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'Jericho': Where my fans at?

"Jericho" has a fan base so passionate it famously resurrected the show from cancellation last summer. But apparently it's not passionate enough to turn out for a local comic book convention.

The Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention offered "Jericho" fanatics a great opportunity last Sunday to screen the new season's second episode and attend a panel discussion with show's stars and producers. Fourteen cast and crew members took the stage after the screening, but the sparsely populated audience could manage only a handful of questions and a palpable lack of enthusiasm. Possibly because "Jericho" is neither a comic book nor a work of science fiction.

Executive producer and "National Treasure" filmmaker Jon Turteltaub cracked, "After this event today I'll be shocked if ["Jericho"] doesn't become enormous [in the ratings] -- with all 80 of you."

Costar Sprague Grayden tried to wake up the crowd with an energetic plea, "I can see the energy inside of you. Let's get things crazy in the Shrine Auditorium!"

Despite the event's awkward vibe, the panelists remained admirably on message.

When asked the inevitable question about what fans can do to help the show, executive producer Carol Barbee responded, "Watch and get your friends to watch. CBS is rooting for us. We have something every network wants -- a rabid fan base -- and they'd love to keep it growing."

But that growth doesn't appear to be taking shape. The broadcast ratings remain underwhelming. Week two's episode of "Jericho" placed third among households and just barely edged out "Boston Legal" for second place in the key 18-49 demo. Both shows trailed a repeat of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

CBS' commitment to "Jericho" will be a real test of how important the network considers alternative means of viewing, including online and DVR. That's where "Jericho" shines compared with some of the network's higher-rated series.

There's a brave new distribution world out there waiting for any network clever enough to seize it. And "Jericho" is a mighty interesting test case of how a quality show that doesn't quite fit in with a network's established brand can find a responsive audience outside the traditional TV framework.

But something tells me that's not going to be enough to satisfy executives hoping to sell ads.

Thanks to everyone who's been e-mailing me with their support for the show. Lackluster comic book convention aside, it's true that this show does inspire passion in the fans. Keep your reactions coming (or just leave a comment on this post), and I'll share some of them on the blog next week.

--Geoff Berkshire

Comments () | Archives (8)

The problem with Jericho's ratings is most of their fans work for a living and don't want to staay up until 11PM to watch!

This second season is clearly not as good as the first. It's taken three full episodes to focus on the problem to be solved -- bad guys set off the bombs, are now taking over the remaining country (except everything east of the Mississippi) and don't seem too keen on democracy -- and the already wooden characters of Jake and Hawkins seem even moreso now. It's amazing just what gravitas Gerald McRainey and Pamela Reed brought to the entire proceedings. I'll stick with it for the rest of the eps, but I don't expect it to come back for more stories after that.

i agree w/rebecca - 10pm is the wrong timeslot for this show - but what do you expect from network exec's other than total cluelessness. (is that a word?!) i taped ep2 and
watched it last night - thought it was pretty good overall. perhaps the ptb want the show to die hence the timeslot?

My wife and I love Jericho. Watched it every week last season, bought the DVD, re-watched 'em all online before season 2 started (in hopes that it would help the online "ratings"), have watched both new episodes (one of which we watched online for the same reason) and obviously care enough to both seek out this website and post a blog comment. (It was cheaper than buying/mailing nuts.) Didn't go to the Shrine because the only time I heard about it was from your column the week before, and more importantly, we were out of town over the long holiday weekend.

I barely watch any TV nowadays but admit to having viewed an embarrassing amount in my lifetime. All of my all-time favorites have been serialized, not episodic. Unfortunately, in this day and age of 500 channels, high-speed internet, DVDs, etc., serialized TV is hard enough to find the time to watch -- and that doesn't even consider the network's inane and incessant rescheduling or the eternal threat of cancellation that makes such shows a questionable investment in the first place.

CBS blew it with Jericho last year, when the "fall finale" trend proved to be the most illogical idea in recent TV history. They blew it by not getting the DVD out sooner to capitalize on the "Nuts" / renewal buzz last summer. They blew it by not having season 2 premiere sooner. (Sure, they needed insurance that they had February programming in the event of the strike, but by covering their ass they short-changed the show and its fans.) And they blew it by putting an untraditional show with proven fans -- many of whom watch the show in untraditional means -- in the same old once-a-week scheduling assembly line. Why not try something different? Since season 2 is only seven episodes, why not try a one-week experiment where the show airs nightly? DVDs and TiVo have proven that people will pay to watch TV shows they get for free on their own schedule, so something along these lines would have at least been an attempt to create true "appointment television" / water-cooler buzz in this ADD world we now live in.

Re: Jericho's prospects for the future, the show was brought back from the dead and had a brief zeitgeist moment that should have been capitalized on. It's frustrating that the writing on the wall has now gone from chalk to permanent ink. This show, and its fans, deserved better.

Rebecca and Ian: You're right that the timeslot switch to 10 p.m. is rather jarring. To give CBS *some* credit, I think they might have thought providing the show with an established lead-in would help it out. The fact that the lead-in is "Big Brother" -- something that's never aired in-season and is entirely incompatible with "Jericho" -- is another issue...

But would you want it airing at 8 pm, facing off against "American Idol"?

Dave: I'm enjoying season two so far. I actually don't think the story is moving too slowly (although I have the advantage of publicity DVDs with multiple episodes, so I can watch several episodes in one sitting). But I do agree that McRaney and Reed are very missed. All of a sudden the show seems so...naive. These characters need someone a little older and wiser around.

One fan: That's quite a remarkable comment, I should have you guest write the blog one week. I especially like your point about not having enough time to watch all the good serialized TV that's out there. So true...

I missed episode 2 this past week so I caught it online at cbs.com

There were maybe 6 30 second commercials throughout the video. About 3/4 of the way through a survey popped up (voluntary participation) asking if I saw the commericals, which ones etc. My guess is that someone is making the argument that they have a non-traditional audience that will see commercials online and pay attention to them.

I suggest if anyone out there likes the show go view a few episodes online and fill out the surveys making sure you pay attention to the commericals so you can answer the questions accurately.

Pass this on it can only help the show if we show that we are watching the commercials on their web stream.

Thanks for the article. I too found the Jericho presentation a bit awkward last week and have been trying understand why.

Speaking personally, I have been a big fan of the show to the point that this was the first such even that I have ever attended. I was curious to see how many fans would show up since I have never met anyone in Los Angeles that watches the show (but maybe I just don't knwo the right people). My perception was that perhaps the publicity didn't really get to the fan base, I don't think that I saw it anywhere on Jericho.com. I felt bad that few people stood up to ask any questions, personally, I didn't have any questions because the production has done such a good job of putting information out there, that I just wouldn't expect anything to be revealed beyond what was already out there. Perhaps if the attendees, were more collectors than fans, they didn't know enough to ask anything. In retrospect, if I had stood up to say something, it would have been to thank the production for their extraordinary effort to reach out to the fans, and perhaps to try and create a list of email addresses from local fans in order to get together for a public viewing.

In a nutshell, perhaps the size of the fan base has been overstated based upon the rabid response to the cancellation. This show established many mysteries in season one, and paid off very few of them. To cut the show off on the verge of war, with no answers, would annoy any reasonable person who had invested 23 hours in the show. As a marketing professional it was amazing to watch the grass roots effort to revive the show.

I hope a way can be found for the show to continue, but I think that CBS has righted their wrong. The production has done a great job with the show and I hope that they don't regret their appearance last Sunday, it was a great gesture.

Perhaps ratings have been impacted by the fact that the first 3 episodes are currently on YouTube. Jericho fans that cannot get enough are probably watching them several times, and perhaps only some are tuning in to CBS for the 1st run reruns. If CBS really wants to maximize ratings and isn't counting the internet viewership, they should announce that they will not replay the final 4 episodes on the internet until the fate of the series is known. I love watching online at my convenience, but would rather be inconvenienced and get more episodes.

I record JERICHO then watch it when I have the time. I did not and cannot attend something in California. This goes for all shows, I cannot go to the west coast for tv. It is one of the BEST SHOWS ON TV, if not the best. How are ou tracking its popularity? There are only (2) two shows that I record because I really like them, all others tv programs I watch if & when there is nothing else to do.


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