Monday, October 02, 2006

Jericho Deconstructed
The new drama series from CBS is now two episodes old. It's moderately exciting, nicely photographed, well acted (within the limitations of the script) and I'll keep watching. But this isn't a TV review column, I'm much more interested in what Jericho tells us about contemporary America. What zeitgeist is the show capturing?
It's easy to see Jericho as an allegory of America's geopolitical imagination; for the town, read the USA; for the rest of the world, read, well, the rest of the world. Hemmed in on all sides by violence and uncertainty, the mayor's call for unity might have been penned by a White House scriptwriter; "We can fight all enemies", "Are we going to use our imaginations to cause problems or to solve them?" and best of all "People, don't you break my heart again". All good stuff. Motherhood, apple pie and Geiger counters. Presumably followed by starvation, contaminated water and a lingering death. Or, more likely, an uplifting happy ending laced with tragedy, soundtracked by Hank Williams or, God forbid, Coldplay.
There's another sub-text that suggests itself. Ignore the specifics of nuclear terrorism. The new world of Jericho is one of resource shortages, infrastructure breakdowns and social collapse. Danger lurks just beyond the "Welcome to Jericho" sign at the edge of town. Looking forward into the near future, these are all characteristics of the world of Peak Oil. In his book 'The Long Emergency', James Howard Kunstler depicts the unsustainability of the American suburban settlement model without readily available cheap energy. Jericho, with a population of 5000 people, potentially self-sufficient for food and social infrastructure, is a model for the type of settlement that Kunstler and many others regard as best placed to survive the inevitable upheavals of the new century.
The End Of Suburbia


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