Mar 6, 2007

Jericho won't leave fans hanging

Jericho won't leave fans hanging

Publication date: 02-21-2007

The end of the world isn't how Jericho star Skeet Ulrich envisioned it.

While working on Jericho over the past few months, Ulrich has had his own ideas about a nuclear catastrophe challenged. He says many fans of the show are experiencing the same thing.

"What surprises me is the propaganda of the Cold War and how it continues," says the 37-year-old actor, who headlines the cast of the apocalyptic CBS drama, returning 10 p.m., tonight (Channel 12) after a few months between new episodes.

On Jericho, a nuclear bomb is set off over Denver. Seeing a mushroom cloud in the distance changes the lives of citizens of the small fictitious town of Jericho, Kan.

It leaves many viewers wondering: Why hasn't a nuclear winter instantly happened on the show? Why are the citizens of Jericho safe to walk outside when a nuclear bomb has gone off only dozens of miles away? Is this a realistic look at how life could be?

Ulrich says it is.

Scientific experts work as advisers to the show's writers. Their opinions help guide writers as they map out life in a post-nuclear town.

Ulrich says the ideas of what life will be like after such an attack are leftovers from the Cold War era of the 1950s when American schoolchildren were told to duck under their desks to avoid radiation.

"It's kind of amazing when I hear from (viewers) about what should have happened," he says.

For a nuclear winter to happen in Jericho, it would take more than one bomb detonated in another state, he says.

"Not that this eases my worries," he says, "because I think we all cling to that idea that we'll all be dead in three years after a bomb goes off."

In "Jericho," for instance, the town's bar is still up and running. Electricity has been restored. Televisions still work, though there isn't much to see.

Crops grow on farms, and livestock is still grazing. Winter hasn't come yet to Jericho, but the season is about to change. The town's economy is running on a barter system.

Other allowances are made to move the story along, says executive producer Jon Turteltaub.

"I'd rather watch an episode concerned with how people in a new world figure out their relationships at this point than what percentage of the state sales tax goes on (items like) a candlestick," he says.

A portion of viewers question how realistic a show like Jericho can be, says Turteltaub. "(Fans say) 'Oh, there's a bomb going off, and people are sitting around having a banquet. That's absurd.' Well, I don't know if it is or it isn't," Turteltaub says. "I think life would get pretty absurd."

But there are certain aspects of nuclear radiation that Ulrich says he wants to see in "Jericho." "I still want to see a scene where somebody runs their hand through their hair and they pull out a clump of hair."

Like many children of the 1970s and early 1980s, Ulrich, who was raised around the South, had thoughts of nuclear Armageddon lingering in the back of his mind.

"I don't know if it was what the adults around me talked about or what," he says, "but I was always worried about it. It was a central part of my life growing up."

Meanwhile Jericho's creative team promises they have learned a lesson from such cosmic serials as ABC's LOST, which has many viewers grumbling over endlessly dangling storylines and mysteries. "We always planned to close off or satisfy certain mysteries rather than open doors to a new level of mystery," producer Carol Barbee says of the series

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