October 8, 2007
Jericho Fans in Waiting to See How Season Plays Out

When are we going to see the next chapter in the Jericho saga? As most of you know, Jericho was the CBS serial primetime drama cancelled at the end of last season that raised substantial fan outrage, which manifested itself in fans sending a large amount of peanuts to the CBS offices, among other things. CBS has decided to bring the series back for a seven-episode run in its second season. The only question is when that mini-season will run.

Jericho was planned as a replacement series once one of the newcomers to the CBS lineup fails, with the idea that it would launch after the first several weeks and give viewers either a chance to support the show for a longer run or to get a better resolution of the plot with seven episodes to wrap up lingering questions.

But what will happen?

Jericho fans are quite dedicated, but Nielsen ratings care little about that, and advertisers want impressions. Will the show deliver more of those? And, if not, will the show get picked up elsewhere. There's already been interest from Sci Fi, and will we eventually find that more and more quality shows will find better reception on cable, where there is a lower threshold to be a fit and niche audiences are more readily welcomed?

Of course, networks don't want to be designated to "lowest common denominator" status, but their cancel-happy efforts to hedge their bets often make fans feel that they are just that, choking out or threatening some of their best shows (Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars come to mind immediately, with fans of the former accusing NBC of tinkering with a winning formula to try and bring in more viewers, while the latter saw a drop-off in quality in order to try and gain a greater audience, followed by eventual death).

In the case of Jericho, much of the discussion has been how to value those fans who don't watch in "appointment television" style. Look back to this post from August, where I wrote:

imagine that, if Jericho doesn't perform better this fall, it will likely be deemed a failure by the network, and fans may be blamed further for not getting those viewers to the televisions on Wednesday nights (but, please, only those who have Nielsen boxes are really important...), instead of figuring out how the system failed a show that people wanted to engage with, perhaps just not in the traditional broadcast model.

This all stems back to my writing from October and November of last year, when a number of potentially promising serial dramas launched, only to die one-by-one. Some of them were creatively challenged in one way or another, but one thing was certain: the networks had little plan to give resolution to viewers if they decided to pull the plug. For more, go back to last November's post, entitled "Is Cancellation of Complex Shows Inevitable: Drop-Happy Networks Run Off Would-Be Fans."

For another take on the Jericho situation, see James Hibberd's piece over at TelevisionWeek.