Last week another science fiction show was cancelled while it still had stories to tell. The latest victim was Eureka, a SyFy channel original show. Unlike some of the recently popular dramatic shows in this genre, Eureka didn’t worry about taking itself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, the science is A+ technobabble that helped generate award winning special effects. But, something downright ridiculous and funny happened every week.
For background, the show hinged on a town (Eureka) and corporation (Global Dynamics) deep in the woods of Oregon that was funded by the US government which reaped the benefits of the fantastic inventions created there. The people that lived and worked there aren’t just scientists; they were arguably some of the most intelligent people on the planet. That fact is what makes if funnier when one of their experiments eventually runs amok each week. For people who are so book smart, they could never manage to see the implications their creations could have on the world if every little thing didn’t react exactly as it should. Without fail each week one of the scientists uttered the words, “Well that can’t happen.” Try not to smile when they do.
Just about everyone in town missed out on the proper dose of common sense, except for the main character of the series, Sheriff Jack Carter. Seeing the world these scientists live in through the eyes of a witty everyman made the show a fantastic ‘fish out of water’ story.
It could have been easy for a character so out of place to get lost in the show, overwhelmed by the geeky and super intelligent characters that are so much more relatable to much of the audience. The writers did a great job preventing that. It was easy to love his character. He was warm, funny and a genuine good guy. This was his show despite the huge cast.
In the last few years the cast was so huge it became mildly unwieldy. This was only in the respect that you wanted to see each character every week, but there was only an hour in the show. At the start of the series the main supporting characters for Sheriff Carter were a militaristic deputy, a problematic daughter, a love interest and an equally witty but smugly scientific foil to interact with. Slowly over the years the cast grew dramatically as peripheral characters grew in importance to the storytelling and new cast joined the show. I think many of the newcomers were supposed to only be guests for a few episodes, but they fit in so well they kept coming back and eventually found a permanent role.
My second favorite moment of each show was near the end of each episode, when there would be a pow wow of scientists that rattled off a full minute of technobabble describing how the ‘item/experiment of the week’ broke and Sheriff Carter would find an analogy to the problem in real world terms. “Oh, so it’s kinda like when your garage door opener can accidentally open someone else’s garage door.” His insight always helped give one of the scientists that (I apologize in advance) eureka moment for a fix to the problem. For the record, my favorite part of the show each week was trying to beat my wife in figuring out which innocuous thing going on at GD was going to throw a monkey wrench into the big experiment of the week.
Although I started this article off saying the show didn’t take itself too seriously, that’s not to say it was all guffaws and special effects. You felt for these characters, especially with the crazy hoops they were commonly forced to jump through. The writers had a propensity for seasonal story arcs that culminated in dramatic changes for much of the cast. These were emotional changes that helped the characters grow and seem even more like real people. By the end of the series I got the warning from my wife, “I’m probably going to cry when this is over.” For a change I didn’t rag on her for being too girly.
The show kept itself fresh from season to season utilizing these seasonal arcs. Some shows have an arc that doesn’t have much in the way of real implications for the series or the characters. Most often it’s used to write one of the major characters off the show. Several times Eureka used these arcs to turn the entire show on its side. The core of the show always stayed the same, but big things about the show its characters would change. While canceling this show wasn’t a travesty since it was given five seasons, I wish SyFy had given Eureka more time. The way the writers kept the show fresh with these resets demonstrated the show could go on for several more seasons.
That last paragraph probably sounded a little vague. That’s because I purposefully tried to stay away from any spoilers about the series in hopes that you check it out on DVD or Amazon or Netflix instant streaming.
tl;dr – If you are in the mood for an escape from dramatic science fiction, Eureka should have no problems giving you a laugh.
Were you already a fan of the show? Share your favorite moments in the comments below.