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Perhaps the best way to describe last night’s debut of the CBS series “Jericho” is that it is something like “Lost” meets “Left Behind.” The show borrows storytelling devices from both, but with only moderate success.

Last night’s pilot introduced us to the tiny, old-fashioned fictional town of Jericho, Kansas. But before we can become too attached to Jake Green, a prodigal son returning home for a brief visit after a mysterious absence, disaster strikes. A mushroom cloud is seen in the West–supposedly over Denver–and word of some kind of explosion in Atlanta is also heard of over the airwaves. Jericho then loses all contact with the outside world.

Chaos ensues, as word of the explosion spreads. Soon, townsfolk turn on each other, while Jake is reluctantly turned into a hero for saving children on a stranded school bus. By the end of the episode, the folks of Jericho feel an eerie sense of helplessness over their future survival.

The problem with “Jericho” so far is that the science fiction element is not as strong as it is in a show like “Lost” or “The X Files,” but it also doesn’t have enough of a spiritual angle to snag an audience thirsty for an apocalyptic adventure. My guess is “Jericho” may vanish from primetime before anyone–including viewers–realizes the citizens of Jericho, Kansas, are still alive.

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