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'Jericho': The return

July 13, 2007 |  1:09 pm

Jericho290 It's hard out there for a CBS show that's not a crime drama, reality show or laugh-track comedy with stale sex jokes recycled out of NBC's lesser 1990s Thursday night efforts.

Last fall's creative and cinematic bank-robber serial "Smith" was DOA and gone after three episodes, while post-U.S.-nuclear-disaster drama "Jericho" started hot, faded fast and limped toward cancellation. But then something interesting happened. "Jericho" fans went nuts (literally sending 20 tons of nuts to CBS executives to save the show). And CBS, excited by the kind of buzz that usually eludes the network, did something rare and un-cancelled the series.

Now CBS is giving viewers a chance to catch up on what they might have missed — albeit in a very unsexy Friday night time slot.

The pilot aired again last week (to unspectacular but unsurprising ratings) and tonight's two installments kick off with the recap special "Return to Jericho," which covers the first 11 episodes of the season, before the show took a three-month break.

Then, for some reason, the network skips over Episode 12, "The First 17 Hours," which flashed back to events that transpired before the pilot and began to fill in details about how and why the nuclear bombs went off and who was responsible. The episode introduced Sarah Mason (Siena Goines), whose arc involving series regular Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) and his family was one of the show's strongest story lines. More details about Sarah and Robert are revealed in Episode 13, "Black Jack," which does air tonight.

Additionally, "Black Jack" says goodbye, sort of, to one of the main characters and introduces key conflicts that will carry through to the season finale. It's as good a place as any to get into the series, but nontraditional TV viewers also have the option of watching past episodes on CBS' website or waiting for the DVD release on Oct. 2.

(Photo courtesy CBS)