar) as the town “outlaw” especially made it seem like a shootout at high noon would occur and this overall element really added another layer to the show.

Without a doubt the biggest element of the show that intrigued me was the fan support of it. I didn’t watch the show in its original airing due to the large part that I don’t watch any programming on CBS. Despite other members of my family watching it and singing it’s praise, I never tuned in as it was either on when another show I watched was on or I simply because I was already watching too many new shows last season. When I got to the last episode, “Nuts”, I knew I would finally get to see the inspiration for the fans sending tons of them to CBS. I wasn’t disappointed either; the speech that Jake gives to Phil Constantino from the nearby town of New Bern was perfect and I can easily see how fans took the characters plight to heart and turned it into their own mission to revive the show.

The Second Season
While the above was a reprint of my original Season One DVD review, I found that there wasn’t anything I wanted to change in it, even after seeing the second season of the series. It didn’t change much and by the end of the short seven episode run I was both disappointed by what the crew had come up with to tantalize old fans and prospective new ones and also impressed. I don’t know what’s worse—the fact that the series, once again, hit its stride toward the end of (its very short) season or that the series has once again been cancelled.

By the time the second season debuted, five months after I wrote my first season review, I was as ready to watch the return of the show with everyone else. Unfortunately a busy school schedule and an odd timeslot kept me from watching everyone of the Jericho episodes and despite a general lack of things to watch on television due to the Writer’s Strike, CBS still managed to bungle the airing with little promotion. I guess they were hoping fans would revive ratings as they did the show, but the end result was disappointment from every camp.

Still, it’s hard to deny the show for even the scant seven episodes it returned for. It did this only with the help of the fans and I just don’t think there was enough in the first episode of the season to really bring in too many new faces. It was a superb return, to be sure, but the show had so much history behind it from its first season that anyone who had heard about the “Nuts” campaign would simply be lost from watching it. I realize it wasn’t in the shows best interest to completely recap the characters and that would only have wasted time but no amount of clips from previous seasons could add as much depth to the characters as simply watching it. But I guess that’s an issue with every show, so in the end I guess I’ll just blame CBS again for cancelling this one before new fans could really grasp onto it.

Click Here!Moaning about the handling of the show aside, Jericho packed a lot into its seven episodes and while a lot of it felt rushed the first time around, I realized just how smoothed out and connected everything was on a second viewing. Realizing that they had, possibly, only seven episodes to both wrap up threads from the last season as well as start a few more (only to immediately end those as well). The writers did a remarkable job at this and while I felt the episodes were dialogue heavy, I realize it was only to keep things movie. It certainly had more of a rapid pace than the first season and there was certainly no “filler.” Of course now I realize that it was some of those filler scenes that made the characters so enjoyable in the first place…so either way, you can’t win I guess.

Not only did the series manage to come back on a shorter schedule, but it also had a smaller budget, meaning that the special effects used in the show would have to be reserved for the two big events: the premiere and finale. This made the five in between feel more like the aforementioned dialogue episodes, but honestly these are just minor quibbles. The show is such an entertaining concept all on its own that it could probably reveal that Jake Green was really an alien. Well maybe not, but if Lost has taught me anything, it’s to be very gentle with your comments toward it because no matter how weird it gets it remains entertaining.

Overall the second, and first, seasons of Jericho come Highly Recommended. It’s a shame we won’t get anymore (or will we? C’mon Sci-Fi Network!), but the writers did an adequate job of wrapping up the show while leaving it open-ended at the same time.

The DVD
Jericho: The Complete Series comes housed in a slipcase with the individual releases for the two seasons packed next to each other. There’s nothing significant about this set other than the cardboard slip, which has that jaw-dropping image from the series finale as its cover, but it does have a bonus disc full of extra stuff that fans will want to see. We’ll tackle that disc in turn, but first the individual season sets:
Season 1
Inside the cardboard slipcase are three thin-pak cases that house two discs each. Covers for each disc range with the cast of the series, ranging from main to supporting; Jake’s present in all of the covers, with Emily Sullivan (Ashley Scott) and Heather Lisinski (Sprauge Grayden) being on two of the three as well. Disc art features a character on each and menus for the show are motionless with only the morse code beeping over the main menu.

The presentation of the show is remarkable. Great colors, grain where it’s needed and a clear image throughout, the show looks great. The audio, a solid 5.1 mix that actually gets used, is also a nice addition. I’m glad to see that 5.1 seems to be the standard for these TV shows on DVD as it really adds to the viewing experience. There is a lot of needless bass in the show at times, with commercial breaks being sounded by a resounding reverb on more than one occasion. Still, I like bass—obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought a subwoofer about three times too big for my room. The back of the packaging states that some things may have been edited out from the original broadcast, but since I didn't watch the show as it aired originally, I don't know what was left out.

Moving onto the special features we get a mixture of deleted scenes for twelve separate episodes. All of the deleted scenes come with commentary by producers Dan Shotz and Karim Zreik and there are some really nice things left on the cutting room floor. Mostly character elements, but they’re worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the series.

Next up are five commentaries on “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”, “Fallout”, “Rogue River”, “Red Flag” and “Vox Populi.” All of the commentaries are fun to listen to, with Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James being the biggest clowns on the tracks. Executive producers Jon Turtletaub and Carol Barbee keep the tracks on-topic with comments about the production of the specific episodes and other technical aspects.

“Building Jericho” is your typical making-of featurette with interviews from cast and crew. We do get to see a lot of the set that we don’t normally see, which is very cool—it takes some of “wow” factor out of the show when you realize it’s all on a sound stage, but how they hide everything and still manage to make it look as great as it does is a true testament to the technical team working on the show. The actors chime in with their comments on the show and how much fun it is to work on it. There’s back-patting all around and not a single mention of the show being cancelled at one point. Guess they’re saving that for the second season DVD, complete with a full count of how many nuts were sent to CBS.

The final extra is a “What If?” extra that is a “revealing look at how the nuclear arms race evolved since the end of World War II.” This extra isn’t really related to the show other than the nuclear aspect and it doesn’t do much else than scare the bejesus out of the viewer. Nuclear war is always a scary prospect and this documentary doesn’t do much to help ease the fear—in fact, it does the opposite.

Overall the series has a solid representation on DVD. Fans will be able to watch their favorite episodes over and over while they wait for the second season to premiere (as of this writing it is still unscheduled) and it will hopefully bring in a few new fans (I already plan on lending out my copy to help rope in a few more viewers) so that the show can have a very successful return to air. Recommended.

Season Two
Click Here!Jericho’s second season comes housed in a two-disc amaray DVD case without a slipcover or insert. Jake gets center stage on the cover as well as the DVD menus and disc descriptions are placed on the reverse of the DVD insert, behind the discs. The video and audio presentation is identical to what we got on the first season set: clean, clear and without flaw. The image is a tad soft, but I think that’s just me being used to Blu-ray’s and overly critical of DVD transfers now.

The extras for this set start out on the first disc and don’t stop until the second (not really saying much considering there’s only two discs, but still). Each of the seven episodes feature commentary with Jonathan E. Steingberg and a mix of other crew and all but one episode (“Jennings & Rall”) feature deleted scenes. The commentaries are all insightful and a treat to listen to considering the first season set, containing sixteen episodes, contained commentary on only five of the episodes, so it’s quite the rare occurrence to have commentary on everyone of the episodes (unless you’re The Simpsons). Fans of the show will want to check the commentaries out for nuggets of information that aren’t available anywhere else…not to mention the general fun mood of the commentaries, which translate into an entertaining listen as well. There’s also an alternate unaired ending cut of the finale that’s included here as well that has a different commentary track starting at around the third act of the episode.

Next are the deleted scenes for the episodes: "Reconstruction" (1:25), "Condor" (1:12), "Oversight" (0:57), "Termination for Cause" (1:02), "Sedition" (3:47), and "Patriots and Tyrants" (6:17). As you can see the scenes get lengthier as the episodes go about and each one of them has commentary to accompany it and discussion on why certain things were cut. Also included here is the “Alternate Ending for Series” (25:11), which also has commentary and is simply clipped from the alternate unaired ending version of “Patriots and Tyrants.”

Following that there is a pair of featurettes: "Rebuilding Jericho" (25:56) and "Nut Job" (9:46). “Rebuilding” talks about the return to the set and the changes that needed to be made to the show to meet its new shorter shoot schedule as well as smaller budget. “Nut Job”, of course, revolves around the fan effort to deluge CBS with peanuts. I’m not sure what this show will go down in history more for: being a highly entertaining and original show or for the Nuts campaign. Either way these two extras reflect an incredible amount of love for the fans, as without them this second season set wouldn’t even have happened.

That wraps it up for this second season set and now we move onto…

Jericho: The Complete Series - The Bonus Disc
So how is this disc packaged? In a simple sleeve, shoved between the two standard retail sets. I would have honestly preferred they gone a little more out-of-the-way to produce this complete series set as this is kind of a cheap presentation, but I guess we can’t be too picky. This bonus disc doesn’t house much of interest and really seems more like a bunch of leftovers that were produced for the second season set, but still it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series (and don’t already own the first season set).

Most of the extras here are letterboxed in a 4x3 frame (as opposed to the anamorphic 16x9 extras from season two) and our first bonus is a "Tick Tick Boom" (1:43) extra which is nothing more than an extended ad for season two. I’m not sure when this aired, as it’s too lengthy for air and I don’t recall seeing it online…but here it is. Not going to do much good on a DVD set if this was never actually used to advertise the season, but still. A neat bonus at least.

"Behind the Scenes 'Thank You'" (2:12) is an lengthier reel from the “thank you” sequences from the season two DVD extras and "Napalm Action Sequence (Season 2)" (2:32) and "Train Crash Sequence (Season 2)" (2:18) follow suit in similar form. Just extra footage clipped from the final extras and slapped on here in a more solitary area. "100 Reasons to Watch Jericho" (2:03) is a humorous reel written by a fan about why to watch the show (most of them revolve a scantily clad Ashley Scott and a scruffy Skeet Ulrich). A short "Table Read" (3:43) is included as well. Finally we have "Cast Members Memorable Moments" (20:59), eight different segments with nine cast members each discussion specific elements from episodes they enjoyed the most. This is actually the only real worthwhile extra on this bonus disc, as it’s the only thing that’s not a simple repeat or revamp of other content found on the season two set previously.

Overall the Jericho – The Complete Series is worth it only for the most die-hard of fans and those that didn’t pick up the previous season on DVD. The flimsy slipcase and whimpy bonus disc aren’t enough to require a complete repurchase of season one again, so use your own discretion before purchasing this set.

Highly Recommended if you don’t already own the first season.
Recommended if you’re a die hard fan.
Skip It if you already own the first season.

Jericho - The Complete Series is now available on DVD.

 

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