In opening up part of this site to fans of CBS’ Jericho in order for them to express their love of their show and how it deserves Emmy awards was done for a key reason: I didn’t want to make those readers who visit this site thanks to its coverage of the Save Jericho campaign from being angry with me when I did not feature the show in my extensive For Your Consideration series.
My reasoning for this is simple: I never found the show’s acting to be all that good in the amount I watched, and even what late season stuff I saw could never overtake the other candidates I had in mind. Basically, I’m not a huge fan of the show, but I know that others are. And, expectedly, what has poured in has been people who enjoy the show explaining why. Do I agree with all of them? Of course not, and that’s the nature of different tastes and all that jazz. But I think that it is important that these different views be heard. Because, whether we agree or not, there is something to be said for passion.
Now, admittedly, I am always skeptical of this level of fan support. And, when some of the praise has come in for Jericho, I’ve questioned it slightly (I’m only human, and only overly a critical human at that). However, when Rebecca Smith sent in this piece, I found that I had nothing to really criticize. While I can’t say I agree with her overall assessment of the series, she even admits that I and many others might not. It is a wholly rational, observational, analytical approach to why she, and so many others, dig this little drama that could.
As fans of Jericho face the tough task of turning angry activism into positive action, I think they need to take the approach that Rebecca has taken. I might never become a true fan of the series (I’ll be watching the reruns this summer to see if it is possible), but I know that after reading Rebecca’s piece I’m much more likely to be open to the idea. While all of the submitted pieces have been well-written, I think Rebecca’s stands in a league of its own. And, for that reason, I share it with you here.
For Your Consideration: Jericho
Submitted by Rebecca Smith
According to Roger Ebert in his 1999 review of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a film student asked Frank Capra back in the 1970s “if there were still a way to make movies about the kinds of values and ideals found in the Capra films.” Capra’s response?
“Well, if there isn’t,” he said, “we might as well give up.”
What does this have to do with a little television show called Jericho? Well, it seems that the cynicism that Capra treated in much of his work, is alive and flourishing in 2007. The show’s detractors would compare Jericho to Frank Capra’s work, saying that small town values have limited relevance in the wider world. Most people just aren’t interested in the classic portrayal of heroism anymore. We’re geometric snobs, and square is no longer art. On the contrary, I think if he were alive, Frank Capra would most vehemently disagree.
Likewise, Peter C. Rollins, Regents Professor of English, Oklahoma State University writes:
“Our heritage is rich in uplifting role models and we could be inspired by them if we took the time to reflect. To convey this message, Capra has Longfellow Deeds (played by Gary Cooper) visit Grant’s Tomb during a tour of New York City. His guide, a cynical reporter named Babe Bennett (played by Jean Arthur), looks at the grim edifice and observes that most New Yorkers think of it as a ‘disappointment, a washout.’
Longfellow Deeds sees something quite different–indeed, the sight inspires him:
‘It’s wonderful. I see a small, Ohio farm boy becoming a great soldier. I see thousands of marching men. I see General Lee, with a broken heart, surrendering. And I can see the beginning of a new nation, like Abraham Lincoln said. And I can see that Ohio boy being inaugurated President. Things like that can only happen in America.'”
The question is, does Capra’s answer still ring true today? Can the things that moved our grandparents still move us today, or are we too jaded as a society to embrace “Capracorn” in all its delightful optimism? Is the cross-cultural populist vibe that Jericho telegraphs passé? It seems that mass culture is caught up in a love affair with the grim and morose for the moment. The unprincipled anti-hero is the new pink. Apparently, we have reached a level of so-called sophistication wherein a classic loses its universal appeal. Or have we? Isn’t the classic portrayal timeless by definition?
If the response to Jericho is any indication, the same things do still speak to the hearts of people everywhere. Indeed, it indicates a longing for them. We still hope that dignity and nobility exist in our fellow man. It’s not that we want to turn a blind eye to reality, but for a few minutes, or an hour here and there, we’d like to believe that a person can make a difference. We’d like to believe that a group of people unified can make all the difference in the world. The magic of Frank Capra’s body of work is not that he painted pretty pictures of the world, but that he helped us to face what was harsh in it with the hope that principled individuals working together could triumph over disaster. It’s the kind of magic that Jericho seems to have tapped, stirring passions in its audience that provided the impetus for an online filibuster that the fictional Mr. Smith (of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” fame) would surely have approved. Call it corny. Call it self-indulgent. But I want to believe.