Oh, Eureka. How you disappoint me so.
The show, not the town. The show about the town in the show. By which I mean: I’m not talking about the real town in California, where I go to buy groceries.
Although it, too, is a bit disappointing, as towns go.
Let’s just start over.
(Warning: here there be spoilers.)
I just finished watching season five of Eureka. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show crash and burn as hard as this one did. I should maybe do some research, see if they switched producers or writers or something. Because it was a spectacular trainwreck, and things that awful don’t happen in a vacuum. Writing, characters, the space-time continuum – all out the proverbial window.
The bitch of it is the show had such potential. I really enjoyed the first three seasons. Basic rundown: there’s a little town hidden (literally, by a force field) somewhere in the Oregon forest, which is home to the world’s most advanced and most top-secret research laboratory. The only people who live there are genius scientists and their families. A federal marshal (Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson, who is funnier than you’d think he would be) stumbles into town while chasing down his delinquent daughter, and ends up unwillingly becoming the sheriff. The place is full of wacky mad scientist types, so there’s always something blowing up or an experiment gone horribly wrong. Hilarity ensues.
And here’s where it all goes bad: in the first episode of season four the five main characters get transported back to 1947, when the town was just beginning to be established as a safe haven for postwar scientific experimentation. I thought it was a cool little story arc and a nice period piece. (There were a lot of awesome sciencey things going on in America after we stole all the best scientists from the Nazis. Good times.) But they kept it going. It wasn’t just a cool little story arc. The characters got back to their own time period but they never fixed the fucked up timeline. Never. After a few episodes, they didn’t even try anymore.
Which is downright maddening! It’s like the network or the writers or whoever’s in charge wanted to make a completely different show, so instead of trying something new they decided to ride the coattails of a show that already had a following and just retconned the shit out of it. Lame. And I loves me some time travel. I’m not suggesting that time travel is inappropriate in a show like this. It seemed in line with all their other epic experimental fuckups that had happened up until that point. But again, it felt like they should’ve made a whole different show instead of completely changing the one that we all liked just fine the way it was.
Having said that, once I got over the burn of having my fandom stepped on, I liked the end of the series alright. I was waiting for them to fix it the whole time, but they could’ve done worse as far as stories go. Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton made good additions to the cast, of course. And the part where they stuck everyone in a computer generated alternate reality was pretty great.
I think it’s interesting that so many scifi shows are all doom and gloom. Maybe that’s a byproduct of most of those storylines being action-oriented? And dire situations create a certain type of conflict which can be amplified or enhanced by running and explosions? Which look awesome, and which I quite enjoy, but there’s not a lot of giggles in scifi tv. Eureka was refreshing because it was funny. Not Joss Whedon funny, not witty or clever in the same way, but chuckle-worthy, for sure. But there’s a bigger question hiding in there somewhere. And it’s one of those questions that makes me think I might be an asshole.
A lot of the comedy in this show comes from Sheriff Carter being the only normal guy in a town full of super geniuses. A typical interaction: he doesn’t get whatever science jargon they’re babbling about that will fix the problem of the week, and everyone pauses and takes a breath and someone tries to bring it down to his level, inevitably ending in him saying some variation of “Well, why didn’t you just say that?” Or, he inexplicably understands what they’re saying by making an oversimplified analogy to something that they never would have been dumb enough to think of, like baseball or beer, and he gets a happy because he figured it out. Adorable.
Now, we all know that science lingo is not my bag. I get the concepts, but I don’t get all the inside jokes that I’m sure are lurking there for the in-crowd. But I still laugh when that happens to Carter. I’m smart, but I’m not super-scientist-working-at-a-top-secret-think-tank kind of smart. I have no room to giggle at him not understanding a string of jargon that I don’t understand either. It’s a base reaction, a reflex. Laugh a the dumb guy. Intellectual slapstick, basically, and it makes me a little disappointed in myself. It’s a lot like my reaction to The Big Bang Theory, actually. The difference being, for me, that I couldn’t do astrophysics or whatever in Eureka or at CalTech, but I could talk about comics and movies with Sheldon and Leonard. The folks on Eureka lack that common man quality, probably because of the nature of living in a secret town hidden inside a force field. Makes sense. In a meta way. Maybe. Or I could just be trying to validate my own insufferable behavior.
Anyway, check out Eureka for sciencey funnies. I know this doesn’t read like a glowing recommendation, but it really was worth my time. And if anyone has any suggestions for other good scifi/fantasy comedy, let me know. I think this is one of the few times in my life I’ve actually had an excuse to use the word “dearth.” Yes! Bonus. Score.