Projects
Resin Heroes

Jericho" and "Studio 60" on the Sunset Strip – Early Reviews

By Bert Ehrmann
2006-09-01
Just when you thought the threat of nuclear war on television screens had evaporated in the mushroom clouds of The Day After (1983) comes the “post-apocalyptic drama” series Jericho on CBS.

In Jericho, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) returns home so his father and Jericho town mayor (Gerald McRaney) can sign Jake’s inheritance over to him. But before any signing can take place, all the televisions and radios turn to static and a large mushroom cloud appears outside of town.

Was this nuclear blast a terrorist attack on nearby Denver? An accident? No one’s quite sure what happened, and when a bus full of the town’s children goes missing and news filters in that Atlanta might also have been hit, Jericho’s populous goes into full panic-mode.

Unfortunately, the Jericho pilot episode quickly descends into melodrama and cliché. There are scenes of frightened citizens hording gas and descending to near riot mere hours after the blast, while the mayor just happens to find several Geiger Counters laying around the police station and immediately knows how to use them. How convenient.

It was almost as if the writers were skipping over the tough story details while trying to get the main thrust of the plot moving along.

What hurts Jericho the most is a lack of emotional connection between viewer and characters or storyline of the series. I didn’t really care what was going to happen next, and if I don’t care, I’m probably not going to watch for very long.

I’ll give Jericho a try for a few episodes after it premiers, but the first time a leather-clad metal-stud wearing post-apocalyptic biker rolls into town looking for “the juice,” I’m changing the channel.

Jericho is set to premiere Wednesday, September 20th at 8:00 P.M. on CBS.

One day earlier on NBC, the highly anticipated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip premiers. Here, the fictional Studio 60 is a sort of Saturday Night Live like show that’s the “gem” of the fictional NBS network. But when show producer Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsh) has an on air meltdown akin to Howard Beale in the movie Network (1976), the future of Studio 60 is put in jeopardy.

NBS chairman Jack Rudolph (the scene-stealing Steven Weber) wants a total media blackout, but newly hired network president Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) puts her day-old job on the line with another idea — what if they hire back the two comedy writers who took Studio 60 to the top of the ratings chart before venturing off to make movies: Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) and Matt Albie (Matthew Perry)?

That move would divert attention from Mendell’s meltdown and would further improve an already faltering show. But there are a few hitches, Matt is unstable, in the pilot episode he’s high on prescribed Vicodin and alcohol, and it’s just been learned that Danny has tested positive for cocaine and is unable to obtain completion insurance.

Written and produced by Aaron Sorkin, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip effectively pulls back the curtains of corporate television in the 21st century to reveal the inner workings within. Here, studio executives keep a watchful eye on the bottom line while asserting their own influence wherever they can.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sorkin, he also wrote and created the critically acclaimed dramatic series The West Wing, the underrated series Sport’s Night and wrote the screenplay to A Few Good Men (1992).

Sorkin draws on his own personal demons for Danny Tripp’s backstory. Much like the Tripp character, Sorkin has had a history with drug abuse and the Matt Albie character shares a vice with actor Perry – prescription drugs.

Still, the question is whether or not NBC has a hit on their hands? I’d argue that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is the BEST new show I’ve seen of the 2006-2007 season, and the series already has the most “buzz” of the new shows. But does “buzz” equate ratings success – it didn’t for Arrested Development. Only time will tell.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is set to premiere Monday, September 18 at 10:00 P.M. on NBC.