I’d like to begin by thanking Jericho fans for the peanuts that were sitting on my chair in advance of Thursday (July 19) morning’s TCA panel for the resurrected show.
I was hungry. The peanuts hit the spot. I still can’t bring myself to love the show (it’s not like I haven’t tried), but I’ve always been a fan of goobers.
The Thursday panel for critics was largely a respectful and congratulatory affair.
"It’s been an incredible experience from the lows of cancellation to the fans rising up for us," series star Skeet Ulrich says. "It’s been an amazing journey."
It wasn’t a journey any of them could have seen coming when Jericho wasn’t renewed back in May.
"When you get cancelled in the world of television, and it happens often, you kind of think that’s it," Ashley Scott notes.
Executive producer Carol Barbee notes that even though CBS had cancelled Jericho, the network knew the potential of what they could be getting.
"At the end of the season, we’d already pitched was season two would be to CBS and they were very happy with the creative of it," she says, explaining that almost immediately after the Nut-centric fan campaign began, producers began pitching the network on alternative platforms, including a Jericho telefilm and then a truncated season. The final result was a seven-episode midseason order, which prompted a number of calls to spread the news.
"I don’t think I had to convince anybody of anything, I was more relaying the news that I’d heard, that we were coming back…" Ulrich recalls. "I love sharing shocking news and waking poor Lennie up in London. I was just so happy and I couldn’t believe it had come to that point and I wanted to share the news with the people it’d meant the most to."
This was co-star Lennie James’s initial regular American TV experience, so he cracks, "As this was my first time out here, as of now that was completely normal."
On a more serious note, James thinks he understands what CBS learned
"Our audience became faces and people and lives. It became real and it wasn’t just a number that appeared in the fast nationals."
He adds, "It was a rare insight for the network and the advertisers and I hope they use it sensibly."
Barbee tells reporters that production on the seven episodes will begin this Monday (July 23) and that shooting will have completed by mid-September, so Jericho would be ready to go on air at some point late this fall if some CBS freshman drama — one critic specifically suggested Viva Laughlin — were to quickly fail. She says that producers are prepared to do more than seven episodes this season, should the request be made.
While there have been reports that the upcoming season of Jericho would have a lower budget than the first, Barbee says that the only real impact is that the shooting schedule has been accelerated. No actors have been removed from the cast due to cut-backs, though the overall narrative for the season had to be condensed. The initial plan was to have the 22-episode second season take place in three different locations — Jericho, at the new Cheyenne government and in New York. Instead, the story will mostly be told in Jericho.
Want some more specific spoilers? Here they come.
The first thing viewers need to know is that they won’t be left hanging on the unresolved conflict that ended the season.
"I wouldn’t do that to you, no," Barbee says. "We set up a couple big cliffhangers at the end of 22 and we pay them off at the end of episode one. We start with the battle and you see what happened and then we time jump to a couple weeks later."
Things will pick up with Jericho under occupation by the Cheyenne government, a force aiming to keep order in the war-torn region. Although the battle between New Bern and Jericho is over, there are still revenge killings. Barbee says that one of the season’s central themes will be about the relationship between a nation’s people and its government, a civics lesson that may strike a chord with a national election coming up. While there may be complications with the intruding government, they also help to get things running again in Jericho, bringing back power, supplies and, apparently, make-up.
The premiere episode will be what Barbee describes as a "Big Tent" episode, welcoming new and old viewers into the show’s universe.
Barbee said that the Stanley-Mimi engagement will be one of the season’s main personal arcs.
"The big story of the year is the mission that Hawkins and Jakes have to do to, um, save the world," she adds.
In terms of returning or absent characters, Barbee promises that Sprague Grayden’s frequently AWOL Heather will return for multiple episodes. She emphasizes that "It is our sincere hope that you’ll see everybody on the show who you’ve seen before who are still living."
What does that mean, then, for Gerald McRaney’s Johnston Green? Well, the first thing you have to know is that Johnston is well and truly dead. The character’s arc was always meant to coincide with Jake’s arc and while Johnston’s death may have come a bit e
arlier than producers might have initially expected, McRaney was a trooper about his character’s demise. Everybody on the panel raved about McRaney and nobody would rule out the possibility of the character returning someday in flashbacks. Barbee did say, though, that there aren’t any Johnston flashbacks planned for the first seven episodes.
On lessons learned from this entire experience, Barbee quips, ""I highly recommend inserting the name of some food product, some mailable food product, in the finales…"
Nuts to you, then, Jericho fans.