Might the folks of
Jericho have some fight left in them after all? Not long after CBS announced
its decision not to renew the drama for a third season (and thus air a
series finale Tuesday night), I spoke with executive producer
Carol Barbee about the sad news, the show's "amazing" fans, and this week's "emotionally satisfying" conclusion.
TVGuide.com: I'm sorry to hear about the show. We were big fans of it here.
You guys were great. I really appreciate it.
TVGuide.com: When did you get word about CBS' decision?
Friday. I knew that they had an internal meeting on Thursday, to decide which of the endings we were going to show. At that time they gave us permission to speak to the cast, because we had requested to have 24 hours to speak to them, which I did on the phone, before it went out to the general public.
TVGuide.com: The response on our news blog was astounding, and I've seen two common refrains from the readers. Some are saying that the fans didn't fulfill their end of the bargain, that they didn't recruit new viewers. I think that's a bit unfair.
I think our fans have been amazing. Our fans are not professional marketers! They are people with lives who gave so much of their time and energy and money to keep us on the air. They did more than enough, more than their share. We could not be more grateful to them. There's a limit to what a fan base can do when you're trying to reverse a slide in ratings.
TVGuide.com: Another refrain is that CBS perhaps isn't placing enough value on online and live-plus-7 viewing.
I can tell you that they definitely were tracking the numbers [differently] this time, in a way that they didn't our first season. But ultimately, even though we added a couple million viewers when you added those numbers in, it looks to me like we're not in a network world where those numbers make dollars sense. The legacy of Jericho first of all will be the NUTS campaign and this amazing fan revolt, but also that we are not at a moment in time where the networks realize they have to start counting people [who watch] on the Internet and [on DVR]. It wasn't in time to save us, but it will reverberate from here out.
TVGuide.com: Were you upset with the Tuesday, 10 o'clock time slot?
It's so funny - Tuesday at 10 used to be the greatest thing ever because I ran Judging Amy, and it did great [in that slot]. But it's a tough time slot, and anything during the months American Idol is on has a tough row to hoe. When you're being thoroughly entertained by plucky musicians, it's hard to change that channel. I don't think that means people aren't finding their way to scripted drama, they're just finding them on different platforms, so the numbers have gotten smaller. Hopefully those numbers will start being counted.
TVGuide.com: Skeet [Ulrich] told me fans will be "not too happy" with the alternate ending.
I heard him say that. I think what [he meant] that if they show the alternate version, viewers will be upset because they know it's the end. But the actual alternate ending is very emotionally satisfying. It's very well done. We weren't going to make something that wasn't worth ending our series with. The ending they're going to see is great. Depending on what happens with the show - we're still shopping it, talking to people about a possible other life - the original ending will probably be on the DVD.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about that "possible other life." What are the chances of that happening, of a cable network picking up Jericho? And why it isn't as easy as the fans would believe. A lot of fans are saying, "A cable network would kill for six million viewers."
I wish I knew. I really don't know what [the cable networks'] business models are. We get compared a lot to Friday Night Lights, but Friday Night Lights shoots in Texas and their budget is much lower than ours. Even with the restrictions that were put on us for this second season, we cut it pretty much to the bone. We might be able to get [the budget] a little lower, depending on where we are shooting. I would imagine, though, that people would be thrilled to get our audience! We had eight million for our premiere, and even if we retained three or four million for a cable station, that'd be a good audience. I'm hoping these talks work out, but you never know.
But wait, there's more. Coming Wednesday, in Part 2 of my talk with Barbee: A sneak peek at the original cliff-hanger ending, and a burning after-the-finale question is answered.