Friday, 3 November 2006

Either mindblowingly brilliant or a new low in dumbness

I've been watching Jericho, an American show about relationships in a small town community in some sort of post-nuclear (sorry, post-nukyular) state of emergency. Jericho is the name of the town which I gather is meant to be in some place like South Dakota. (We did not get a new TV, instead we got this little USB thing you plug into a laptop and a bunny ears aerial. It's a real bastard to set up so I watch very little telly, which is for the best.) Anyway I don't know how I started on this Jericho show, I missed the first episode and a couple of subsequents, and I was under the impression it was a miniseries but wikipedia tells me there are probably going to be more than twenty episodes.

Anyway, it's total rubbish. At least, I think it probably is. Actually, I am completely bamboozled by it and just cannot decide whether it's the stupidest thing on telly this year or alternatively up to something too immensely artistically sophisticated for me to get my head around.



The situation is basically this: as far as the people in this little town can discern, most major urban centres in the USA have been destroyed, incinerated, obliterated in simultaneous nuclear strikes, there are no communications and it appears probable that untold millions of people have died and the country, perhaps the world, is in total collapse. (Mysteriously yet conveniently, radioactivity and ash clouds & other airborne toxic events don't seem to be an issue.) Even though they know what's happened the people of Jericho somehow manage not to commit suicide or go mad with grief or get into bed and never get out again. They go on putting one foot in front of the other. They go on, uncannily competently, with their lives. Each episode there is some medium-sized crisis for the town heroes to deal with (like get petrol to run the generators at the hospital), and deal with it they do. But meanwhile everyone appears not only to be coping but actually having a pretty good time. They pass the days and nights doing things like have teenage house parties, buying stuff at the shops, playing pool and drink at the bar, develop romantic entanglements, they brush their hair, shave, put on makeup, jewellery and clean clothes, vacuum and fluff up the cushions on the couch, drink coffee at the footpath cafe, and in tonight's episode they had a Halloween party in the town square which was decorated with streamers and tinsel and carved pumpkins. People have semi-deep conversations but they're not about how to cope or what possible future there might be for the world, but about estrangement from spouses and adulterous relationships.

I have to say that this amazing, baffling nonchalance has me jiggered and my faint hope that at some point the show will explain it to me is the only reason I'm still watching. At first I thought the people were suffering some kind of mass delusion as a result of extreme traumatic shock and continued to go about their pre-nuclear holocaust routines, shop at the grocer's, drink in the bar etc as a form of collective denial. (Or else it was a kind of soldiering on in the face of adversity type situation. Or else it was some sort of meta-commentary on comfortably numb middle-class Western myopia.) That would be a fairly reasonable narrative move for a show like this to make in its early stages, but it's been going on for so many weeks now that there's got to be only like a three per cent chance that everything which has happened so far is the setup for some incredible twist or reversal or development that is going to be laid out in some future episode. I'm slowly & reluctantly going over to the belief that it's actually the product of a colossal failure to even try to imagine what living on after a nuclear war is actually like for survivors. If so then the the show is perhaps not just stupid but evil as well. This could be what happens when historical memory evaporates and empathy is forgotten or diminished.

Anyway I seem to be committed to watching the thing now and I guess that counts as a success with Channel 10. Here's hoping they're going to reward my loyalty by proving me stupendously wrong.

20 comments:

Sophie said...

Yes, I was very impressed with the opening episode, and was determined to become addicted (I find TV addiction a better addiction to cultivate than some others). But I just couldn't. Where is all the beer in the bar coming from? What are they eating? (That scene where the town rallies to save the corn crop didn't work for me). And why do they keep talking about 'Divorce' or 'arrest' or 'breaking the law' when the entire world has disappeared and there is no one to hold anyone to any law other than an old guy who's lying sick on the couch? Hurrumph.

Mindy said...

sorry can't help, haven't bothered watching it. My guess would be that someone wanted a new twist on the usual relationship drama so decided to set it in a post apocalyptic world without actually thinking about it much.

Ampersand Duck said...

Wow. I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic scenarios (but mostly in fiction) and no-one's come up with something so mind-numbingly boring as that one. Thanks for the warning.

But I'm not surprised about the continuation of beer. Wouldn't people be hoarding it as soon as the warning signs appeared?

Galaxy said...

I am leaning to the latter conclusion in your title. I keep thinking I'll be rewarded for watching, but quite frankly, I'm getting nothing in the meantime. I care not a jot for any of the characters.

lucy tartan said...

Mindy, I think you're right.

I don't care about them either and I'm not that interested in the mystery man.

What should I be watching instead? What's good?

Mindy said...

If it is on Thursday night I'd suggest a dvd.

Blue said...

I haven't seen it - but your synopsis reminds me of a Jean Hegland book Into the forest which I quite enjoyed.

Kate said...

I had the same set of issues with the whole thing after one episode. I love a good post-apocalytpic tale and instead all I got was feelings.

And not even good deep real feelings, like 'OhMyGod all my friends and family and everyone else in the whole world is probably dead now what?' feelings but crappy Gray's Anatomy-esque feelings.

Galaxy said...

I just looked at the list of drama I watch and I noticed that the programmes are either DVDs that I've bought or borrowed, television that is scheduled randomly in obscure time slots, Grey's Anatomy (which I wouldn't recommend--see kate's comments) or Bones, which I would rate as better that GA or Jericho, although others have told me in no uncertain terms that they think it's terrible.

So, unless you're a nightowl who can't resist DVD sales, or maybe have a lingering Angel thing for David Boreanaz...

lucy tartan said...

I have never seen Angel.

Thanks Blue, looks interesting.

Bernice said...

"suffering some kind of mass delusion as a result of extreme traumatic shock and continued to go about their pre-nuclear holocaust routines, shop at the grocer's, drink in the bar etc as a form of collective denial."
That would be due to having voted Republican for the last five years....

Tim said...

airborne toxic events

DeLillo reference? If not, can you pretend it is so that I can feel clever for picking up on it?

I'm going to have to write something about Jericho, especially now that I've read The Road.

lucy tartan said...

Very much an allusion to DeLillo. Don't look at it too closely though, Tim, I'm not sure it goes anywhere.

I'll look forward to reading your thoughts about Jericho. And The Road too, maybe?

that combo is for me a good example of the problem Kate mentioned at Sarsaparilla - it's much harder to come up with the words about things you like.

Kent said...

Reminds me of my year 9 English teacher who, after we read some teeange novel in which a disease had apparently wiped out every person on the planet except for this one kid, in the course of a discussion asking what we would do in that situation, said, "Would you search for other living people on the internet?"

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

the only things I watch on telly at the mo are:

tuesday ABC 6pm: Time Team, for dodgy but irresistable Pop-Archaeology with Tony Robinson.

wednesday 8pm ABC: The New Inventors, Spicks & Specks, The IT Crowd (sort of like The Young Ones, but at the same time, not).

sunday from 7:30pm ABC or SBS: all the really interesting historical stuff that these guys always simultaneously programme. bastards!


that post-nuke stuff sounds suspiciously like poo...

Jellyfish said...

Hah. I meant to say so at the time, but I'm always a little slow - this was really a rawther funny post.

I have long stopped watching regular tv programming, unless it's current affairsy-type programs or kids shows I see while working. We just get everything on DVD, either from friends, the video shop, or we buy it cheap off the 'net. If you haven't seen them already (and apologies if I'm preaching to the choir), I highly reccommend you get your hands on the following:

Rome (the proper series, not the shit version they showed on Channel Nine for 5 seconds)

Weeds

Freaks and Geeks (you'll love this!)

Life on Mars (INCREDIBLE)

Grey's Anatomy (a bit soapy - takes a while to suck you in)

Arrested Development

Over There (about soldiers in Iraq)

And the West Wing, and Firefly obviously :D

I've also heard a lot of yay-talk about Battlestar Galactica, although I've never seen it.

Tim said...

Don't forget Deadwood. I like it almost as much as I like The Sopranos, and that's saying a lot.

Jellyfish said...

Oooh yes Tim, Deadwood, *and* The Sopranos. And maybe Series 1 and 2 of Scrubs.

Mikhela said...

And of course you've already watched all of Six Feet Under

Where are they getting their electricity, in Jericho?

lucy tartan said...

I haven't seen any of those shows, except The Sopranos, which I thought was OK - lost interest after a while.

Mikhela, I can't watch anything with Rachel G in it!