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Jericho & New Orleans [4/07/2008 12:53:00 AM]:
Fuck. I've been steaming about this for a couple of weeks now, but I just can't get over it -- I'm still mad as hell that Jericho got cancelled for the second damn time, this time permanently.

Beyond the fact that the CBS rocket scientists, in their infinite wisdom, put the show in a weird-ass spot at 9PM on Tuesday nights, when/where nobody could apparently find it (hell, I had a hard time watching it at that time & on that night, for some reason), it just feels like a total shame that such an honestly good show got shafted like this, particularly when total crap like Big Brother, My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad, & Don't Forget the Lyrics! are still on the air. (I can't even remember the name of that god-fucking-awful "spill the beans about all your past infidelities" show, sorry, or that'd be first on the list.)

In fact, I've been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I just can't shake the feeling that it was a truly great show, although arguably still in its early stages. (Warning: for those who have yet to see the show, some spoilers to come...)

It was really that good; I mean that seriously. I'd initally written it off as some kind of right-winger's wet dream of a show -- survivalism after the bomb, every-man-for-himself bullshit -- but it turned out to be something that crossed all lines and hit upon some of the deepest, darkest shit that's roiling under the surface of our wonderful, soul-shattered Modern America. It was all about community, about banding together to help one another rather than just looking out for your own (well, within your own town, anyway), about loss and grief beyond measure, about people not being all bad or all good but just being people, and about being able to pick up the pieces after disaster strikes and making a new life.

Oh, and it was also about some fairly radical ideas, like localism vs. nationalism, the government not always being in the right, screwing up and living with the mess, and unchecked corporate power. Heady stuff for a show about a small town in Kansas that's been all but ignored by the rest of the world (barring the desperate, warlike next town over and some ominous corporate mercenaries, anyway) after somebody decided to nuke most of the population centers in the U.S.

Plus, despite me & the wife making ruthless fun of some of the characters, particularly in the first season -- sorry, Sprague Grayden/Heather Lisinski, but for the bulk of the first season you were pretty much just some kind of combination between a hapless '50s housewife and Velma from Scooby-Doo -- the characters and actors showed some impressive development. Everyman semi-hero Skeet Ulrich/Jake Green was likeable as all hell, as resourceful as MacGyver, and yet still susceptible to things like, well, the urge to run out and blow the head off the guy who got his dad killed. That's what I'd call human, personally.

Not everybody was always right or wrong -- even Michael Gaston/Gray Anderson hit a few things on the nose, despite pulling such legally questionable shit as co-opting deputy Jimmy to interrogate Lennie James/Robert Hawkins when Anderson, um, didn't actually hold any kind of position of authority. Hawkins, for his part, was nicely vulnerable and real when it came to his utter failure as a dad and/or husband, in spite of being a badass at everything else. Which, honestly, makes perfect sense; I'd find a combo SuperDad/Secret Agent Man totally unrealistic, personally.

My favorite character-related bit, though, was the convoluted, Odd Couple-esque, growing-in-spite-of-everything relationship between Brad Beyer/Stanley Richmond & Alicia Coppola/Mimi Clark, which was -- for my money, anyway -- the best, funniest, sweetest, most believable on-screen chemistry I've seen since Rob Morrow & Janine Turner fought nonstop up there in little Cicely, Alaska. I can't honestly remember the last time I actually wanted a relationship to work out between two characters on a TV show as much as these two. It kills me not to be able to see what happens between the two of 'em.

The reason this is all coming to me right now, though, is more about the plot than the characters. While watching Season One on DVD (missed most of the first go-round, myself) and catching up to Season Two pretty much in time for The End, I've also been reading Michael Eric Dyson's excellent Come Hell or High Water, about the Katrina disaster/clusterfuck/tragedy. Dyson dissects the whole thing quite nicely, laying blame on everybody, Democrat & Repub, but primarily smacking down the federal government for utterly dropping the ball, whether due to patrician ignorance of how The Po' Folk live or good ol' cronyist incompetence.

It was the part about all the no-bid contracts that flew into effect quickly (but not quite quickly enough, as it happened) after Katrina that made me see the parallels between Jericho, KS, and post-Katrina New Orleans, LA. Two disasters, two inadequate responses from a fractured, self-interested federal government, and two near-takeovers by corporate power. 'Cause c'mon, that's exactly what's happening in New Orleans since the water came, believe it, starting with all those Big Red H rebuilding contracts.

Seen in that light, Jericho seems downright Mother Jones-ish in its condemnation of BushCo, USA. Hell, even the eventually-revealed blueprint for the attacks -- a contingency plan for a nuclear strike on 25 different American cities, written up by a contractor -- is ripped right out of the shady world of real-life, no-bid government contracting. A plan very much like that really does exist, although it's focused primarily on preparing logistics for the event, things like the number of bodybags to purchase and the distance a wastewater zone needs to be from a tent city. It's real and it's creepy as shit, trust me.

I know it'll sound eerily like I'm echoing the show here, but I know because I worked on the damn thing. Not as a writer, mind you, but doing editing and formatting and making it look purty/readable. The plan's part of a set of contingency plans created for a DOD program called LOGCAP, which stands for "Logistics Civil Augmentation," that gets awarded out to one of a handful of super-big contracting companies (including KBR, Fluor, and, I believe, Dresser & Bechtel). The contracted company commits to being able to provide all the services, facilities, manpower, etc., specified in the contingency plans they come up with, should the U.S. government activate one or more plans. Think of the whole thing as government outsourcing for big, bad events.

LOGCAP was how Halliburton got its foot into Iraq. It's also how they started billing the U.S. insane amounts for laundry, non-functioning trucks, and awful food for the troops. Don't get me wrong -- there are a lot of good people who work for Halliburton. It's just that that much $$$ flying around makes it real easy to start overcharging, scamming, and skimming. LOGCAP isn't that bad an idea, really, but when you hand off something like that to people outside the government, it gives those people a whole lot of money -- and power -- whether you're talking about Baghdad, Jericho, or, well, New Orleans.

See, there's also a contingency plan out there for a catastrophic event in the Caribbean or Latin America, with an ensuing mass of refugees in urgent need of shelter, food, water, and medical care either somewhere in the southern U.S. or at Guantanamo Bay. Sound familiar? Weirdly, I didn't see any sign of that particular plan being activated for New Orleans, but other LOGCAP plans were -- supposedly, the Blackwater mercenaries sent into The Big Easy after Katrina were part of a LOGCAP contract.

This is why I like/liked Jericho -- the people writing the show basically went head-on at both KBR/Halliburton (which are now two different companies, I know) and Blackwater, tying them to an ambitious Congressman from Montana who, it turns out, had close ties to KBR analogue Jennings & Rall/J&R. (And just to make the Jericho connection to Blackwater more explicit: "Blackwater" == "Ravenwood." Capisce?) All of which is pretty ballsy for a Big Three primetime TV drama. We're not talking Democracy Now!, here.

Anyway. I'm just wanting to express how impressed I was with the show, not to mention how sad it makes me that it's gone away. I've heard rumors that it might come back on cable, but I'm not real optimistic, as great as that'd be. And yeah, it'd be pretty great. (Watch the Season 1 DVDs and the Season 2 episodes online or on the SciFi Channel, if you don't believe me.) Keeping my fingers crossed that we haven't seen the last of Jake, Hawkins, Stanley, Eric, Mimi, Emily, & the rest.

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