Part 1: Jericho’s Creation and Production
Before Jericho was thought of as finding a home in cbs all access Jericho was originally conceived by Hollywood producer and writer Jonathan E. Steinberg (who also produced Human Target for Fox based on the DC comic brand of the same name) and Josh Schaer. Their initial idea was to make a feature film about a post-apocalyptic scenario that had the feel of a small-time character driven story. It was described as being in the same style as the films The day after tomorrow, Testaments and Threads. Plans were being laid out when both men realized that the film was getting too big for a film running time of two and a half hours. The original main focus on the settings of the post-apocalyptic scenario and the necessary focus on character driven stories would get lost on the cutting room floor.
They then decided to re-conceive the screenplay as a television show which would enable them to keep all the elements that they had originally wanted to have in the film. Jonathan Steinberg and Josh Schaer then pitched the show to Director Jon Turteltaub and Carol Barbee. Turteltaub has a long history with the Walt Disney Company and has directed and or produced a string of very successful films, such as the two films in the National Treasure series and the romantic comedy While you were sleeping and many more. Carol Barbee an actress and writer had several high profile roles both in film and television, as well as having written for many shows including Touch, Falling Skies and Swingtown. Soon after the meeting Turteltaub commissioned writer Stephen Chbosky to pen the pilot’s teleplay based on both Schaer and Steinberg’s series treatment and pitch.
One of the major contributions to the show was added by Chbosky, he felt that the show would benefit from having a greater impact on the story through female characters, he was quoted as saying “We could use some girls, a little kissing, and some laughs.” As we later see some of Jericho’s best moments involve its female characters and the plots that involve them.
Also a major influence on the show and its story was the cataclysmic events of September 11th 2001 one of the most infamous attacks on America soil and the devastating hurricane Katrina that decimated much of New Orleans and parts of the gulf. The show’s creators had the show embody the idea of a spector who sees but is not a part of what is going on around them but is majorly impacted by what has happened. Such was the idea of Jericho, a small town in rural Kanses that witnesses a major attack on the United States of America and is helpless and alone, or as the writers said “Being a spectator to a disaster, while not quite being part of it.”.
The reason was, Katrina and September 11th were such major influences on the show. The writers also wanted to speak of what the events brought out in people, September 11th is known for bringing out some of the best humanity had to offer and there are hundreds of stories of individuals risking their lives to save others both during the attack and in its aftermath. Hurricane Katrina also showed some of the best that people have to offer but it also showcased the negative side of humanity in the depictions of looting and civil unrest that filled the television screens. Both disasters showcased the governments response to nationwide disasters and showed how the military, relief agencies and organizations such as FEMA, and the Red Cross would react and respond to such a large magnitude event.
The writers wanted to include a lot of the above themes into Jericho’s overall premise, mainly that a large scale attack such as what was included in Jericho’s story cannon would bring out the best in people and also the worst. As many of you will remember from watching Jericho that many storylines revolved around heroes stepping up to the plate and also lesser characters who were out either for themselves or for some greater villainous plot.
The first season of Jericho premiered on September 20th 2006 to good ratings and hope of a great future to the series. The series hit a ratings low in April after returning from a three-month break and was down 25% in viewership. The show aired its cliffhanger season finale on May 9th and the producers were hopeful for a renewal but news came soon that the show was cancelled. After a massive fan campaign, which we will discuss in the next article. The show was brought back for a truncated second season.
In a message posted on the Jericho forum, CBS president Nina Tassler acknowledged the fan response by saying, “We hope to develop a way to provide closure to the Jericho story. Later on in 2007 Carol Barbee one of the producers of the show declared that talks were in process with CBS studios to possibly bring back Jericho for an eight-episode 2nd season. The second season aired in 2008 to favorable reviews but ratings lower then what the studio had hoped for.
On March 21, 2008, CBS studios announced that the network would not be renewing Jericho for a third season. CBS studio entertainment boss Nina Tassler later said:
The March 25 episode will be the series finale. Without question, there are passionate viewers watching this program; we simply wish there were more. We thank an engaged and spirited fan base for keeping the show alive this long, and an outstanding team of producers, cast and crew that went through creative hoops to deliver a compelling, high-quality second season we’re proud of everyone’s efforts.
Two endings were filmed according to sources, one that ended the season on somewhat of a cliffhanger and the second that wrapped up the story without a cliffhanger in order to provide closure to the story. Both endings are on YouTube for those interested in seeing them. One source stated, “There are a lot of people here who really care about what happens to Jericho, and I think we all wanted to see it succeed. Numbers are numbers, and CBS had to do what CBS had to do.”
So, all was quiet and it seemed as if Jericho had ridden off into the sunset with two seasons and a satisfying ending that for the most part wrapped up story-lines and left the viewer with a sense of hope. That is not the end of the amazing history that is Jericho, in part 2 of this article series we will look at the amazing fan campaign that brought Jericho back from cancellation, and how maybe cbs all access Jericho may be around the corner!