CBS cancels "Jericho" despite fan fervor

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - CBS has nuked “Jericho,” the low-rated post-Armageddon drama that was briefly brought back from the dead by fan demand.

Cast member Skeet Ulrich listens to questions about the CBS production "Jericho" at the 2006 Summer CBS Television Critics Association press tour held in Pasadena, California July 15, 2006. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

The network will air the season finale on Tuesday, one of two that was shot in the event either of a renewal or cancellation.

“The March 25th episode of Jericho will be the series finale,” CBS said in a statement. “Without question, there are passionate viewers watching this program; we simply wish there were more. We thank an engaged and spirited fan base for keeping the show alive this long, and an outstanding team of producers, cast and crew that went through creative hoops to deliver a compelling, high quality second season. We have no regrets bringing the show back for a second try. We listened to our viewers, gave the series an opportunity to grow, and the producers put a great story on the screen. We’re proud of everyone’s efforts.”

After the first season concluded with an abrupt cut to black, fans famously inundated CBS with tens of thousands of pounds of peanuts -- playing off a line of dialogue in the finale -- to urge the network to continue the show.

For the seven-episode second season, producers shot two endings -- one that leaves viewers in suspense for a third round, another that is more conclusive.

The ending chosen by CBS will wrap up the final season’s storyline, where the nuclear war survivors of a Kansas town struggled under a violent occupation by a government contractor.

The finale doesn’t entirely slam the door on the series, but is notably different from the cliffhanger version, sources said. The ending also doesn’t entirely preclude the possibility of “Jericho” finding a second life on cable. The high cost of the production, however, will likely prevent a continuation of the show.

Despite the erosion of broadcast ratings in recent years, the massive protest that saved “Jericho” last year has been called the largest fan effort ever to try and halt a network cancellation of a series.

The outcry put CBS in a tough position, whether to renew a show that has below-the-line ratings, yet unprecedented fan support. “Jericho” also performed well online on and in iTunes downloads.

Unfortunately for the network and fans, the second season’s Nielsen ratings were even lower than the first. Latest weekly primetime ratings from Nielsen indicated the drama averaged just 6.8 million viewers so far this season.

“‘Jericho’ is unique because the fans saved it -- watching it on the Internet and streaming and iTunes downloads, all those things that are not being counted,” said executive producer Carol Barbee in a recent interview. “That’s what ‘Jericho’ will be known for.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter