With only a few exceptions, it's almost unheard of for a television network to reverse itself once it's canceled a prime-time TV series, but that's what CBS did this week when executives announced that the previously canceled post-apocalyptic drama "Jericho" will have a seven-episode second season.
"Jericho" executive producer and Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky credits fans with the save.
"It was 100 percent the fans," Chbosky said in a phone call yesterday. "It means a great deal to me that the viewers actually had an impact. I think that's pretty inspiring and I'll be grateful forever for it."
Clarke Ingram of Baldwin was among the fans leading the charge. Ingram, who works as operations manager at North Versailles radio stations WKHB (620 AM) and WKFB (770 AM), was on a medical leave from work when "Jericho" was canceled. He joined forces with other fans to spearhead the save Jericho campaign online at jericholives.
"A woman in Washington, D.C., was the leader of the campaign," Ingram said. "I thought we had a snowball's chance in hell, but we led a high-road campaign. Because of my experience in radio, they sent me out there as a spokesperson."
That's how he got interviewed for an Associated Press story earlier this week. Since then, he's been on the phone pretty much non-stop.
Ingram said he's never tried to save a TV show before and isn't even much of an appointment TV viewer, but he just liked "Jericho."
Ingram knows the campaign will have to continue if "Jericho" is to survive beyond its abbreviated second season.
"We need to be as supportive of the show in reruns and when it comes out on DVD as we were vocal about its cancellation," said Ingram, who intends to return to work in a few weeks.
The show's first season ended with the death of patriarch Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) and a cliffhanger about armed forces in Cheyenne, Wyo., learning the importance of several people in Jericho.
Chbosky said the show's budget has been cut, which could impact the story going forward.
"It's a lower budget, there's less money for guest stars, less money for recurring cast, we're trying to make the numbers work right now," he said. "In season two we want to investigate and explore Cheyenne and a line producer could say, if we explore Cheyenne, we'll never be able to afford it and Cheyenne may come to Jericho now."
So far, Chbosky said stars Skeet Ulrich (Jake Green), Lennie James (Robert Hawkins), Brad Beyer (Stanley) and Alicia Coppola (Mimi) are signed to return and he expects Pamela Reed (Gail Green) will be back, too.
"'Jericho' is a very different show for CBS and CBS has not been known as the network that appeals to the online community as much or the DVD-buying community as much," Chbosky said. "Back when they bought the pilot, they wanted this to be the flagship show for them to try this stuff out and learn about this and their learning curve is the same as ours. The executives over there had never done this before. This was a real lesson for CBS and good for their other shows in the future."
With a short seven-episode order, Chbosky promises, "You don't have to stretch anything out. It'll be seven episodes with a great cliffhanger at the end."
Uh-oh! Another cliffhanger? What if the show's canceled again?
Chbosky said his understanding is "Jericho" will be the first midseason replacement on CBS, meaning it will likely premiere before the end of the year, allowing writers time to script an ending if the ratings are again low.
"We know how to wrap up the show if we have to," he said. "Ultimately it will depend when they put us on the schedule, but it could be as early as October and in that case we will have time to wrap it up if necessary."
Both Hawkins (Lennie James) and Jake (Skeet Ulrich) are confirmed to return in the second season of "Jericho."