Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This month's Netflix Obsession- Eureka

This month, I started watching the SyFy original series, Eureka. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the adventures of the sheriff of the fictional town of Eureka, Oregon, a town which was set up by the U.S. department of defense as an enclave for super-geniuses. The setting of a town where backyard mad scientists are common, and most have seemingly unlimited resources and inventive prowess, is one that is rife for great storytelling. The threats to Eureka range from the dangerous to the downright silly, and it makes for a really fun watch.

We are shown the town through the eyes of Sheriff Jack Carter, (played by Colin Ferguson) who is one of the few people in town with a perfectly ordinary IQ. It's a pretty typical narritive device in Sci Fi to put a 'dumb' guy in a room full of super scientists to give the geniuses someone to explain the incredible events around them to, and thus explain the situation to the audience. The fact that in this crowd of incredible scientists and innovators, Jack is obviously also the most expendable member of the town is not lost in the storytelling either, and him often risking his life to save the town on a weekly basis becomes almost a running gag by the end of the series.

I really enjoyed this series. I was a big an of Northern Exposure back in the day, and Eureka definitely picks up on the 'Fish out of water' and 'quirky small town' vibes from that series, and twists them with a wonderful level of nerdieness. If there's one criticism I have of the series, it's that the episodes themselves are very formulaic. There are season long story arcs that mitigate this somewhat, but the typical Eureka episode is "Scientist develops a new technology that has unforeseen/disastrous consequences, Jack has to save everyone with some help, we see a new clue to the season's big arc, repeat.". It's a good formula, (it sure beats "freak of the week" formulas that tend to run rampant in genre television) but the show never really breaks out of it until somewhere in the fourth season, where the season arc is really front and center, with only the occasional formula show.

Overall, I think Eureka is definitely worth the time to watch. It's not often that the genre serves up something that is so lighthearted in tone, and for that reason alone deserves your attention.

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