Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Did anyone else read Alas, Babylon when they were in jr. high? I'm pretty sure that was one of the books I selected at random during the semester when I got sent to the library instead of having to go to gym class, and that book both terrified and delighted me. It was written back in the day when nuclear war was more likely to simply decimate urban populations (as opposed to the global annihilation I grew up with) and depicted a small Florida town cut off from the outside world by nuclear war. As one might expect, things get bad pretty quickly (although they do become less racist, so I suppose that's a plus).

As a socially awkward (and largely misanthropic) teen, I was very fond of any of the "survivors of global apocalypse" books like The Stand) (which, I suppose, led nicely into the teenage draw towards apocalyptic zombie flicks). That combined with ongoing fear of nuclear holocaust made Alas, Babylon a pretty cirtical element of my adolesence.

All of which goes a long way towards explaining why I have high hopes for Jericho despite a severely flawed pilot. Granted, the pilot has a lot of ground to cover, so it's perhaps reasonable that things are strained a little bit. It's got to introduce Skeet Ulrich (the prodigal son of the family), his family, an ex-girlfriend, the local police department, assorted townspeople, and a bus full of schoolkids. And then introduce a nuclear war and the first rounds of local panic.

As a result the show's a little overstuffed and resorts to some sort of hamfisted narrative twists to cram everything in in forty-eight minutes. That said, it's certainly got some nice casting elements to recommend it. Skeet remains about the same as he always is - a slightly lethargic version of Johnny Depp. Gerald McRaney continues his Deadwood-intiated work on eradicating his Major Dad image with a nice bit as town mayor. Shoshannah Stern seems to have transitioned off of Weeds to do this, which was perhaps a bad decision show-quality-wise, but it's nice to see her getting work. On the less positive side, the show features Sprague Grayden, whose arrival on Joan of Arcadia signalled the rapid decay of that once-good show. I'm not sure whether to blame her for it, but the temptation is strong. Hopefully, she'll be able to redeem herself here.

Rating: B (Worth watching if you like nuclear war)

Reviewed by Padgett Arango
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