Comic-Con 2007: Jericho

Surprisingly easy to get into this panel, which doesn't necessarily bode well for the future of Jericho on CBS. Saved from cancellation by rabid fans, it's gonna need more support to survive a full second year.

I walk in on the tail-end of a panel for 4400 with Jeffrey Combs and blue-bearded Ira Steven Behr. Ira makes a crack about how Jeffrey isn't like the characters he plays -- he's actually really boring. Jeffrey responds that of course Ira would think that, "because you're not that smart." Ira plugs a new coffee-table book about Deep Space Nine that he says is the definitive guide, with answers to all the questions people have for him that he can't remember when asked.

Jericho, for those who don't know, is about a small Kansas town surviving the aftermath of a terrorist nuclear attack on America (13 bombs or so). Most fans agree that the first half of season one was a bit like the Hallmark version of the apocalypse, with a bit too much silly domestic drama, but then things picked up when shit started heading towards Mad Max-dom (the first Mad Max, where the world was still relatively stable but collapsing). The nearest town of New Bern declared war, and it was revealed that the mysterious character Mr. Hawkins infiltrated the terrorist group pre-nuke, and managed to steal one of the bombs which he has now hidden in Jericho. Skeet Ulrich stars as a hometown boy returning from some mysterious military missions.

Side note: Cans of Coke are $2.50 in the convention center. Just a regular 12-oz can. Seems appropriate to say "Nuts to that!" (that's a Jericho reference which probably nobody reading this will get.) Another side note: Ran into director John Gulager yesterday, who's now prepping Feast 2. He said he saw the footage from Frank Darabont's The Mist, said it had a good feel...some of the tentacles looked a bit too CG for his tastes, but Darabont said a lot of the effects will be practical. Darabont shared a panel with Rob Zombie, and it seems half the people left after Zombie was done, leaving Darabont to address a half-empty room. More proof, like the Lionsgate panel with Jessica Alba, that most of the people here really aren't geeks at all. Geeks by definition know the history and minutiae of all this stuff, and care about it more than the average jane, often to the point of obsession.

Panel still hasn't started. They've set out name tags on the table, though.

OK, here we go. Craig Thomas Shaw from TV Guide is moderating.

Highlight reel from season 1, set to The Killers' "All the things that I have done," which played in the pilot. Good montage, but nothing new.

Jon Steinberg - production team is out now. Ashley Scott, female lead. Skeet Ulrich - lead actor Carol Barbee, production team Dan Schatz (sp?), producer Karim Zreik, producer Lennie James (sp?), plays Hawkins.

Skeet and Hawkins have Jericho T-shirts with the vertically striped American flag. Carol says show was almost better off being cancelled because it brought out all of the supporters. Skeet says he can't think of nuts without thinking of the fans (who sent producers bags of nuts to protest cancellation).

Ashley Scott says even when they started shooting season 2 opener, she thought she was being punk'd.

Lennie has English accent! I didn't know that. Jokes that there'll be a key line about strippers, so fans will send strippers instead of nuts.

Season 2 pitch initially involved three different cities -- since the new order is for 7 episodes, they kept just the Jericho perspective. "A lot happens" -- Carol.

Ashley says she loves to play with guns.

Season 2 will resolve the battle cliffhanger right upfront, then jump ahead two weeks. Government will be more significant as characters; military occupation will happen, government re-forms. Esai Morales is Major Beck, face of the Cheyenne govt in town, there to restore order but secretly to catch Hawkins.

Clip from DVD set is shown -- featurette on making the town. main street is a backlot; the rest is a California town (Fullmore? Fillmore?). "Winter in Kansas" is played out summer in California, so the winter clothes are uncomfortable for actors.

Gerald McRaney role was supposed to be minor, he made it more. "He likes to kill big animals" -- Ashley. Character is dead, and will not come back.

"He combs his scripts thoroughly" --Skeet, RE: McRaney.

Character was always meant to die, because Jake's arc is ultimately to take his dad's place as leader of the town. "He's not there yet" --Carol.

Questions from audience -- what's Skeet's acting process? (why do so many people at these shows ask that?) Skeet jokes that he just followed Lennie around.

2.5 metric tons of nuts were sent by fans to protest cancellations.

Is there an ending in mind? Carol says they've arced it out over several seasons, each one its own kind of story.

What were challenges of the roles? (another stupid process question? Geez.) Skeet says the challenge is not knowing where it's going. Challenge is "always to find the emotional truth."

Lennie says longest he's ever played a character before was 8 episodes, because UK TV has shorter seasons, "so I was really worried about getting bored." Says he kept telling writers "Make my character more complicated!" They did.

What's it like for Skeet to play a villain, as in Scream? Likes villains a little more.

15 trucks of stuff on the set had been loaded and on the way out when the word came in that the cancellation was reversed. Three weeks elapsed between cancellation and reprieve.

Contingency plan for early wrap-up if the show is canceled again? "Just fade to black for the last few seconds!" "We plan on coming back!"

Karim says no contingency plan so far, no wrap-up at the end of episode 7. Carol says

"We're not gonna leave you hanging." In the eventuality that it gets cancelled again, they will do some kind of wrap up for the fans.

Wet Cement is the name of the company that makes the Jericho flag shirts Skeet and Lennie are wearing. Made special for cast to wear at Comic-Con, but will be available to the public.

"Every speech he gave, I cried" -- Ashley, about McRaney

"I've got kids so I spend quite a lot of time crying...for money...a life!" -- Lennie.

When do we find out if there's more than 7 episodes in season 2? They'll be done shooting in September, don't know when they'll know.

Fan calls show a cross between Damnation Alley and Gilligan's Island. Skeet asks which one of those is the good one.

Fan asks about evangelicals in Kansas -- why aren't there any crazy Christians on the show waiting for the Rapture? Carol says they had plans, but they didn't fit with the larger arc -- she agrees though, and they will have characters like that in the future.

Lennie was really happy to get to ride a horse.

Large hiatus in the middle of the season didn't work well -- as with Lost, it helped online fan base but hurt with TV audiences. Episodes will run consecutively this season.

CBS telephone operator says they got 30-45,000 calls to CBS to renew Jericho. Politeness of fans made a big impression on the network.

Production blog just started at Will be updated every day.

Exclusive footage shown, mostly behind-the-scenes on season 2. Only plot information to be gleaned is that the military breaks up the Jericho-New Bern shot out and enforces order; in another scene, Jake asks Hawkins to stick around to help him, and Hawkins says he'll be there.

Make of that what you will. End of panel.

Read more Comic-Con coverage here.


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