Jericho aspires to be a social laboratory, in some ways a nuclear version of "Lord of the Flies." There is unknown danger on the horizon, tragedy everywhere and a social order on the brink of collapse. There are smaller stories as well, mostly centered on the return of prodigal son Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) to a family that, except for mom, would just as soon he had stayed away.
That's a lot of story potential, but most of it is squandered in trite and predictable ways. There's the improbable rescue of a disabled school bus, complete with an implausible emergency tracheotomy. There's also the inevitable reunion of former high school sweethearts, one of who is predictably unavailable. Really, if those are the best stories you can come up with, you don't need a nuclear attack for a backdrop. A simple forest fire would do just fine. Maybe even a heavy thunderstorm.
In the opener, Jake returns to Jericho, Kan., after a five-year absence. Townsfolk seem happy to see him, but each time they ask where he's been, he gives a different answer. His father, Johnston (Gerald McRaney), the town mayor, knows. So does his brother, Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), but neither wants to discuss it. The only set of welcoming arms belongs to his mother, Gail (Pamela Reed), because mothers are supposed to be that way.
Jake came to town to claim his inheritance, but his father won't let him touch it. So, with mission unaccomplished, he heads out of town. And that's when the bright mushroom cloud becomes visible in the western sky, just about where Denver ought to be if anyone could actually see that far.
In moments, Jericho is without telephone service, Internet, TV or any other platform on which a new series can be promoted. As night falls, panic sets in. Even though the town is hardly big enough for a respectable riot, the townsfolk do their best. Then Mayor Green arrives, assures them they will get through this and that Jericho people are the best people ever.
There is some top-notch acting talent in this series, but the pilot script from exec producer Stephen Chbosky doesn't begin to tap their potential. A second episode, supplied by CBS, puts a little more emphasis on the science of nuclear winter, but the stories continue to be schmaltzy and overly familiar. Director Jon Turteltaub, also an exec producer, captures a sense of the Kansas heartland in what is otherwise a workmanlike job of bringing the material to life.
Review Excerpt by Barry Garron, The Hollywood Reporter