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'Jericho': For the fans

July 30, 2007 |  8:14 am

There were no grand announcements at the Comic-Con International "Jericho" panel, but there were plenty of thank-yous.  After all, the Sunday session never would have happened if CBS hadn't resurrected the series from cancellation following passionate fan response.

Jericho_panel_500 Moderator Craig Tomashoff of TV Guide kicked off the love-fest by announcing that the hour would give the panelists their first chance to thank the "people responsible for keeping you on the air."  Series stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James and Ashley Scott and producers Carol Barbee, Karim Zreik, Dan Shotz and Jon Steinberg repeatedly expressed their gratitude while fielding questions and presenting clip packages of season one highlights (set to the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done") and early behind-the-scenes footage from season two (set to Eminem's "Without Me").  The latter ended with even more fan appreciation from cast and crew.

As for their brief flirtation with the TV graveyard, Steinberg recalled, "Even up until the day before [the renewal announcement], I thought there was no way we were coming back on CBS."  Scott joked that she kept waiting for Ashton Kutcher to show up and tell her she was being punked, even during her first day back on the set.  And Barbee reasoned, "We're better off that we got canceled."

That decision, motivated by a ratings decline over season one, certainly gave the fans a chance to demonstrate their attachment to "Jericho."  Among those who stepped up to the Q&A microphone in San Diego were a man whose company sent "2.75 metric tons of nuts" to CBS executives and a woman who identified herself as "one of four CBS telephone operators" and claimed she had handled between 30,000 to 45,000 calls from people asking the network to bring the show back.

Details about season two were scant, but the producers promise a "very fast and very big" seven-episode season that will tell one complete story with no hiatus or interruption.  The government will play a major role this season, as Esai Morales ("NYPD Blue") joins the cast as "the face of the Cheyenne government" who also has an interest in tracking down James' character Robert Hawkins.  Barbee also revealed that the season premiere's pre-title teaser will resolve the season finale cliffhanger, while the rest of the episode will move forward in time to government occupation of the town.

And, of course, the series will be without Gerald McRaney, since his character perished in the first season finale.  Scott and Ulrich both spoke glowingly of working with McRaney and said his loss was deeply felt.  Barbee said the exit was purely story-driven and that Johnston Green was "always meant to die," partly to strengthen the character arc of his son Jake (Ulrich).

Although the future beyond next season remains unclear (season two is schedule to wrap filming in late September and CBS has yet to announce an airdate for the premiere), Barbee happily told the fans, "We feel like we've got a long life ahead of us."

-- Geoff Berkshire

(Photo courtesy Nick Ut / AP)