When it came to selecting which series would be number one on Cultural Learnings’ list of 10 Shows to (Hopefully) Watch in 2008, I had to make a decision that perhaps doesn’t reflect my own personal taste. In terms of shows I’m most looking forward to watching, I can’t possibly rank anything above Lost or Battlestar Galactica, two series I can’t get enough of. However, last summer it became very clear that in covering TV it is important to not just use your own opinions to guide you, but also to recognize shows and fans who go above and beyond, and whose impact on television as a whole is sure to be one of the biggest stories of the year. As a result, here is the number one selection.
A year ago, I had written off Jericho. After losing interest shortly before the series went on hiatus in the fall, I was barely paying attention when the series returned in February only to struggle against tough competition. As its fanbase eroded, and as CBS left it off of its fall schedule, I was amongst those who rationalized its demise – it was never a strong demo performer, CBS can fill the slot with CSI Reruns and get better ratings, and the show never really set the world on fire anyways. And now, half a year later, I believe that Jericho is the most intriguing series to be airing in 2008.
The Nuts for Jericho campaign which emerged last summer was at first charming, and then interesting, and then mindblowing. It transitioned from a small-scale fan initiative to something that has changed the way viewers interact with networks. On one hand, I think that some fan groups have the wrong idea – it isn’t that Jericho fans sent food that made them successful, so the recent Journeyman campaign featuring Rice-A-Roni isn’t quite as effective. It was that the nuts which made their way to CBS headquarters were both intrinsically linked to the series and part of an outpouring of support which was spontaneous and powerful.
While there will be further fan campaigns, there will never be one as surprising and effective as the one to save this CBS drama – fans who had been discounted by the network turned out in large numbers and mobilized in record time. Whether the fans were posting on the CBS Message Boards or starting their own blogs (Such as Jericho Monster, Jericho Junction or Jericho on CBS), ordinary people from across America and across the world were uniting behind a show that they loved. The result was perhaps the greatest comeback story in the last decade of television, and a story that captivated the attention of bloggers everywhere, particularly here at Cultural Learnings.
But if 2007 was the year in which Jericho rose from the ashes, it is in 2008 that it must prove itself. While the show earned a shortened second season of seven episodes thanks to the efforts of fans, the series must rely on those fans to turn out when the show returns to CBS at 10pm on February 12th. While a fantastic story unfolded last year, it is now time to see whether midnight will strike before this Cinderella story can continue. Will Jericho’s return be a final hurrah before the show leaves the airwaves for good, or will this comeback stretch on into 2009 and beyond? Well, it’s kind of hard to tell at this point.
I’ve spent less time covering Jericho lately, and this is largely because there just hasn’t been anything to cover. CBS has released a series of promos and they’ve attempted to launch some Alternate Reality games, but the problem is that their efforts lack the grassroots appeal that the original campaign had. There are still devoted fans willing to promote the series, but due to some internal conflict their collectivity was challenged towards the end of the year. It seems as if the lightning captured during that initial campaign has proved elusive since then, which is both unfortunate and untimely.
But, I’ve seen what these people are capable of – their resolve to bring their show back was far too strong for me to doubt that in the next 34 days they will be coming out of the woodwork in support of the series. Right now, the greatest obstacle is ignorance: some people don’t know the show was resurrected, and certainly aren’t aware that the show is returning so soon. Getting to these fans may prove difficult, but the experience gained last summer will certainly help dedicated fans make up for CBS’ shortcomings in this arena.
To an extent, this is for the best: fans tend to be the ones who know how to sell the series for what it is, a drama about a town and its inhabitants in a crisis situation. Personally, I probably wish that they would have headed more in a science fiction direction with the series, but it is clear that the themes of family and togetherness have resonated with the show’s fanbase. From my experience, it is these same qualities which has helped these fans grow closer together, and even in times of conflict there have been clear signs that a family of fans was born during this process.
And they might have found their entrance into the minds of television viewers, as the Writers’ Strike has allowed Jericho to be emerging at a time when CBS will have little else on their schedule. By the time February 12th rolls around, CBS will be dipping into their corporate sibling Showtime for content, and a majority of their original programming will be gone. As a result, Jericho will be better able to capture the attention of the viewers it so desperately needs to survive.
However, I don’t think this is a story about survival or desperation – even if the series debuts to disappointing ratings, it won’t be enough to take away the real impact of this story. Whether the new episodes of Jericho garner ten million viewers or ten thousand, its return will signal a new era for television. In the creation of social networking sites like Hey! Nielsen, or in future campaigns and correspondence when a series is canceled, there is a new respect forming between the people who make television and the people that watch it.
But this obviously doesn’t extent to the networks, or the producers – the continuing Writer’s Strike is the reason for the (Hopefully) in the title of this event. Jericho fans, like so many others, have made it clear that it is not the studio heads who they thank for Jericho’s return – it is the people who created the show, the writers who made it possible and the people who brought the series to life. While we will all enjoy Jericho’s return in February, I also hope that it shall coincide with an end to this strike. Because, if not? Nuts to you, Producers.
Jericho returns to CBS at 10pm on February 12th, 2007 – Cultural Learnings will be covering the premiere, along with some reviews and thoughts on the last few episodes of Season One should we be able to find the time.
YouTube – Jericho Season Two