Friday, March 21, 2008

A poke of "The Eye": CBS Cancels Jericho. Again.

CBS made me a liar. I had predicted they would wait a few months after Jericho's second (very short) season to announce what everybody knew in advance -that the show is done- but they didn't; they leaked (didn't even care to do a proper press release) the news that the finale would be a series finale 5 days before it aired.

For anyone with more of a life than I, here's a quick overview of the whole story. Jericho is a show which debuted on CBS in the Fall of 2006, about a small Kansas town dealing with the aftermath of a massive nuclear attack on the US. It was rich in characters and storylines, had a great cast and writers, and pulled a very strong fanbase very quickly. When announcing in Summer 2007 that the show was dead, fans rallied into an unprecedented campaign which rivaled even the one saving Star Trek in the 60s; CBS execs were flooded with complaints (even on their personal phones and emails), protests were mounted on multiple platforms and tons -literally tons- of nuts were sent to the network in a show of refusal from the fans to let their show die.

CBS was pretty much cornered; history was being made with the campaign, and all eyes were on the Eye. Would they ignore the new kind of TV-watching and fanbase accompanying while at the same time alienating part of their viewership, or at least act as though their network is in touch with the new millennium's new possibilities? Their response was a judicious one, on a business level: make them think they won. A new season was announced, with only 7 episodes and a much downgraded budget, to satisfy the fans, with a stern warning: get us more viewers or you killed your own show.

Ratings haven't improved during the abridged second run, on the contrary. Many blame the time slot -10pm on Tuesday, right after two hours or "American Idol"-, others the lack of promotion from CBS, the lesser quality of the new episodes, the increasing ability to stream and download, or the writer's strike which prompted a change of habit for many TV watchers. Bottom line is money -from advertising- which can't be cropped if TV ratings don't add up. Nielsen's statistics system might be outdated, it's still the closest and surest way to find out how many Americans watch TV at a given moment, and they said not many watched Jericho.

Many people in my entourage sarcastically asked me how much I'd spend on nuts THIS time, to which my answer remains the same since cancellation started looming (again): nothing. I could say that the impossible can't be accomplished twice, that there comes a time when you must learn to let go, that the lack of ratings proves the futility of it all, and so on and so forth. But the reason behind my decision is much more simple: I just don't care anymore.

I did watch the new season with passion and interest - even though the show feels crammed and packed instead of letting the story breath and unfold. But the original campaign was much more than about a show. It was being part of history, just like the aforementioned Trek campaign which is still talked about. It was about taking part in a revolution of medium and democracy, where our campaign could pave the way for a whole new way of moving mountains, letting our voices be heard, influencing world leaders, helping causes that need it desperately and maybe even finally save the God damn planet.

But then dissension and corruption quickly gained the upper hand inside this new army, where people were bitching each other and bickering about who shot first -Han or Greedo, while a few attention seekers try to apoint themselves reigning monarchs of the fandom. Elsewhere, the Republicans nominated another ultra-conservative geriatric as their presidential nominee. Britney's latest plea for attention stole the newspaper's front page, relegating the reasons behind the dumbest war in history to the trivial facts columns. And every time I go to the supermarket with my two children, people still look at them as spoiled little brats or freaks - no one cares that autism is the fastest proliferating affliction on the planet while remaining a complete mystery even to specialists.

I don't care anymore because I thought the movement to let a community of caring people be heard would be the tip of a brand new sword. Instead I find myself the punchline to the joke of a plastic dagger. Mega corporations and big money still rule, common people can't be civil and decent to each other, and those who bitch against it at the watercooler still won't take to the streets against it all and change things for real.

Jericho's a great TV show, and I'll miss it. When it's gone, I'll change the channel and dumb myself down with something else before going to sleep. Such is the way of the world we live in. I'll fight my own battles my own way, on my own terms, for my own reasons from now on.

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