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Eureka – Some Initial Thoughts August 31, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Eureka.
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After hearing some positive comments about this show, I decided to give it a try. I’ve watched the first three episodes, which includes the extra-long “Pilot”, plus the first two regular length episodes, “Many Happy Returns”, and “Before I Forget.”

Regrettably, my initial impression is not very positive, although I’m planning on watching a few more episodes, in order to be sure. After all, it often takes a bit for a good show to hit its stride at the beginning.

I have various issues with what I’ve seen so far. First off, the thing with Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) being an inept, guilt-ridden father, complete with snot-nosed teenage daughter who not only is the dominant person in their relationship, but who somehow has more expertise and moral authority than he does when it comes to relationships in general—this is really tiresome. Why do shows do this? It’s not fun, it’s not funny, and frankly, it’s a little bit insulting. I don’t know any real fathers who allow their daughters to treat them like this. It’s a cliché, and I wouldn’t feel at all bad if the whole idea went away forever.

There’s a femme fatal on the show (Dr. Barlowe, played by Debrah Farentino), although this doesn’t become apparent until the final few minutes of the pilot. A couple of things bother me about her. Having a character like her in such a picturesque, suburb-like setting reminds me more of Knots Landing than any sci fi show I’ve ever watched. That’s really not what I’m wanting to be reminded of. It also bugs me that she’s the only sexually assertive female character on the show, and she’s evil. This is another tiresome cliché (one even older and more worn out than the inept father idea). Why don’t they just call her “Dr. Mantis” and get it over with? And, as if those things weren’t enough, she’s also a psychiatrist. That alone would make her annoying, but with the rest, I’m just kind of hoping she mysteriously goes away.

Ok, I admit, it’s probably too early to fully judge her as a character. I’ll be interested to learn more about her motivation. Why is she evil, exactly? And how evil is she? Yes, she’s working for some shady corporate interest, but why? Is it just for money? That would be disappointing.

As for her being evil, this raises the question of how good and evil will be portrayed on the show. Are they going to be simplistic, black-and-white concepts? If so, then I’m probably going to have a hard time staying interested. So far it looks like that’s where they’re headed. In three episodes, we have one woman who’s a poisoner/murderer (and not for any reason other than pure avarice, as far as I can tell), and one guy who uses a magical memory-wiping gizmo to steal his wife’s entire life (which he does strictly for his own vanity). Not a very promising start. Villians need to be interesting for a show to succeed.

I mentioned a magical memory-wiping gizmo, which brings me to the next thing, namely that the show is pretty heavily gizmo-oriented. The stories seem to revolve around gizmos and people who misuse them. Neat gizmos and technobabble don’t make an interesting story, or a successful series. You can pile those things onto a story all you want, but in the end, it won’t really be about anything, other than a machine that goes haywire, or maybe an evil guy who uses an evil gizmo to commit evil. The messages conveyed with these kinds of stories are pretty suspect, too—”evil machine” or “mad scientist” or “innovation is dangerous.” I need something better than that if I’m going to really enjoy a series.

Believe it or not, there were actually some things I liked about the show. The cast is likeable enough. I especially enjoyed the deputy who molded her own bullets in the pilot: Erica Cerra, as Deputy Jo Lupo. I could see myself becoming a fan, if she keeps up with the coolness. In the succeeding two episodes she sort of reverts back into cookie-cutter mode, though. I hope she doesn’t stay there.

Matt Frewer (formerly of Max Headroom fame) also makes an appearance as the local whackjob, Jim Taggart. He plays the part with a prominant Aussie accent. Nice. :)

I also have to admit that I’m liking Zoe Carter (Jordan Hinson)…when she’s not being an annoying little brat. (Seriously, the teenage attitude problem is yet another tired cliché. Writers really need to figure out how to portray inexperience and immaturity in a more interesting way.) Will she develop into someone interesting? Hopefully she will. As a teenager, they are going to have to make her develop as a person just to be realistic. She’s also forming a friendship with Deputy Jo, which is very promising for both characters.

Like I said, I’m going to give Eureka more chance than just these three episodes. There have been other shows with less than stellar startoffs that went on to be quite good. Stargate: SG-1 for instance, arose out of a movie that was just plain dumb, but then the TV movie was better, and its first season kicked all kinds of butt. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had some very good points in its short first season, but was quite rough around the edges and didn’t really become itself until season two. Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t get really good until its sixth season, and Star Trek: Voyager was totally abysmal in its first couple of seasons, getting much better later on. It’s a rare show that’s just plain excellent right from the beginning. So I’m going to stick with it a bit, just to see what happens.