Reel People

Dan Shotz, Producer/Writer

By Paul Farber
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 13, 2006

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Deserves props for: Being one of the creative forces behind upstart CBS drama Jericho. The Elkins Park native was a development executive for director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) when childhood pal Jonathan Steinberg came to him with an idea for a show. The premise: How would a small town in Kansas cope after a massive nuclear attack ravaged America's urban centers? A year and a half later Jericho is the top show in its Wednesday timeslot.

How did you choose Jericho, Kan., as a site of post-apocalyptic interest?

"The choice of Kansas was simply the idea of a town in middle America that could be isolated from any big city in the event of a far-off disaster. Nothing around them has been directly affected, but as the outside world begins to fall apart, this town has to figure out how to survive."

Are there any parallels between Jericho and Elkins Park?

"For Jon Steinberg and I, we were little kids growing up in a suburban neighborhood riding our tricycles around. It was all about community and family, and those ideas are important to the show. Jericho isn't just about death and destruction; it's primarily about human behavior. Some people strive and become better people, and some people go the opposite direction."

How do you guarantee the show is believable?

"There's always stuff you play around with for television, from 'Are the characters dirty enough?' to how you represent FEMA. But what we love about the show is we can bring in all these real world details. We're constantly talking to experts at Homeland Security and the CDC. You stretch some truths for television, but we're always striving to get it right."

How did Jericho find traction with its audience?

"We have an amazing premise with unbelievable what-if scenarios: What skills do I have for a world like that? I think CBS took a major risk with this show, but they know TV's changing and there's room to tell bolder, serialized stories. TiVo and iTunes really help with that, because if you miss an episode, you can now go catch it later."

What's the political context of the show?

"The show isn't focused on what's going on with the president and the government. Our story is from the point of view of our town, what the average person would be faced with. Being in the dark is one of the most terrifying things in the world."

Who were the zombie-like strangers who wandered into town at the end of the last new episode before the break?

"Anytime something comes into town that's foreign or new, it raises the stakes of the whole situation. People ask us, 'Now that the bombs have gone, what other stories are you going to tell?' And I say, 'Just keep watching.'"

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