So, I have only gotten to see two new shows of the fall season and must say I see one promising one. Sadly, it is really two promising half shows. Follow me with this.
Studio 60 is well-acted, brilliantly written and lushly produced. The characters intone there lines with a gravity that one cannot help but believe. The problem is simple: who cares. It is a show about running Saturday Night Live, which despite attempts to link it to movies like Network and issues of censorship and dissent, is just not very important. It will probably run for ten years.
Jericho, on the other hand, is about things so weighty that I believe they are without precedent in network television. This is "The Day After: The Next Generation." The scenes in which the characters see the mushroom cloud over Denver and hear the recorded sounds of the destruction of Atlanta are chilling, and the issues which could be dealt with in this series are almost literally endless. What happens when the good people of Kansas get a real good religious fervor whipped up because it really is the End of Days? Why is our town still here, what happen to the rapture? What happens when a military column headed by a would-be warlord comes rolling into town to seize their mine? How soon until the food runs out? What about the refugees who set up squatter camps around the town?
This is a show that deserves the kind of writing seen on some HBO series and on Battlestar Galactica. Sadly, the writing seems pedestrian and the acting is little better (As soon as I saw Skeet Ulrich I got worried; he is a poor man’s Joaquin Phoenix, who is of course a poor man’s Johnny Depp/Leonardo DiCaprio (depending on the role)). The kind of issues which I outline above are, I believe, simply beyond the capability of network television to handle. Network television sets characters someplace and even if the show runs for a decade, the characters have made, at best, slow incremental change but more often are more or less where they have always been. A mass audience is not going to get dragged that far down, week after week. The consequences of the setting are just too much for the medium.
I will probably continue watching as just the attempt to think about this stuff is interesting, but this show is going to be a gone as Denver in the program’s pilot in a month.