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'Jericho': A ratings bump, and the fans have their say

February 27, 2008 | 11:25 am

Ratings for last night’s “Jericho” actually rebounded a bit from the week before to a 4.3 overnight rating, up from a 3.9.

But don’t get too excited. Those numbers are still pretty weak, and there’s no question “Jericho” received some kind of boost from viewers fleeing NBC’s disastrous special preview of webisode drama “Quarterlife” in the time slot. “Quarterlife,” which pre-empted the usually reliable “Law & Order: SVU,” earned a 2.7 rating, good for under 4 million viewers, according to preliminary reports from Nielsen.

You can’t say CBS isn’t trying. Last night’s episode of “Big Brother” reportedly included a competition involving the “Hudson River virus,” a fictional disease that played a major role in last night’s “Jericho.”

I say reportedly because I’ve never been able to watch more than five minutes of “Big Brother” without wanting to tear my eyeballs from their sockets. Nevertheless, someone at CBS clearly thinks there’s a way to use the reality show to funnel viewers into a quality drama.

Too bad “Big Brother’s” ratings have been even worse than “Jericho’s,” because as pure drama “Jericho” is on a roll.

Just consider how many plotlines were balanced in last night’s episode: the return of budding entrepreneur Dale Turner, the Hudson River virus, Goetz’s shady past, the eerily Blackwater-esque Ravenwood, Hawkins bringing Maj. Beck over to his side, Bonnie deciding she can leave her brother behind and two highly satisfying examples of characters doing good deeds in secret: Beck followed Heather’s request to send the military to help out HRV victims in Missouri and conflicted Jennings & Rall employee Trish falsified records and destroyed documents to make sure the HRV vaccine got to people who need it.

Now consider how much of that would make any sense to someone who hasn’t been following the show and you’ll see the dilemma CBS faces in sticking with a show that seems unlikely to bring in new viewers over time.

But that’s enough out of me. As promised, I’d like to share portions of some of the e-mails I’ve been getting from “Jericho” fans over the last two weeks.

In regards to last week’s item about the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, Scott wrote:

“I too found the ‘Jericho’ presentation a bit awkward last week and have been trying understand why… 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… 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.”

Markus wrote a particularly detailed and passionate love letter to “Jericho,” briefly excerpted here:

“I wasn't one of the fans who sent a can of nuts to the network/producers of the show; just not that kind of guy I guess. But I have watched, and will continue to watch, ‘Jericho’ faithfully… When I see it on my DVR list, I get a little bit giddy, holding out for a day or two, not wanting to watch immediately because I don't want the experience to be over. (‘Battlestar Galactica’ is the only other example of that in today's TV landscape.)… Just when I think ‘Jericho’ is headed one direction, it veers off with reckless and woolly wild abandon into another.”

Jonathan wrote:

“Why ‘Jericho’ fans are so passionate is this show is all about American values and is good family programming. About the only show my wife and sons (10, 13) watched together. Something I felt worth fighting for then and more NOW.”

J Mary wrote:

“To be able to see dramatic actors confront our worst nightmare and how they grapple with the morality of each decision -- that is why we find this show so compelling.”

Cyn wrote:

“Still miffed by the numbers -- everyone on the board has recruited and recruited -– I still am positive that CBS execs will see the opportunity of the virtual numbers -– you nailed it on the head that it doesn’t quite fit the established brand, but I think it still has a place somewhere with CBS!”

James forwarded a copy of a letter he sent to CBS exec Nina Tassler:

“I am a NEW ‘Jericho’ viewer.... 35-year-old married male, and my wife and I are now watching ‘Jericho’ live albeit with no Nielson box.... I think it would be a mistake to base the future of this show on outdated Nielsen ratings. I think it safe to say that I will be extremely disappointed in CBS if ‘Jericho’ is canceled again.”

--Geoff Berkshire