Cue the Gap Band’s 1982 hit ”You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” In preparation for tonight’s long-awaited return of CBS’ post-apocalyptic drama Jericho, co-executive producer Karim Zreik tells EW.com about the show’s new cast members and crazy production schedule, and what he’ll do if this abbreviated season ends up being the show’s last.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s jump aboard Mr. Jericho’s Wild Ride. Remind us again about your year at CBS.
KARIM ZREIK: We were canceled in the middle of May 2007, and then we were brought back a month after that, so we jumped into production through the end of July. We wrapped seven episodes right before October.
You’re coming back at a time when there are very few original scripted shows on the air because of the writers strike. How does that feel?
We’re excited! We’re excited about our new time slot, Tuesday at 10, where we hope to get a new audience. People weren’t able to watch us before when we were at Wednesday at 8. We made a concerted effort to pack these seven episodes with as much action as we can, and to keep everything fast paced. That’s the one thing that attracted audiences to the show in first place.
This is a series about a terrorist attack on the U.S. This Kansas town was one of the few places that weren’t blown to smithereens. Does this drama really need romance in light of such a heavy-duty conceit?
I think it needs a mixture of both, though early in season 1 we focused on the relationships. People want to see more action. In the first five minutes of [tonight’s] episode, we’ll pay off last season’s battle sequence. We’ll show the audience what happened, who stopped it, and who won.
Tell us about the addition of Murder One’s Daniel Benzali.
He is so scary! He comes in during episode 2 as one of the new members of the new government based out of Cheyenne.
Can you give us more hints about what to expect this season?
We’ll have more Jake [Skeet Ulrich] story lines that deal with Hawkins [Lennie James]. As we all know, Hawkins has the only remaining bomb that was [supposed to be used] in the attack. Jake and Hawkins work together to show the rest of the world who is responsible. We made a point this season to reveal more of who dropped the bomb and why did they do it. We’ll also see Jericho in a new light. Electricity is back on, buildings are restored. People are going back to normalcy.
This show is packed with conspiracy theories about the government. Can’t help but wonder if a bunch of cynical Bush-haters are packed in that writers room of yours.
[Laughs] As writers, you want to focus on the issues that are happening. Last season we introduced this company called Ravenwood. Next thing we know there was the whole issue involving Blackwater in Iraq. We didn’t go out of our way to point fingers; that’s the way it happened. We have a lot of advisers on the show to talk about positions they’ve been in before and provide background information on what would happen if this or that occurred.
Are you prepared in the event that CBS cancels Jericho — again?
When we got closer to commencing production on the final episode, CBS asked us very kindly to shoot an alternative ending, just in case the ratings aren’t what everybody expected. These seven episodes have been a blessing for us. It allowed us to move everything along much faster so if there is a season 3, we will try to continue that pace for a full 22.
More Jericho: New to the series? Catch up for the season premiere with our season 1 Jericho cheat sheet