Thursday, July 19, 2012

TV: Eureka Season 1

In typical fashion, I am often late to discovering cool television programs. That is the case with Eureka, an original television series that has been running on the Syfy channel since the summer of 2006.

This week was the airing of the final episode of the series. Luckily, Netflix has the show on its cue (up through season 4 though I would expect the fifth and final season to show up soon as the DVDs for it were released the day after the finale). As I started watching the show this week and have gotten through season 1, I thought I would offer my thoughts on the series (attempting to avoid major spoilers for those who have yet to get into it).

To summarize, this science fiction show is set in a fictional town of Eureka, Oregon. In the pilot, federal marshal Jack Carter (played by Colin Ferguson) and his teenaged daughter Zoe (played by Jordan Hinson) find themselves stranded there only to learn that the town is far from ordinary. It turns out the population is full of scientific geniuses most of whom work for the company Global Dynamics, an advanced research facility with ties to the government. After successfully investigating an experiment gone awry, Carter is re-assigned by his superiors as the new town sheriff.

Season one consists of twelve episodes in total, including the double-length pilot. Greg Germann plays Professor Warren King, director of Global Dynamics, in that debut. But when the show was picked up for a series, his character was replaced by Dr. Nathan Stark (played by Ed Quinn) as the head of operations. This was definitely a good move I think. Germann and Ferguson are both light haired and have similar genuinely likeable personalities; Quinn has dark hair and provided a better morally gray counterpoint to the town's do-the-right-thing sheriff.

The pilot definitely does a good job setting up characters and subplots that could be mined later as a series. The odd-ball Australian Jim Taggart (played by Matt Frewer who many from my generation would know from his title-character role in Max Headroom in the 80's), the tough as nails deputy Jo Lupo (played by Erica Cerra), the jack-of-all-trades Dr. Henry Deacon (played by Joe Morton), the often-overshadowed assistant Dr. Douglas Fargo (played by Neil Grayson), the attractive love interest in Department of Defense liaison Dr. Allison Blake (played by Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and the secretive town psychiatrist Beverly Barlowe (played by Debrah Farentino) are all established in that pilot.

The second episode transitions smoothly into the series by expanding on a plot thread from the pilot. This makes sense as it was written too by the show creators Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia. As often happens in first seasons, episodes three though eight are all stand-alone tales. They keep the status quo of the series premise while slowly building upon the starting foundations. These ones do introduce some characters (like an old love-interest of Henry's and a US Senator with ties to Barlowe) that do come back into play later in the season. We are also introduced to the mysterious artifact that is the object of Stark's scientific obsession.

The final four episodes of the season really start to form a cohesive gel as subplots are strung along from one show to the next. By this point, the writers have gotten a better feel for the characters and have gotten the viewers to invest interest in them. We definitely see some development of the inter-personal relationships and some long-term ramifications of actions emerging. The final episode of the season definitely raises the stakes by putting two characters in an interesting position for the start of season 2.

With season 1, the show so far has done a good job at balancing the science aspects with humor. Ferguson's Carter is the everyman which viewers can relate to; his role allows the other characters to explain the scientific principles to the viewer in an acceptable fashion. I also like the occasional nods to classic sci-fi shows and movies that are occasionally sprinkled in - either through dialogue or visual bits (my favorite so far is in episode eleven with the pizza delivery guy).

Continuing through the remaining seasons will help tied me over until the new Fall TV seasons start up in September.

No comments: