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'Jericho': Where my fans at?

February 20, 2008 | 12:29 pm

"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