What I’m Watching – Eureka

The Sci-Fi Channel (SyFy?) isn’t exactly know for producing quality programing. For every Battlestar there is another spin-off of Stargate. For every Farscape there is the Dresden Files (note: I like the books). The Sci-Fi Channel original movies are best left unmentioned.

It is Sci-Fi’s hit or miss level of quality that really makes Eureka stand out. It is a solid, entertaining, and sometimes even funny hour of TV. Personally, I find that science fiction is seldom funny on purpose. There are countless “hilarious” science fiction shows out there – paging Stargate SG-1 – but my deep literary analysis finds that was hilarity was seldom the authorial intent of each show’s writing staff. Many a drinking game was born out of a “Jack face”- for example. When sci-fi shows do actually try and to be funny things tend to be too cutesy for its own good. Eureka has its share of painful cuteness to be sure but the fact that it sometimes manages to legitimately draw a laugh out of me – and not at the show’s own expense – is a true revolution in Sci-Fi Channel programming.

The plot of Eureka is simple in a convoluted sort of way. Basically a US Marshall – Jack Cater, played by Colin Ferguson – become sheriff of a government sponsor town where a bunch of the super-brilliant scientists research shit for the government. This shit has a tendency to blow up in everybody’s face. Pretty much every episode revolves around Jack trying to get to the bottom of whatever disaster was cooked up for that week. There are also subplots about Jack, his daughter, and various other townspeople. Now this slapdash summary doesn’t do the show justice but it does pretty much give you a broad outline of what’s going on in each episode.

Eureka gets a lot of things right – its female characters are generally treated with respect and not explotited for cheap titulation, it manages to have a love triangle were everybody comes off as likable, Carter’s teenage daughter isn’t completely annoying, along with the aforementioned humor. Don’t get me wrong the show has it’s problems – it will not be winning any Emmys for writing anytime soon – but Eureka has workman like quality to it that is remarkably endearing. Much of what is good about the show rests in the hands of its lead, Colin Ferguson. Ferguson treats his material with enough respect to you actually care about what’s going on but has a wry enough attitude about things to prevent the show from getting bogged down in its own self-importance. He is also pretty good at delivering a one-liner.

There is something kind of weird with Eureka – it sometimes has this weird off-hand conservatism that is jarring. Each time so strange out of nowhere conservative crack pops up I do a double take. This is something Eureka has in common with Chuck – interestingly enough.

In sum: Eureka is the perfect summer show – light, airy and fun. It returns to the Sci-Fi Channel (SyFy?) with the second half of its third season in July.

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