Saturday, April 11, 2009

Special Edition

Parallels between ‘Jericho’ and ‘M*A*SH*’ by Captain Video

I would like to devote my standard digression to Ratkeeper and my fellow rangers, my people call them freedom farmers, for their intense support during my tenure as the “TV on DVD” Examiner for what turned out to be the interim government at This support was particularly strong and especially appreciated when that relationship ended last Friday. A future entry will discuss the “Jericho” elements of this separation.

In related news, I am pleased to announce that I will be reviewing DVD sets of TV shows for The liberal editorial policy of this site will also allow to me write general articles about “Jericho” and other great shows. My essay last week on the specific elements that make “Jericho” so special prompted a conversation with Ratkeeper regarding how the “Jericho” characters had special characteristics that were comparable to the characters on other shows; she made an insightful comparison to Kirk and the boys on the original “Star Trek.”

I agreed with Ratkeeper but found what I considered to be an even more fitting parallel while speaking with another friend. We were discussing 1970s shows that were very good but lacked compelling characters and other shows from that era in which we came to care about the characters. I mentioned “M*A*S*H*” as such a show and as one of the last in which I both eagerly awaited the series finale and cared about the fates of the characters.

This conversation combined with my exchange with Ratkeeper prompted thoughts about the similarities between “Jericho” and “M*A*S*H*.” At the outset, they were both low-rated shows on CBS during their first seasons; of course, CBS gave “M*A*S*H*” a chance to develop an audience.

The shows are also set in highly stressful wars and have characters who responded to this much better than I know that I would. I recall specifically that a special on “M*A*S*H*” commented that even Klinger, who cross-dressed in an effort to get discharged from the army, worked hard and well when duty called. I think that any of the “Jericho” men would look better in a dress than the extraordinarily hirsute Jamie Farr.

Many parallels also exist between characters on the two shows. In the interest of not turning this essay into a novella, I will limit my thoughts to the “big three.”

Jake has many similarities with Hawkeye that extend well beyond the scruffy look. Both characters are the de facto leaders of their groups and inspire tremendous loyalty despite being the equivalent of middle managers. They also never hesitate to speak up or literally put themselves on the firing line despite the consequences of their actions.

Stanley’s counter-part is B.J. Hunicutt, who was the second character that filled the role of Hawkeye’s sidekick. Both characters started out as clean-cut “aw, shucks” innocent types and changed in response to being thrust in a war. At the same time, their essence remained unchanged.

Dale and “M*A*S*H*” company clerk Radar are another obvious pair. They were far younger and much more na├»ve than Stanley and B.J. when they were thrust into war, and the maturity that their circumstances caused was much more noticeable. They also seemed to be more abandoned than the other characters and still had the role of kids despite their active involvement in the war-related efforts. Finally, both of these characters were the scavengers of the group.

I do hope that we are spared the pain of after “Jericho” in which characters are roadies for the rock band “Eric and the Raiders.” This would be worse than no new “Jericho’ content at all.

Thank you for this forum, which has also provided a valued outlet for my “Jericho” thoughts, and for indulging me as well by providing an opportunity to continue inviting folks to share comments as e-mail to:

Captain Video (AKA John Stahl)

Friday, April 3, 2009

April Edition of Blackjack Fairgrounds

This will be a special edition of Blackjack Fairgrounds featuring Jericho articles from John Stahl (AKA Captain Video) We will return to our episode reviews in May.

We hope that you enjoy your time at Blackjack Fairgrounds. Remember the rules: no guns, thieves will be strung up, and be sure to leave before nightfall!

Why ‘Jericho’ is special by Captain Video (AKA John Stahl)

Before sharing my thoughts regarding why “Jericho” is special, I would like to thank Ratkeeper and my other fellow rangers for their patience during this inexcusable gap between these essays. My duties as the TV on DVD Examiner for and other writing projects have made it difficult for “Captain Video” to contribute anything to this great forum lately.

Several rangers with whom I have corresponded have expressed that they shared my sense that “Jericho” is an exceptional program but cannot understand exactly why that is so. One answer came to me during my annual “thaw-out” trip to visit a friend in Florida last month.

My insight hit me while watching “American Idol.” I had never watched that show before but agreed to sit through “Michael Jackson night” because my friend followed the competition.

My comments started along the lines of “Appearing tonight on the Lido Deck,” but I was annoyed that the judges were not saying anything that I did not observe myself. I also became angry during the propaganda videos that appeared before each performance.

I truly did not care if someone began performing for relatives at an early age and did sympathize genuinely with the contestant who is raising a small child alone and the one who had a brother die recently of cancer. However, all of that is irrelevant regarding the singing ability of each contestant.

This reminded me of a camp counselor telling me more than 30 years ago that she did not watch television because the people that she knew were more interesting than those who were on television. I would say that this is true of the majority of modern television programs, but that I would love to have a beer with most of the “Jericho” characters and that this group has more “goodness” in them than a large portion of the population in which I would place myself.

These characters simply have the unusual mix of having personalities with which the average person can relate and responding to a crisis in an admirable way. This is similar to the technique of legendary suspense film director Alfred Hitchcock, who would purposefully bring the danger into a familiar settings that included a motel and a big city apartment. Further, his heroes would respond admirably to these perils in ways that most of us would not.

As a case in point, Johnston Green became the ad hoc leader of the town after losing the mayoral candidate and sacrificed his life defending it. I suspect that many of us would have retreated to our homes and let the town suffer the consequences of choosing another candidate.

Our recent presidents are a good example of this. Most of them are either not very active or are profiting greatly from their fame. I suspect that Jimmy Carter, who suffered a humiliating loss to Ronald Reagan, is also earning a pretty penny but is known best for building houses for Habitat for Humanity and travelling around the world trying to make it a little better.

Further, I would like to think that Stanley Richmond would have taken in the IRS auditor who was not showing him any mercy even if he was not falling in love with her. I know that I am not kind to people who harm me in far less severe ways.
Additionally, my roughly 20 essays about “Jericho” demonstrate that the show makes you think and prompts discussions about important issues. I recall reading that most communities are not prepared for any type of man-made or natural disaster. Further, I think that focusing on ways to be better citizens in these communities would benefit many of us.

On an unrelated note, I cannot attend the “Welcome Home to Jericho” event in a few weeks. However, my offer to participate on a panel via telephone stands. I have also volunteered to assist organizing next year’s event and plan to attend it. I do look forward to seeing fellow rangers with whom I will have been exchanging e-mail and telephone calls for 18 months by then.
If you missed any of John Stahl's earlier Jericho articles, then please check out these links:

Future Traditions - Episode 10 - John Stahl Interview
Top TV on DVD sets of 2008 awarded ‘Winstons’
Sunday night is bad fit for ‘Jericho’
‘Jericho’ was not rebuilt in a day
More reasons to watch 'Jericho' and thoughts on 'Atlantis' finale
'Jericho' depiction of law v. justice and follow-up interview announcement
'Jericho' tops list of Top 5 DVD releases
'Jericho' concepts that CBS would likely accept
'firefly' is a 'Jericho'-like fable of justice, community, and hope
Christmas illustrates 'Jericho' demonstration of hierarchy of needs theory
'Hogwash' is rallying cry for 'Jericho' second season
'Jericho' complete series extras solidify desire for apple pie with cast
'Jericho' S2: One war leads to another and fighting for truth, justice, and the American way
DVD set corrects poor treatment 'Jericho' received

Thank you John for all the wonderful articles you've written about Jericho.