Jericho is an eight-part period drama on ITV1 (Thursdays at 9pm) and stars Jessica Raine, Hans Matheson, Clarke Peters, Daniel Rigby, Mark Addy and Dean Andrews, along with other familiar (and not so familiar) faces. Set in 1870s Yorkshire, the drama focuses on life in a shanty town, which has sprung up around a partly built viaduct.
In the first episode, Widow Annie Quaintain (Jessica Raine) has to leave her home and sell her belongings in order to pay off her late husband's debts. In search of work she decides to go to Culverdale Valley, and is accompanied by her two teenage children. On the goods train they meet the mysterious Johnny Jackson (Hans Matheson), who assists them. Once in the shanty town, Annie finds somewhere to rent, although she has to take in some lodgers in order to make ends meet.
Jericho is certainly eventful; in this opening episode we also see various fights, a theft, a major explosion which kills two people and a murder. There are romances being conducted too, the main one being between Annie and Johnny.
There was always a danger of Jericho appearing too grim, too bleak, and although it does indeed portray a hard way of life, there was also a softness to it, helped I think by the music. I thought the accompanying soundtrack was very emotive.
The scenery also plays its part; the Yorkshire Moors are always impressive, and along with the partly built viaduct and the various huts and tents, Jericho is visually appealing. There is a Wild West feel to the drama.
I was intrigued by Charles Blackwood's back story (played by Daniel Rigby), for there's a suggestion he had his heart broken years ago by a woman who has now come back into his life. The viaduct is Charles' vision. He has invested his own money in it, but needs more backers. I liked the mix of classes.
I will indeed keep watching Jericho, and I highly recommend it. It's different to other period dramas – more gritty – and has strong characters along with decent storylines. Maybe it's unfair to compare it to War and Peace, which is an adaptation of a literary classic, yet they are both period dramas and I know which I prefer – Jericho.