As I reported about a day ago, based on reports from TV Guide editor Matt Ausiello, CBS has ordered an extremely small run of new episodes for what was probably the seasons second biggest disappointment in the ratings race next to Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60. Jericho debuted to good ratings but fell steadily until CBS put the show on extended hiatus, which has never had a good effect on any series before, much less one that was already struggling.
The result was immediate and obvious, many of the shows fans that had stuck around until the season's midpoint didn't come back when it returned to the air, causing CBS to leave Jericho off the fall schedule during the networks upfronts, effectively cancelling it.
I've seen some people attributing fan-lead petitions and a "nut drive" with the shows temporary revival (but not renewal) and CBS seems thrilled to play up this aspect of the deal, but I have serious doubts as to what has been accomplished, and why CBS is sinking more money into such an expensive show that has already lost at least one regular cast member.
Among the numerous questions remaining are how many of the original cast will come back, now that their deals have all expired. We know at least one won't be returning, Gerald McRaney who played mayor Johnston Green has announced through his representation that he intends not to return to Jericho, no matter what happens with the show.
It's understood that the shows budget will be scaled back, to better fit with a show with a low viewership.
There is also the question, as I noted, of CBS' motive on all of this. They don't stand to gain financially from bringing back a ratings-challenged series for a limited run, but it does provide great cover as a mid-season replacement for one of the new shows on the fall sched that will inevitably fail. There are always shows that fail, and here is a series that will bring at least 7-9 million viewers (maybe, with it being canceled and then brought back for a limited run, it could drop even further) the network has at its disposal a "known property", even if a hobbled one, that can shore up an even weaker timeslot next year.
This could also lead CBS to experiment with trimming the budget, and shifting the series from television to the web to finish out a later full season order.
Showrunner Carol Barbee won't be available to devote her full attention to Jericho next year, as she already found work as an executive producer for Swingtown, a possibility I raised when the petition drive began, and has already come true for Gerald McRaney.
It's fantastic that CBS is giving Jericho a second chance, but fans shouldn't get their hopes up. If the show doesn't do any better the second time around, it's going to end up back on the scrap heap, and it won't be coming back for a third dance.
This is when the real work begins. Signing a digital petition and spending a few bucks on nuts isn't work. Fans need to talk to their family and their friends; find five people that have never seen Jericho before, and get them to watch all seven new episodes next year. No exceptions. If the ratings don't improve, this will be the shortest revival in history.
This is the letter CBS President Nina Tassler posted on CBS' website, in its entirety. Be appreciative of her sticking her neck out, and put some real effort into getting this show a new and growing fanbase. The same old numbers won't cut it again.
To the Fans of Jericho:
Over the past few weeks you have put forth an impressive and probably unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime-time television series. You got our attention; your e-mails and collective voice have been heard.
As a result, CBS has ordered seven episodes of Jericho for mid-season next year. In success, there is the potential for more. But for there to be more Jericho we will need more viewers.
A loyal and passionate community has clearly formed around the show. But that community needs to grow. It needs to grow on the CBS television network, as well as on the many digital platforms where we make the show available.
We will count on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grassroots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks.
At this time, I cannot tell you the specific date or time period that Jericho will return to our schedule. However, in the interim we are working on several initiatives to help introduce the show to new audiences. This includes rebroadcasting Jericho on CBS this summer, streaming episodes and clips from these episodes across the CBS Audience Network (online), releasing the first season DVD on Sept. 25, and continuing the story of Jericho in the digital world until the new episodes return. We will let you know specifics when we have them so you can pass them on.
On behalf of everyone at CBS, thank you for expressing your support of Jericho in such an extraordinary manner. Your protest was creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone. You made a difference.
Sincerely, Nina Tassler President, CBS Entertainment
Congratulations fans, you did a good job. Now get out there and get this show an audience.