J. MichaelStraczynski is one of the most revered names in sci-fi television, and he'squickly matching that success in the world of comics, in part due to his latesttelevision offering Jeremiah.
Straczynski, aveteran TV writer and producer came to prominence in the 90s with the hit seriesBabylon 5, which many sci-fi fans felt was a better alternative tothe ever increasingly bland Star Trek franchise. The show iscurrently enjoying good ratings through reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Straczynskifirst came onto the comic book scene in the late 90s, when he penned a line ofcreator-owned comic titles for publisher Top Cow. His first series, RisingStars became an immediate critical and commercial hit. That was followedby Midnight Nation, another instant hit. Top Cow was so impressedwith his comic work, they inked a deal to give him his own line of comic titles,which was to be under the imprint of Joe's Comics. However, the deal fellapart when Marvel Comics lured Straczynski into their fold, and since then, hiswork on Amazing Spider-Man has been a runaway success, and morecomic titles from him are in the works.
Just because hetook the comic industry by storm doesn't mean he's done with television, butwith Jeremiah, he's combined the two mediums he's been sosuccessful in. Jeremiah is based off of the comic book of the samename, created by Hermann Huppen. And, in what seems to be an increasing trend,the series airs on Showtime, where the show has smaller exposure, but morecreative freedom.
Like other hitcable shows that are biting into the traditional network ratings, Jeremiahbenefits greatly from the increased creative freedom. The show has a strongvisual sense to it. Many scenes in the pilot are stylishly lit, with many darkimagery, as well as use of natural light. A high amount of the scenes are filmedon location in Canada, giving it a very real and gritty feel. Considering it'ssubject matter, this is integral.
Jeremiahon its surface looks like other post-apocalyptic films we've seen before, butit has a fresh approach that sets it apart from lesser fare. You might call it across between Road Warrior and Night of the Comet.In the show, a disease plagues humanity, killing off virtually everyone over theage of puberty. Thus, masses of children begin a new world, leaching off of theremnants of the old. For years, the new generation coasts off of the food andsupplies left behind. And that is where things get interesting.
The seriesactually takes place 15 years after the "Big Death" wipes out everyone "overthe age of innocence," as the show puts it. The malls have been cleaned out.Food and water are scarce. And the people have two choices - form a workingsociety, or descend into chaos and death. Amid all the conflict is Jeremiah.
Jeremiah's waskilled a few years after the plague hit when Jeremiah was unable to protect him,and the guilt drives him to do what good he can in the world. While so manyaround him are simply concerned with their basic survival, Jeremiah is consumedwith the need to help people, and to make the world better person by person.
This has lead toa bit of intrigue. Following some vague clues, Jeremiah has found and alliedhimself with an enclave of survivors that are holed up in a military compound,deep within a mountain. This enclave is the first real form of a new democracy,and is threatened by roving clans of bandits and warlords.
Starring asJeremiah, is Luke Perry from Beverly Hills 90210 fame. Perry hasbeen in some solid projects since his 90210 days, including a stint on thecritically acclaimed HBO series OZ, as well as voicing Rick Joneson The Incredible Hulk on UPN from a few years back. Perry issuited to the role, and comes off well.
Another familiarface that audiences will recognize is that of Malcolm Jamal Warner, formerlyTheo on The Cosby Show. Warner has kept a fairly low profile sincehis Cosby days, but he shines as Jeremiah's reluctant companion. Decked out inlong dreadlocks, Warner has shed his cutesy features of past, and kicks some assin the show. Warner's character actually starts off at odds with Jeremiah,stealing food from him several times before they ally themselves.
The show seemsto be a creative success, but it is yet to be determined whether it was also afinancial victory. A good indicator will depend on the ratings of the seasonfinale, which airs on Showtime this Friday night (check local listings). Thenetwork has indicated a decision on season two would be made in the next fewweeks.
With all theattention given to the high profile comic-to-film projects like Men inBlack 2 and Spider-Man, Jeremiah can beeasily overlooked. However, Straczynski has crafted yet another cool genreseries that should satisfy his fans, as well as that of comic books and sci-fi.Here's hoping for season two.