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Walking around 'Jericho' again

Last night, the second episode of Jericho aired and I woke up thinking about this morning. In “Fallout” (read about the pilot episode here), we watched the town scramble to protect themselves from a radioactive thunderstorm moving in from the Denver area (where the mushroom cloud was seen in the pilot). We watched the mysterious Hawkins secretly transcribe Morse Code from a short-wave radio and then, at the end of the show, eerily poke one red thumbtack after another into a map of the U.S. (according to Wikipedia, the list of nuclear explosions has grown from Denver and Atlanta to include Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego and three other cities we weren’t privy to see). We saw two high school kids from opposite social strata bond over their missing and most-likely dead parents (one set in Atlanta and the other in Denver) with plastic-covered taped-up windows in the background.

Why was I running through all these scenes in my head? Heh, that’s what I wanted to know. What’s the deal? Why did this story barb its way into my thoughts, enough to make me think about it as I’m pouring milk on my kids’ cereal or grinding beans up for my coffee?

While Jericho definitely has the whole Prodigal Son thing going on, up to this point the series hasn’t overtly dealt with direct God-talk (which is interesting, considering the town is smack dab in the middle of the Mid-West Bible belt.) Is it just that the scenes touch those formative childhood and teenage memories, when everyone in my generation expected nuclear bombs to go off any day and life as we knew to end? Or was it those images of plastic-covered taped-up windows and doors touching those memories of the months following 9-11?

Being the avid researcher I am (okay, I just love to surf the Web), I Googled the show and poked around blogs to see if someone else could explain why the show felt so significant—and, low and behold, I stumbled across Hollywood Jesus Maurice Broaddus’ blog (I’ve got to add this guy to my sidebar at some point). He participated in an online press conference with executive producer Jon Turteltaub and series’ star Skeet Ulrich. And here’s one of Broaddus’ questions and his excerpts of the answers:
As a fan of your last regular tv work, Miracles, I was wondering what draws you to material like Miracles and Jericho?

Skeet: I was intrigued by the idea of these people put into extraordinary circumstances. The idea of how society get structured: who decides what’s important; what do we need and in what order do we need it. Also, things we dread. This fear. How do we approach it? How do we overcome it?What are some of the spiritual implications of the show? What are the themes it meditates on?

Jon: Who are we really? If you take away the things that we are used to ... if we don’t have cell phones to deal with, if we don’t have money to deal with, if we don’t going to the grocery store to deal with. Also the show gets into the notion of structure. If you take away the institutions on which we hang our morality, when you don’t have someone telling you what is wright or wrong ... do people become open and more trusting or do they become distrusting ... There are many moral and spiritual questions. Spirituality has some of the answers, but some of the people find their answers in very practical ways.

Jon: If you are taking the social gloves off ... would you go crazy or would you try to maintain order? ... There is a certain amount of freedom that comes with the end of the world. Would you really be happy with that freedom, what are the dangers of that freedom, and what would you do with that freedom.
I was intrigued enough to seek out the entire interview, which I found at this blog, which transcribes and ascribes the interview a bit differently, but with the same basic information:
B[logger] Q[uestion]: I have two questions, actually. The first one's for Skeet. Skeet, I'm a big fan of your show Miracles. What exactly draws you to material like Miracles and to Jericho?

SU: Well, two different things. I'll speak to this one since it's about this one. I was really intrigued by the idea of these people put in extraordinary circumstances and really what became the priority of their life after an event like this and I've always been fascinated by how society gets structured in general. Who decides that a church takes priority over, say, a hospital? Who decides what and when and how and I think that's something that the show will at some point deal with as... what do we need and what order do we need it? And when you're dealing in a crisis, how do you calm yourself down enough to focus on those things. So it's all those elements that sort of drew me in, notwithstanding the thing we dread... I think more than anything, something that's been a part of my life, my entire life, was this fear and how do we approach it and how do we realize we can... aside from all out global war... overcome it. So, a lot of things, I guess is the answer, drew me to it.

BQ: Ok. A question for both of you... what would you say would be some of the spiritual implications of the show? Some of the things that the show tends to meditate on?

SU: I think it boils down to who are we really? If you take away the things we're used to every day, who is that we become? If we don't have cell phones to deal with and money to deal with and just going to the grocery store to deal with what or who is it that we are without everything? I think that's a very spiritual question so I think it touches on those elements.

JT: It also gets into the notion of structure of our society, as Skeet said, and when you take away the institutions by which we hang our morality on, we have to think about who we are on our own. We have to make our own personal decisions. When you don't have someone telling you, morally, what is right and wrong, when there is no authority there, do people become inherently trusting and open and willing to be inclusive or do some people get very protective and defensive and mistrusting and that is both a moral and spiritual question. I think spirituality may hold a lot of the answers for a lot of people whereas other people find their solutions in very practical ways. It's only in these extreme circumstances that we---[transcription cuts off]
I think this pretty much nails why I’m intrigued with and thinking through this series. Jericho has the potential to get at what happens when you strip away the illusion of the control and power we think we exert over our lives. People are forced to get down to what they believe, how much they are committed to the values they hold and how they think the world really works. It gets down to the inherent nature of man and why we behave the way we do. And that has God-talk written all over it.

So, does the Jericho get it right? That's a subject for another post--and enough to keep me watching.

(Image: CBS/Wikipedia) jerichoctgy


Mirtika said…
I missed the debut, but I caught it yesterday on On Demand and was rivetted. I watched most of the second show, too. (BTW, this is good work from Ulrich, who has in the past been exceedingly annoying to me. Here, he has a strength and a vulnerability, mixed together, that he's handling nicely. The wounded hero.)

I do think that they are evading spirituality. I cannot believe for ONE second that some Kansas small town in the midst of some serious life and death struggle is not going to result in a heck of a lot of praying, ministering, etc. That's unrealistic to me.

But that scene of the boy standing on the roof and watching the One of the most powerful shots I've seen on tv. Another great shot: The hand dipping for the push pins, and dipping in and dipping in ...push pin after push pin. Wow.