Tonight, Jericho returns.
A year and a half ago, this was a revelation. Today, it feels quite different, an odd and unexpected consolation prize for fans who worked so hard to get the show back on the air. Tens of thousands of pounds of peanuts were enough the get the show a second season, but not enough to convince CBS that it should run consistent reruns of the series in every available setting. In other words, the renewal came with a caveat: the fans, who provided such a great grassroots campaign, were responsible for pulling their weight to grow the show’s audience.
But now, in an ironic turn of events, Jericho returns in an unexpected capacity as the lead-off for The CW’s new Sunday nights. After the Media Right Capital deal, which saw the production company program its own lineup to enormously middling results, fell through, The CW had a lot of options of what to program in the slot. Repeats of their struggling comedies could help their audience, the MGM movies are cheap and always decent counter-programming, but then came the kicker: Jericho reruns, starting from episode one of the first season, at 7/6c every Sunday into the foreseeable future.
For fans, this is a sign of hope: a sign that there is an off-chance of the fanbase growing, of the show pulling a Family Guy and making its way back onto the schedule. And while I remain skeptical that this is in the cards, and feel that The CW (And Viacom) have more subtle motives with this particular move, one cannot remain pessimistic in the presence of the fans who changed network television’s definition of cancelled with a whack of peanuts and sheer determination.
I asked myself this question when the release came out: it’s a serialized show, which makes it tough to repeat in the time slot – one would think that one of CBS’ procedurals would have been the better option in terms of capturing audience on a week-by-week basis. Their decision not to do this, at the very least, tells me that they have some type of reason here that goes beyond “because we can” to something designed to expand Jericho’s potential.
First and foremost, I think it was a headline grabbing decision; without Jericho, the headlines for the new CW Sunday would have read “CW programs repeats and movies for Sundays” as opposed to “CW resurrects Jericho.” News outlets were quicker to pick up the story when it related to the cultural zeitgeist that was Jericho’s return from the dead, and the result was more hype about a rather tepid Sunday lineup than they would have received otherwise.
At the same time, I think it’s also an attempt at tapping into the fanbase that exists and trying to push them back into the spotlight. CBS knows that they have an unusually devoted group of fans for a canceled TV show, and they want to use them as much as possible: Jericho’s first season is now on YouTube, the DVDs are on store shelves (and likely sold better than the DVDs for a lot of other CBS-owned shows that aren’t really collectible/rewatchable), and there remains financial benefits to the show’s continued success.
And, yes, there is also the off chance that CBS is looking to Jericho as a potential show to revitalize in the future. Personally, I think this is unlikely (the show’s cast is off doing different things and, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t fit the target demographics of The CW), but I don’t think that fans should see this as discouraging. Instead, this is an opportunity that they wouldn’t had had otherwise: a chance for them to reband to, even if they’re not saving the show, at least bring it to a larger audience.
As someone who had given up on Jericho before the last campaign, I can say that it gave me a chance to play catchup, and to get to know the show’s characters better. As anyone who’s still kicking around from the Jericho days at Cultural Learnings knows, I still had some issues with the show’s pacing in both the first and second seasons, but the fan support gave the show a new perspective. And new viewers who get to experience that for the first time tonight on The CW, or on Universal HD, or on YouTube, would benefit from having the same kind of perspective.
So, if you’re a fan, hope you enjoy seeing Jericho all over again; and if you’re not, I’d suggest giving it a chance – worst thing that could happen is what you find a new way to spend your early Sunday evenings.
Jericho reruns debut tonight at 7/6c on The CW, and the show is also airing on Universal HD. For more information on fan efforts to save the show, Jericho Junction has a post regarding “Operation Pheonix.” If you want to learn more about the campaign that saved the show to begin with, you can check out Cultural Learnings’ Jericho archives.