Upon discovering the answer to a now-legendary problem, Archimedes famously yelled "Eureka!" ("I have found it!"), jumped out of his bath, and ran naked through the streets.
So "Eureka" seems like an appropriate name for the Sci-Fi Channel's quirky, well-written sci-fi series, all about a tiny town that brims over with geniuses and scientific breakthroughs. A few of the storylines are draggy, but the series also has some great acting, brilliant dilemmas, and mysteries that promise to fuel future seasons.
While dragging his delinquent daughter back to L.A., Marshal Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) accidentally crashes the car. The only nearby place is the picture-perfect small-town of Eureka. But Jack starts to suspect that Eureka is a little odd -- a woman making triangular bubbles, a quartet of clones, and a little autistic boy making physics equations on the sidewalk are only a few of the oddities.
His suspicions are confirmed when random places get blasted to ashes, including a cowfield and an RV. So Jack is told Eureka's secret -- it's a town entirely inhabited by geniuses, set up by the government to create new scientific advances. But a scientist has done a little project all on his own, producing a tachyon accelerator -- which is ripping the seams out of the universe.
Because the sheriff was badly injured by the accelerator, D.O.D. representative Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) makes Jack the new sheriff of Eureka. Now he has a new job, a "smart house" in an old nuclear bunker, and a trigger-happy deputy who loves her guns.
But he also has has to deal with a bunch of strange problems -- an electrical "ghost," a scientist whose healing experiments transform him, alien paranoia, memory blackouts, a doomsday device from the Cold War, a drug that causes superspeed, killer nanites, problematic pollen, and a mysterious Artifact deep inside the Global Dynamics building...
The first season of "Eureka" is a pretty good example of how to make a sci-fi show -- not many programs can balance out standalone episodes with long-term arcs (the Artifact, Beverly's agenda). Some of these don't work out, like the artificial Jack/Allison attraction, but most of the time "Eureka" stays on solid ground.
Yeah, most of the storylines center on scientific disasters. But the writers sprinkle it with funny scenarios (the baseball teams are called the Protons and Neutrons) and funny dialogue ("Well, car or no car, this is a 30 mile an hour zone"). But there are moments of poignancy, such as Nathan Stark's tearful farewell to his robot "son," or a woman reluctantly starting to care about her clone's little son.
Despite being the lead, Ferguson doesn't stand out as much because his character is so... ordinary. It's the weirdos that are lovable -- Matt Frewer as a deranged Aussie vet, Ed Quinn as a charming head researcher (and Allison's ex-hubby), Neil Grayston as an ubergeek, and Joe Morton as the car mechanic who also happens to be a brilliant inventer. Jordan Hinson rounds off the cast as Jack's troublemaking daughter.
The first season of "Eureka" hits some road bumps, but it's definitely a well-written, intelligent sci-fi series with a quirky, funny twist. Eureka!