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Sci-Fi's Latest Drama Offers All the "Eureka" of a New Discovery

A bucolic Pacific Northwest town, hidden away from the world. Scientists tampering with the space-time continuum. And a gleefully dysfunctional father/daughter relationship. Mix those disparate plots together, add a dash of madcap science fiction and you've sort of got a handle on Eureka, which premieres tonight.

If you were to imagine more Northern Exposure than Stargate Atlantis, you might approximate the feel of this new sci-fi drama series, on, well Sci-Fi. I was very pleasantly surprised by Eureka, and the fact that this series is a departure for the cable network, given that the sci-fi elements are much more toned down here than in their other series. Eureka is first and foremost a drama and a rather wacky one at that.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Eureka is both that scientist's beloved cry of discovery as well as the name of a small town hidden in the Pacific Northwest. A town created by the United States government to house the most brilliant brains of the country, an isolated place where they can conduct experiments away from the prying eyes of the general public. At its heart lies a gazillion dollar facility where everything from household products to advanced weapon systems are being theorized, tested, and perfected. And, in the pilot episode, one scientist has tapped into something far beyond his control, creating a tear in that pesky space-time continuum that threatens not only the little berg of Eureka, but the entire world.

Enter U.S. Marshall Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson of the short-lived US version of Coupling). Carter is transporting a prisoner -- a young girl, in fact -- when his car breaks down just outside of Eureka. That this happens shortly after the prisoner, Zoe (Jordan Hinson) claims to have seen a ghostly version of themselves driving the other way should begin to tell you (and Carter) that not everything is as it appears to be. Finding a sign for a town called Eureka, which neither Carter nor Zoe have ever heard of, they wander into town in search of help. But Eureka has problems of its own and that tear in the fabric is manifesting itself in the form of a portal that consumes everything around it, from part of a mobile home to an entire restaurant to, er, part of the local sheriff (Maury Chaykin).

When a young boy goes missing during one of these incidents, Carter offers his assistance and expertise to find the boy. And the town's wary leaders reluctantly accept his help. These rather quirky individuals include scientist-turned-auto mechanic Henry Deacon (Joe Morton), shady research head Warren King (Greg Germann) who seems to know a little too much about the portal, tough-as-nails deputy sheriff Jo Lupo (Battlestar Galactica's Erica Cerra), psychotic Aussie wrangler Taggart (Matt Frewer), seductive psychologist Beverly Barlow (Debra Farentino), and sensible government liaison Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), whose autistic son may hold the key to saving Eureka. (Just don't get too attached to Germann and Chaykin, who appear in the two-hour pilot but sadly don't stick around for the series.)

Luckily the missing boy is quickly located but Carter has his own child issues to be concerned about as well, as the prisoner he was transporting, Zoe, is none other than his own wayward daughter. Carter and Zoe have a zippy antagonistic relationship with one another and it's great fun to see Carter put in his place by everyone, including his precocious teenage daughter. In Eureka, apparently Daddy doesn't always know best.

And remember that poor sheriff who lost, well, part of his body during one of the incidents? Well, Eureka is, after all, a functioning town and it needs a lawman to keep the peace. So it's only natural that Carter, who already knows some of Eureka's secrets, would get the gig. While it's a bit of a conceit, it's one that works and keeps the Marshall in the town for the foreseeable future. Let's just hope that foil Zoe makes it back to this idyllic berg as well.

Ultimately, Eureka is a fun romp with a winning blend of interpersonal relationships (look for sparks to fly between Carter and Allison), dynamic characters, sci-fi plots, and enough mysteries to keep the audience engaged in what's going on in this town. It's a smart set-up and a really different sort of show for Sci-Fi that can hopefully find a crossover audience outside of the cable net's usual audience. Eureka might not be Cicely, Alaska, but all the same, it's one place I'm happy to keep visiting.

Catch the two-hour premiere of "Eureka" tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on Sci-Fi; subsequent episodes air each Tuesday night at 9 pm ET/PT.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Big Brother: All-Stars (CBS); Fear Factor (NBC); Gilmore Girls (WB); According to Jim/George Lopez (ABC); House (FOX); Veronica Mars (UPN)

9 pm: Rock Star: Supernova (CBS); Last Comic Standing (NBC); Gilmore Girls (WB); House (FOX); The One: Making a Music Star (9-11 pm; ABC); Veronica Mars (UPN)

10 pm: 48 Hours Mystery (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

9 pm: Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List on Bravo.

Sure we've learned the sordid little secrets behind the D-List marriage, but let's pretend we're blissfully ignorant of what's really going on here. In tonight's episode (the season finale, in fact), Kathy and her poor, beleaguered assistant head to Sin City.

9-11 pm: Eureka on Sci-Fi.

See above. It's the two-hour pilot (entitled, effectively enough, "Pilot"), that shows the arrival of U.S. Marshall Jack Carter to the little town of Eureka. Come on, do yourself a favor and watch it.


Anonymous said…
I saw the "Eureka" pilot a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. It's a fun idea and has a great cast. (Although I'm sad to hear that a couple of the cast members are departing.) I will definitely be tuning in to see what happens next!
Anonymous said…
I just finished watching. Any idea why GG isn't returning? I liked him.

i had a very hard time buying the end conceit. I know they have to set up a series, but I think it could have been done with more grace.

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