Tag Archives: TV shows

Review: Eureka (2006-2012 TV Series)

Created by: Andrew Cosby & Jaime Paglia

If you’ve followed my reviews for very long, you are aware of my nearly fanatical love of science fiction as a genre, be it novels or movies or television. For five seasons on the cable network Sci-Fi (or SyFy, as it has rebranded itself) Eureka offered one of the more entertaining television shows in this genre.

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest there is a town you won’t find on any map, a town where the nation’s most brilliant scientists are all gathered together in one place to better harness their combined genius, working together at the government-funded Global Dynamics in a nurturing environment that would be otherwise difficult to create. Not that everything goes smoothly in Eureka, by any means. If that were the case we would have no show. Instead, we are treated each episode to experiments and projects gone thrillingly awry–from a personal shielding unit that refuses to shut off to an accidentally launched experimental unmanned spacecraft….that just so happens to be manned at the moment. Into this high-IQ environment is thrust former US Marshall Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), the town’s newly-assigned sheriff, and his rebellious daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson). Carter doesn’t always understand the science of what’s going on around him, but he does usually manage to come up with a common sense solution. Henry Deacon (Joe Morton) is usually instrumental in this, as both a brilliant scientist and Jack’s best friend in town. Global Dynamics is run by Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn), whose disdain for Carter may have less to do with Carter’s IQ and more with Carter’s interest in Stark’s ex-wife Alison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), the company’s liaison with the Department of Defense. Carter’s partner in protecting the town is Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), an ex-Army Ranger with a love of weaponry some would consider disturbing. Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston) begins the series as Dr. Stark’s aid, but soon gets a lab of his own despite his accident-prone nature. Apparently his file at GD contains the phrase “inappropriately pressed buttons” thirty-seven times, which is often the cause of whatever disaster is befalling Eureka this week. Notable guest stars include Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day.

If I have one complaint with the series it is that there is sometimes a lack of structure. Later seasons have a cohesive story arc running through, but while the earlier season do tend to have a recurring theme there is little other structure. The writers do such things as killing off a major character just a couple episodes into a season (something you would expect in a finale or premier, not three or four episodes in), and Carter’s love life is very inconsistent. He swings between pining after Alison and dating other characters, which wouldn’t be a problem except that in a couple cases the other woman simply disappears from the narrative with no wrap-up. There are occasional cases of time travel, and that tends to completely change the status quo in interesting ways–all good, but it feels a bit as if the writers ran out of stories to tell and threw a “Hail Mary” a couple times. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the show and very much recommend it.

Content: I think this was probably TV-14 when it was broadcast. There is occasional violence or violent outcomes to the many malfunctions and disasters, occasionally gruesome and often played for dramatic effect. Mild language, nothing too extreme. PG-13 sexual content–references, characters heading off to the bedroom where we refuse to follow, characters in their underwear or with nudity obscured just offscreen or behind foreground objects. Stuff like that.

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Review: Fringe (2008-2013 TV Series)

Created by: J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, & Alex Kurtzman.

“Endless Impossibilities.” That’s what Fringe (*****) offered, and that’s what it delivered for five straight seasons of programming. If you’re a longtime reader you know of my love for good science fiction, and this series did not disappoint. In fact, it was by far one of my absolute favorite series all the way through its run, and I recently worked through the entire series again so my wife could see it. She loved it as much as I did, so I can confidently tell you that its appeal goes beyond uber-geeks.

Fringe is the spiritual if not actual successor to The X-Files, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have not yet watched all the way through. (Cut me a little slack, I was way too little when it first started! It’s on my to-do list….) In fact, they briefly make reference to the old X-designation” as having been the FBI’s standard practice for dealing with unexplainable phenomena before Fringe Division was created. I’m pretty sure the two mythologies are incompatible, as aliens play little if any role in Fringe, but it was a fun moment nonetheless. Regardless of any ties between the two, the shows have a number of similarities including complicated mythologies. Instead of Scully and Mulder going rogue and investigating things their superiors would rather sweep under the rug, in Fringe the FBI has set up a whole division to investigate “the Pattern,” a series of unexplainable or “fringe” events that have been recently escalating in frequency. To this end, Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assisted in her investigations by Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a proverbial mad scientist who doesn’t believe in the word “impossible”–or that there is any conundrum an acid trip won’t help him unravel. Walter is mentally and emotionally unstable for reasons it will be far more fun for you to discover yourself than for me to reveal to you here, and is only allowed out of the mental institution where he has lived for twenty years because his estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson) has agreed to be responsible for him. Peter is a borderline-genius himself, and once conned his way into MIT–he even managed to get a couple papers published before he was found out. Secondary characters include Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), who usually gets stuck babysitting Walter in the lab; Agent Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick), the head of Fringe Division; Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo), Dunham’s partner and friend; and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), the CEO of the multi-national mega-company Massive Dynamic who always seems to know more than she’s telling (“What do we do here at Massive Dynamic? The better question is, what don’t we do…”). There are a score of wonderful guest appearances as well, from Jared Harris to the legendary Leonard Nimoy. I will also say that the quality of the acting is phenomenal, with several of the castmembers portraying multiple distinct versions of their characters (alternate universes, remember?)

When I watched through this series the first time, I was watching it as it was broadcast over a five-year period. I greatly enjoyed it, but you forget things after that long. Watching it through the second time, knowing where things were headed, I could see so much more depth and interconnectedness. The writers had to have the entire story arc of the show in mind from the beginning, because the entire plot of Season 5 is hinted at and rooted in an episode from Season 1! So watching it the second time and catching all the setup for later things was great. I do wish they would have had longer to set up their endgame–they were kind of forced to just jump into it by the threat of imminent cancelation–but overall it worked out well. Season 1 and to some degree Season 2 are mostly episodic case-of-the-week things, but gradually the show morphs into a serial adventure with most of the cases intimately connected. Major elements involve alternate universes and time travel, which I always find fun.

I jokingly say that one thing I wish they had explored was the origin of the giant floating letters that always set the scene during the show (see example. And no, its not mispelled, that’s how they spell it in the alternate universe….) Another thing I wish had been included was an explanation for how they always manage to get between New York and Boston so quickly. The show bends the laws of physics all the time–just acknowledge the fact and give us a throwaway line!

There are a number of comics based on the show. I reviewed one set of them here, but haven’t managed to get my hands on the rest. I’m a bit sad about this, as the others are by all accounts of a much higher quality than the mediocre ones I did manage to find….

Content: When this was broadcast it was rated TV-14, and I think that’s fair. The show can be fairly violent, and at times quite gruesome with the aftermath of whatever fringe event they are investigating. Mild language, typical for that rating slot. Occasional sexual content, nothing too explicit. This is more prevalent in the first couple episodes….I cynically atribute this to trying to draw people in and grab their attention. They do say sex sells…..

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