So, an early goodbye, then, to Syfy’s Eureka. The network announced earlier this week that the show’s fifth season will be its last, ordering an additional six episodes to allow everything to be wrapped up in a satisfactory and enjoyable manner. It’s a bittersweet moment because, although the show got five years and some warning about its demise – A happier fate than, say Stargate Universe or Caprica – it’s a show that I’ll readily admit to watching, enjoying and kind of feeling like it’s the televisual equivalent of comfort food, and one that I’ll definitely miss. For those who’ve never seen the show, here are five episodes you should sample to see if it’s something you should fall in (mild) love with.
Many Happy Returns
The second episode in the series, but the first to mix in the oddly-comfortable whimsy and weirdness that went on to become the show’s trademark (The pilot episode is almost there, but there’s a darkness that feels weirdly out of place when you look back at the episode now; it’s actually really fascinatingly “off”, tonally), with a classic case of a plot that seems impossible – How can a person be walking around, healthy and angry, when the entire town has just attended their funeral? – but is quickly revealed to be the result of super-science… with a little bit of super-silly mixed in for fun.
Once In A Lifetime
Admittedly, “alternate timeline” episodes may seem like an odd place to suggest newcomers start with a show, but this one – the season ender for the show’s first year – manages to encapsulate the heart and emotion that keeps the show grounded even as the plots and scientific explanations get increasingly out there (Not necessarily a bad thing on a show that prides itself on the wacky wonder of science). History gets changed to save the life of a loved one, and reality hinges on whether it can get changed back – even at the cost of what should be a happily ever after. Even if you don’t like the show’s kind mix of comedy and low-level thrills, the basic SF plot here is a classic that’s done very well.
The show’s not-so-secret weapon? Without a doubt, its leading man, Colin Ferguson – Charming, endlessly watchable and one of the best slapstick actors on television right now, Ferguson anchors the show with an ease and humor that’s irresistible, and episodes like this one, where Ferguson’s character (Sheriff Jack Carter, the one “regular” guy in a town full of super-scientists) becomes literally irresistible to all the women around him with, as you might expect, disasterous consequences.
Insane in the P-Brane
Lesson #1 about Eureka: The writers like their pop cultural referencing episode titles. Lesson #2: They’re also not afraid of reusing stock ideas in service of their stories, including this episode’s use of two: The “Meet Cute” between Carter and future love interest Tess Fontana, and the two of them then being thrown together outside of regular reality as a chance for them to have some alone time. That’s partially what I meant by calling the show comfort food above; there are plenty of familiar notes in Eureka episodes, but the end result is so consistently enjoyable that you find yourself almost appreciating the familiarity.
Again with the pop-culture pun title, and again with the familiar ideas reserviced for their own ends – This time, it’s Battlestar Galactica‘s “Head Six” as the various characters all seemingly hallucinate people from their past, played for as much comic effect as BSG mined from their leggy blonde in a spotless red dress, and again, there’s something welcome about seeing the idea again – especially considering it coincides with the run of episodes guest-starring James Callis (BSG‘s Gaius Baltar). Funny, slightly sentimental and easy to slip in and out’ve in the hour it takes to tell its story, this episode sums up the appeal of Eureka as a show. It didn’t change television, it might not even change your mind, but week in and week out, it distracted and entertained. It’ll be missed, when the end rolls around next year.
Eureka airs on Syfy Mondays at 8pm. Previous episodes are available on Hulu, Netflix Instant, and DVD.
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