Tuesday, July 27, 2010

[TV] Eureka!

This series on the SyFy channel (formerly the much less stupid Sci-Fi Channel) is the king of quirky TV shows. It's just started its fourth season this June and by catching up on old episodes I've been reminded how much  really enjoy it.

The show revolves around a hidden, top-secret town in Oregon that's populated almost exclusively by the greatest scientific minds in the country. In the show's mythology, every scientific advance since the late 1940s was actually developed in Eureka and then released to the rest of the world from there. Every week, some new experiment goes awry or mad scientist goes off the deep end. Part of the quirkiness of the show is the over-the-top way that the town's (and world')s existence is nearly wiped out (often in potentially gruesome ways) as a matter of course.

Protecting the scientists from themselves is former U.S. Marshall turned town sheriff Jack Carter. He's far from the smartest guy in town, but he's clever, affable, and completely dedicated. He's also funny as hell. He's played by Colin Ferguson, a trained comic, and his timing and delivery are impeccable. In one scene, he walks into a restricted area and collapses to the ground from the effects of a protective force-field. The way Ferguson folded up and dropped to the ground had me in stitches, and while not over-used it's pretty common for him to mix that sort of physical prat-fall with his deadpan inability to comprehend 90% of what the scientists try to tell him about their crazy experiments. Add in the interpersonal relationships with his daughter and the rest of the regular cast and it's a very funny show that stops short of being a sitcom.

Instead, it's as if every warp-core breach from Star Trek, every funky crisis that had to be resolved by reversing the polarity of some piece of equipment (which somehow DOESN'T explode like you'd expect it to do, but rather fixes some obscure problem that should take a team of scientists six months or more to research, develop and test a solution) were repeated on a weekly basis in this small town. The technical mumbo-jumbo flies fast and heavy, but it never loses you and all sounds very believable (in context, anyway).

Around the time of the writer's strike a few years back (and probably related) the show took a long hiatus and I fell out of the habit of watching it, missing a good-sized chunk of Season 3. Now that Season 4 is up and running, I've been going back and watching those missed episodes and remembering why I enjoy this show so much. It's fresh, it's never dull, and it's got a great sense of humor while still being a reasonably serious take on sci-fi in a unique setting.

Another great thing about Eureka is that while it sometimes references older episodes and events, it always does so in a way that's easy to follow even if you missed (or just don't remember) that show. It's incredibly easy to dive into without feeling lost. As such, it's a great sci-fi show for people who just want to watch some fun and entertaining TV without feeling as if they need to learn a multi-year story arc. Eureka airs at 9 PM Eastern on the SyFy channel in the U.S. (and at other times and stations around the world).


  1. Hmmm, how did you know that I was hoping you might give some kind of "review" of Eureka. I happened upon it a week ago and thought, "where in the world has this program been?" I had never seen it before and was curious about it from viewing the previews. Your timing is great!