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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

a few thoughts on the new season of ‘Eureka’

Damn you, Eureka.

I had been enjoying Syfy’s Eureka since its beginning a few years ago. It has been perfect Friday-night TV: smart but not overly demanding, the kind of show that didn’t insult my intelligence but allowed me to relax with it. Nice, likeable characters (for the most part, aside from one or two putative “villains”); nice stories with fun, nerdy plots. And the idea of the town of Eureka itself had to have been carefully tailored by the writers to appeal to true, deep-down geeks. It always made me think of that Twilight Zone episode, “The Eye of the Beholder,” with the Pretty Lady whom society thinks is ugly, and then the Handsome Man comes to take her away to a place where she’ll fit in and not be a freak, a town full of ridiculously attractive people such as themselves whom their culture, because of its warped perspective, couldn’t see the value of. That was the town of Eureka: a safe haven for geeks, where everyone was smart and cool and thought science was actually fun.

The key element that made Eureka so soothing was that there wasn’t much about it that I needed to keep track of from week to week — it was a sort of a refreshing change from every other TV series of late worth watching, which are all more like Russian novels than episodic TV series. Not that I’m complaining about that. I like that kind of complexity. But sometimes it’s exhausting.
And then Syfy had to ruin it by going and turning the show into something that has me absolutely riveted. And has me thinking. And has me speculating.

Damn you, Syfy.

I’m loving it, of course.

See, Gaius Baltar and his timey-whimey machine have transported Jack, Jo, Fargo, Allison, and Henry from 1940s Eureka back to 2010… but into an alternate timeline where things are a little different. (Oh, right: In the first episode of this season, Jack, Jo, Fargo, Allison, and Henry time-traveled back to 1947 Eureka.) And Gaius Baltar– okay, not Gaius Baltar, but James Callis as Dr. Trevor Grant, an associate of Albert Einstein’s, came along with them. Which is bad and a bit like crossing the streams, or something. The spacetime continuum may be in danger, which can ruin your whole day.

I’m not gonna explain who the characters are. Either you already know, and understand why Eureka has gone from “must watch” to “must watch and talk about” or you don’t, in which case, move along, there’s nothing for you here.

So, now, Allison’s son isn’t autistic, Fargo is the head of Global Dynamics, and a few other timey-whimey switcheroos have happened, with only a few people aware of it. Is Eureka gonna be like Primeval, where the universe flipped at the end of one season and stayed flipped, the alternate timeline remaining the dominant one, with only a few characters aware that anything had changed? Because that would be cool. Or will it be like Doctor Who, and a reset button will set the universe aright by season’s end? Because that could be cool, too. (I refuse to believe that the writers have not been influenced, at least a little, by those two shows.) Or will Eureka find some new path to explore? Because that would be coolest of all.

And I wanna know more about Trevor Grant. What does he think about 2010? What does he think about the Internet and global warming and, you know, everything that has changed so dramatically in the years he skipped over? He must be lonely no matter how cool living in the future is to him: Will he end up being a serious rival to Jack for Allison’s affections? Also, how is it possible that Callis is so much hotter as Grant than he was as Baltar? Is it just that Grant is not a psychopath?

Such questions! Eureka never made me wonder about it like this.

And then, last night, Wil Wheaton made an appearance:

Geek heaven.

I can’t the remember the last time a show I was enjoying well enough suddenly took this kind of leap in quality and energy and splendidness. I wouldn’t have said Eureka needed to be revitalized… and maybe that’s the best point at which a show should be revitalized: when it’s already so good and so much fun that it never occurs to you that it could be better.

And then it gets better.

How did they do that? I’m in awe.



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  • what she said! so much fun… i liked Eureka because even the restaurant has science involved (i mean, cooking and baking *are* chemistry) and even the cleaning crew are recognized as respected and valued members of the community.

    but now! with all the wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey… i’m really loving it.

  • Magess

    Gaius was fundamentally smarmy and Grant is fundamentally not. ;)

  • Drew

    I started watching this with my roommates a few years back, and put it down after I moved. I think I’ll pick it back up again :)

  • FrankS

    Wil said that he’ll be back for more episodes later this season. Something else to look forward to on Eureka.

  • Kathy_A

    Wil’s coming back? Oh, goody!! I loved his seething scientist last night.

    I’ve been watching Eureka since it started, and you’ve nailed everything I’ve loved about the show and why this season is engaging me even more than previous ones did. I want to learn more about Grant’s adventures in 2010, Grace (Henry’s wife), Allison’s son, will Zoe (Jack’s daughter) return from Harvard soon and how will she interact with her dad now?

    Loved Jack telling Jo that he missed his deputy last night. Such a great partnership between them, and they have to deal with the new reality that she isn’t at his side like she used to be.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    To be honest, I’m tired of the reset button. Trek, especially Voyager, ruined it for me. Even in Doctor Who, which manages to make it a non-issue through great characters and leftover persistant consequences, still manages to lose a lot of it’s emotional punch when you know everything is going to go back to normal.

  • Keith

    ** Mild Eureka Spoilers Below **

    It was just announced during Felicia Day’s “The Guild” panel (Wil Wheaton is playing her character’s boyfriend this season of her web series “The Guild”) that she will have a Eureka character introduced later this season and that both her and Wil Wheaton will be back next season on Eureka in recurring roles. So, yes, Dr. Parrish will definitely be back.

    As for if there will be any kind of reset, who knows. Given Eureka’s history, I would bet not. Where things are going for next season, only the writers know.

  • I felt the exact same way! I like it when a show doesn’t stay with the same formula and decides to switch it up. :D

  • JJoseph

    I have to give Eureka big props on this direction change. I have always liked the show, but found my attention wandering last season with more-of-the-same week after week.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been a fun show, and it has previously dipped it’s toe in the pool of long term consequences with the story lines of regular characters, but I had not been caught up in it any real way. Now, I am really looking forward to seeing where this is going. For me Eureka has moved from “oh, Eureka is on, cool” to “OK Friday, get here”.

    Good stuff.

  • Paul

    I enjoyed the show at first, for all the reasons mentioned, but then got a little bored with it, but this switch has me interested again. Not because of the plot, which is pretty standard, but because the writers are using it to make the characters think about the choices they made in life.

  • My best friend Marsh has been telling me about it, and now, dammit, I’m going to have to find some time to watch it! *fist shake*

  • nyjm

    I started watching this season because a friend is interning as a production assistant; so, I’m a newbie this show, having only watched a few random episodes here and there.

    I have to agree with MAJ on this one. James Callis is awesome and things have become very, very interesting. This past episode (with Wil Wheaton) is on the TiVo at home, so that’s a must see tonight.

    I’ve heard rumors (via my friend on the crew) about Felicia Day being about. That will be a very welcome addition to the cast.

    Damn you, SyFy is right!

  • eurekafan221

    PODCAST WITH JAIME PAGLIA!!!!

    “Eureka” fans unite. Executive producer and writer Jaime Paglia will be on Portland’s radio podcast “Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider” this Friday.
    Listen live on pdx.fm at 11 a.m. on July 30, or download later on iTunes. The boys will talk to Paglia about the show, the recent guest stars (Wil Wheaton, James Callis) and Paglia’s trip to ComicCon.

    WOOOO!

  • I’m not gonna explain who the characters are. Either you already know, and understand why Eureka has gone from “must watch” to “must watch and talk about” or you don’t, in which case, move along, there’s nothing for you here.

    From what I remember, Eureka was a forgettable monster-of-the-week type show. I quit watching after about 10 episodes of the first season. Are you trying to say here that it’s a good show now? Should I just start with the current season, or should I go back to last year?

    Don’t dismiss those of us who aren’t in on the show — it’s hard to believe you thought it was this good at the start. It was just mediocre (like the new one is now… what is it… harbor something?) back then, but I’m always willing to go back for another try (like I keep trying to do with Smallville, despite its continued not-as-good-as-sesaon-3-ness).

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