Hermits Rock

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As of last night, I have now watched the entire first season of the short-lived nuclear apocalypse series Jericho. The show was not the most sophisticated, though it had a compelling premise: Truck-mounted nuclear bombs destroy twentysomething U.S. cities, remaking the face of the nation into John Eldredge’s wet dream. Men and women are forced to become their primal selves if they have any hope to survive. The series focuses on the town of Jericho, Kansas, a small Main Street town complete with its own ne’er-do-well small-town mafioso, undercover CIA agent who knows what went down with the bombs, Aasif Mandvi, a paternalistic mayor, an IRS agent (played by a Coppola), a mayor’s-son-former-hellraiser turned loyal citizen, no gay characters, a whipsmart schoolteacher, and many more, all striving to maintain law and order and some semblance of a modern and democratic life. Everywhere else in the continent is either a refugee camp or a police state. So there is much to offer, but unfortunately, every episode is unimaginative in its execution, telegraphing both plot and character development. For example, if a sign at a market says “Thieves will be strung up,” then you can be sure someone in the party will steal something before the end of the episode, creating a dangerous conflict between the democratically-minded citizens and the police state they are visiting. (K & I have had fun predicting episode plots as we watch.) But really, the entire season can be summarized as the conjunction of two sets of people: those who can do shit, and those who can’t. It becomes the obligation of the people who can do shit to protect those who can’t, unless protecting those who can’t conflicts with family, work identity, or civic “duty,” however any of those things is construed for convenience’s or cliffhanger’s sake. The social experiment of the post-apocalyptic world as-seen-on-network-TV is a lot like every other kind of life as-seen-on-network-TV, with fallout.



Gosh, reading again, this review is much further down on the show than it should be! The series is disappointing, but it’s still pretty fun to watch precisely because it’s predictable and not-very-imaginative. How else could we have stood to watch so much of it at once?

In the neverending quest to do nothing productive, we started the second season last night. Skeet Ulrich’s character changed from a self-confident guy who can do shit to a strung-out guy who might be able to do shit, but it’s hard to tell. The change didn’t do the show any good.

People who can do shit helping people who can’t actually doesn’t strike me as a bad way of running a society.

I generally agree, but Jericho tends to take the view (and I say “tends” because it’s entirely inconsistent in the matter) that doing shit also includes the act of knowing shit. So there is an episode where a troupe of “Marines” walk into town, promising that America is on its way back. But the ex-mayor and his son (the hero) and the new mayor learn that the Marines are fake—they are refugees who commandeered a tank and go town-to-town requisitioning (stealing) food and supplies. The mayors decide that the best solution is to run the shysters out of town, taking the tank in the process, but to maintain the lie: nobody should know that the U.S. government isn’t actually on the mend. In short, part of doing shit for the good of those who can’t is also deciding that those who don’t know shit shouldn’t. I think the line excusing it was very X-Files, something like “sometimes people need to believe,” which is a terribly patronizing judgment on the part of an small-town elected official.

This blows up (sort of) a few eps later, and rightfully so.