Director Jon Turteltaub made us smile with THE KID, tear up during PHENOMENON and laugh at WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. With his latest project, JERICHO, odds are you won’t be laughing or crying — you’ll be running to your emergency supply cabinet to ensure you’ve stocked up on duct tape and bottled water.
The premise of JERICHO is simple: What would happen if your town was completely cut off from the rest of the world in the wake of a nuclear blast? “JERICHO will explore all the things that could occur when people are left to their own devices,” executive producer Turteltaub explains. “How are people in the town of Jericho going to deal without phones, groceries or money? There are no more lawyers, judges or police. When you don’t have someone telling you what’s morally right or wrong, what would you do?”
The series premiere centers on the return of former Jericho resident Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), who tries dealing with his estranged dad, reconnecting with his high-school sweetheart and, in the wake of the all-too-real disaster, stepping into the role of reluctant hero when not telling a rather inconsistent series of lies regarding where, exactly, he’s been for the past few years.
By the end of the hour, viewers are — of course — left with more questions than answers. But Turteltaub offers viewers assurances that unlike the fine folks of Jericho, he and his staff know exactly what’s going on and aren’t simply making things up as they go along. In fact, the only question he — and, we’d assume, the executives at CBS — has is perhaps the most important one of all: In an age when we are barraged by news of terror alerts and it’s far too easy to imagine the horrific scenario painted by JERICHO, will the show be able to find an audience? “I realize nobody wants to turn on the TV to be more miserable,” says the exec. “And I realize we’re talking about nuclear war, not EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. But I want to stress the humanity involved with our show.”
In other words, this isn’t the gloom and doom hour. “JERICHO is about rediscovering the greatness of humanity,” he continues. “How, even after a horrible event, life goes on. There still is love, relationships and sex — perhaps even more of it!”
And should tales of hope and humanity in the face of tragedy fail to attract viewers, Turteltaub jokes that he isn’t opposed to the notion of attention-grabbing stunts. “We’ll have a special episode where Osama Bin Laden dances with the stars!”
JERICHO premieres tonight at 8PM on CBS (Eastern Standard Time).
Canadian Viewers can catch JERICHO at 8PM on A-Channel (EST).