Syfy’s Eureka may not have ever been the most critically-acclaimed show on the network – That is likely Battlestar Galactica – nor the most watched – That would be Warehouse 13 – but the fact that it’s ending tonight may leave the network missing something that it can’t quite do without: A show that just wanted to make you smile.
Eureka was never the kind of show that would’ve satisfied everyone out there; its mix of comedy and drama was often off-kilter in one direction or another, and prevented it from going far enough in either direction for a lot of viewers. Amy Berg, who’s been with the show for the past two seasons and was in part responsible for the impressive in-continuity reboot and retooling of the show at the start of season four, has spoke publicly about how the writers ended up feeling as if the weekly threats to the town and its inhabitants couldn’t be too dangerous – Read, deadly – because that would be too dark for the show overall (Certainly, when Dr. Holly Martin died at the start of season five, the tonal fallout felt uncomfortable, even if that plot’s ultimate destination was somewhere else altogether). But throughout its seventy-seven episodes, one thing that the show never failed to provide its loyal viewers was an oddly welcoming familiarity and sense of community. We cared about these characters, we liked them; the show was never less than likable, and often lovable, thanks in large part to an impressingly charming cast (Colin Ferguson, someone needs to make you into a star somehow).
Without Eureka around, Syfy suddenly finds itself without a show to appeal to, for want of a better way to put it, fans of gentle, comfortable SF. It has a couple that are very close to fulfilling that need in Haven and Warehouse 13, but of those two, Haven keeps wanting to be a darker show – but, frustratingly, never quite getting there, at least in the two seasons so far – and Warehouse 13 is just a little too insular and snarky, I think (That could change; despite the brutality of the finale of last season, I think this show will trend softer as it ages). This particular lack may be intentional – You only have to look at (relatively) new projects like Alphas, Being Human and import Lost Girl to know that “self-aware, slick and snarky” seems to be the target of shows there now (Not a criticism, by the way; I like all of those shows, with the exception of Lost Girl, and consider Being Human to be one of the best shows in the history of the network) – but it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a great idea.
Syfy, as it’s been discovering over the last few years, has to appeal to as many people as possible in order to be a true success. You can see their attempts to meet that goal in shows like Face Off and Hollywood Treasure and the like, but its drama output has been falling into a worrying sameness as the reality output has been ramped up; shows have similar “Normal people and one fantastic element!” set up and, as noted above, a similar tone. Fans who want something more sincere than snark – who might want something unashamed to be nice, and positive, and, just plain entertaining – are finding themselves accidentally forgotten, pushed out by the new material, and that’s a shame. Of all the places where you’d hope that nerds could find somewhere comfortable to nerd out, a channel whose name sounds like sci-fi should be the top contender, right…?
Eureka, as a show, was one unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve and get goofy in order to entertain. It was entirely inclusive, and didn’t try to do anything more than give you a fun story for the hour you tuned in. I can only hope that we’ll find something else just like that on Syfy before too long.