SciFi Channel’s new show “Eureka” is simply one of the best things to get on TV in years. It’s been a while since there’s been an hour-long show which I made sure I watched every week. USA’s “Monk” would be the most recent case.
“Eureka” is about a town in the Pacific Northwest which was set up as a living think tank after World War 2. They gathered all the best and brightest, built a town around them, and let them dream up cool stuff … that could be turned into weapons. The whole operation is run under the thumb of a company called “Global Dynamics” so there’s the expected “science for science’s sake” arguments, but it’s not overblown.
It’s a great premise. The show is smart without being strident. The writing is very good and the acting is even better. The cast includes Matt Frewer who is easy to recognize from his Max Headroom days. The rest of the cast are lesser known but do a fine job. They’re good looking, but still believable. And even though its a show about a community of scientists, they’re all very human.
And that’s what really sets the show apart. Science Fiction can kind of go one of three ways. Either it’s all about special effects and gadgets (the more recent “Star Wars” movies, it can get all serious (SciFi’s “Battlestar Gallactica”), or it can use humor and whimsy (“Firefly”). “Eureka” uses humor. Which is a great choice since each cast member is quirky in their own right.
Sherrif Carter (Colin Ferguson) is the most “normal” of the bunch and he has a great dead-pan delivery. Even though everyone in town is smarter, he’s still the authority figure – he handles things with a great sarcastic flair. Kind of like he sees the town as a bunch of nerds, but not in a harsh way.
His deputy is a young woman who was also a U.S. Army Ranger. Great looking but very dangerous, she’s always armed to the teeth: like having a flak vest for a domestic disturbance. Think Dirty Harry meets J-Lo. It’s a great combination. And all the characters are pretty colorful in one way or another.
This isn’t a show you can just “watch.” The dialog is clever and there’s a lot of nuance in the way it’s delivered. The stories usually revolve around some breakdown of technology or man’s ability to control it and the characters are expert problem solvers, so if you go for a soda for a few minutes you can miss a lot of important plot points. And there are a number of sub-plots which get slowly exposed each week, so there’s a lot to keep up with.
“Eureka” is one of a number of new shows which demonstrate just how good television can be. And, not surprisingly, most of the better programs are coming from independant cable-based stations.