TV Thursday: A Eureka Moment
Being a pop culture junkie has it’s ups and downs, and one of the downs is having to embrace a suspension of disbelief on shows in order for the premise to work. I won’t name names, but we all know of shows where if The Lead wasn’t there, life as the Characters in Peril know it would be over. Someone wouldn’t receive their life-saving surgery, someone would go to jail (or get away with murder), a dirty bomb would go off in LA (oh wait), or whatever. This is necessary because the premise of the show is that Lead Character is A Badass That the World Needs. (I’m sure there’s a TVTropes for this, but if I go into that website, I’ll lose the next few hours of productivity, and I don’t have time for that.)
And this is why Eureka is one of my favourite shows on TV. The ostensible lead of the show is Sheriff Jack Carter, a no-nonsense, applied theory sort of guy who tends to Save the Asses of the scientists in the military-industrial research town of Eureka, Oregon. Carter’s not a genius in the sense that the numerous scientists populate the town are, and he often serves as the stand-in for the audience, requiring that the complex science-y ideas that drive the plot be explained to him (and thus the viewer). But Carter often (frequently) saves the day because his outsider perspective as a non-scientist allows him to suggest “outside-the-box” solutions that the trained scientists are too knowledgeable to see – a scenario that anyone versed in interdisciplinary science knows is very true to life. (In fact, Bad Astronomy’s Phil Platt makes a very convincing argument for why Carter is a scientist in this Blastr post.)
The fact that Carter is both Not A Scientist and Saves the Day a Lot is something that is lampshaded at least once a season on Eureka, which in itself is refreshing – the show knows that the premise of the Everyman Hero is a bit worn. But Eureka has started to take it a step further: they actually have episodes where Carter is indisposed, because he’s getting a training certification or off to visit his daughter at her out-of-state college, and in these episodes? The world does not end. In fact, even though there’s threat of world-ending, and in the case of the Carter is indisposed because he’s being re-certified someone repeatedly suggests getting him, other characters are competent and able to deal with the problems in Eureka without Carter.
Which is a relief, because the town certainly existed before Carter – and managed not to blow itself up in that time.
Eureka is one of my favourite shows for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it celebrates science and the scientific method, and does so in a way that makes science fun, sexy, and desirable. In Eureka, being smart is the default, and the geeks are sexy and acknowledged as – and what’s not to love about that?
But more than appreciating the geek love and pro-science stance of the show, I love the fact that the writers realize that although Carter is an amazing character, there is literally an entire cast of smart, funny characters to work with – and while the audience may miss their clear stand-in without Carter, the city doesn’t need Carter to survive.
It’s rare to see a show so clearly acknowledge the elephant in the room that comes with having the premise of a show based on an outsider saving things, and to do so in such a graceful manner.
If you don’t watch Eureka, you’re really missing out. The second half of season four starts up on July 11th, and SyFy is running several marathons prior to that so you can catch up. Plus, the first three seasons are available on Netflix Streaming. Trust me, if you love science, have a sense of humour, and can appreciate not only geek jokes but self-awareness in writing, Eureka is a show you should be watching.