TV Shows: Eureka

There are several advantages to watching TV shows on DVD instead of when they first air. We don’t have to pay for cable  (and thus are saved from the temptation to watch lots more TV). If we get the DVDs from the library (as we have been doing, using inter-library loan), it costs next to nothing – especially if I can combine the trip to the library with another errand.

 We can fit watching the episodes into our schedule instead of scheduling our activities around the TV schedule. We can watch one right after another instead of having to wait a week to see what happens next. (Of course, the end-of-season cliffhangers are another matter, at least in the case of DVDs from the library.)

Our current family favorite is Eureka, a quirky sci-fi series that one viewer describes as “kind of Northern Exposure for SF fans.” (I’ve never seen Northern Exposure, but since I enjoy Eureka maybe I should look for some DVDs of that show also.) The basic premise of the show is that Eureka is a super-secret town populated by super-geniuses carrying on the most advanced scientific research in the world.

You might think that doesn’t sound like much fun to watch, and that was my initial reaction. But super-geniuses are people just like anyone else, who fall in love, have kids (generally geniuses also), make mistakes, get mad at each other, and provide the basis for some very interesting plotlines even apart from the science. The science, frankly, is probably about as realistic as that on Star Trek a good deal of the time. But the people are what make the show work.

TV series tend to include some pretty odd characters, to generate the humor or drama or mystery needed for a new storyline every week. Sometimes these oddities seem pretty far-fetched. But super-geniuses are kind of expected to be odd, so a town full of very smart but very quirky people doesn’t seem such a stretch.

Then you have Sheriff Carter, who is not one of the geniuses, and the contrast between his “normal” point of view and that of the town’s other inhabitants provides a lot of the humor (always good-natured humor, unlike a lot of TV shows that seem to be able to produce laughs only by making fun of someone). In his own way, Carter is very bright, and often solves a problem using his own common sense, doing something the ultra-smart people around him didn’t think of.

Eureka has its serious side too, and there have been episodes that left me sobered by thoughts of death and loss. Others are especially heartwarming. But it is the light moments sprinkled throughout every episode that really make the show sparkle. It’s just plain fun to watch.

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