So, fine, yes, something good has come of the Syfy network’s cancellations of Stargate: Universe and Caprica, two shows I really enjoyed. Because if it weren’t for the sudden empty spaces on my science fiction TV watch list, I might not have visited Eureka for my new geeky television fix.
Eureka‘s been around since July 2006 , which earns it grizzled veteran status in sci-fi television land these days. (Some perspective: Heroes debuted less than two months later. Raise your hand if you thought the Syfy former would outlast the NBC powerhouse latter.) The high-profile Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles both came and went while Eureka has quietly and quirkily lived on.
And thanks to its availability via Netflix instant-watch, I rapidly developed an addiction to the show over the past several weeks.
If you haven’t given Eureka a shot yet, here’s the show’s core: U.S. Marshal Jack Carter and his teenage daughter Zoe move to the secret town of Eureka, Oregon, where he fills the role of sheriff surrounded by super-geniuses and the advanced research facilities of the Global Dynamics corporation. Hijinks (naturally) ensue.
Yes, Eureka can be formulaic at times — it’s especially noticeable when you can watch the episodes in rapid succession and hit a stretch of back-to-back-to-back town-threatening calamities — but there are also good tales of smaller-scale predicaments that carry as much weight emotionally or socially, even if they don’t register on the city-wrecking scale.
And the science is definitely in the comic-book realm, what with its sentient houses and sulking combat drones, alternate timelines and the occasional manufactured sun, but since that tone is set in the pilot episode, you know what you’re in for from the start.
What really hooked me was the characters and the chemistry. They just seem to have that intangible sincerity to their interactions that reflects both good writing and good acting, and it makes for television that’s just plain fun to watch, with characters it’s easy to root for. And in addition to the elements that make it science fiction, Eureka‘s also packed with the kinds of things most of us can relate to: parents and kids; adults starting their lives over in different ways; tough choices and friendship and devastating losses.
Unlike harder sci-fi fare, Eureka makes for good family viewing, too. While there are difficult situations and consequences and deaths, this isn’t a gritty world of violence or splatter gore. I find myself all-too-readily identifying with Carter’s puzzlement as the father of a teenage girl, and my daughter loves the interplay between the sheriff and other characters like the seemingly Tony Stark-inspired billionaire wiseass genius Nathan Stark.
The writers also do a great job of weaving stand-alone episodes into longer story arcs, though to their credit, these overarching plots never become overwhelming (see X-Files, The). Each season’s structure reminds me a lot of the way Doctor Who‘s writers unfold their similar-length seasons, revealing snippets of a larger picture along the way and then bringing that underlying motion to the forefront for the final two or three episodes.
I’ve made it through the first three seasons – the third is actually divided into two separate story arcs and is sometimes designated seasons 3 and 3.5 – and am eagerly awaiting Season 4‘s release.
Now, what to watch in the meantime?