Eureka is something that doesn’t come along very often: a science fiction show that’s actually about scientists. Equally long on comedy and mystery, Eureka is named for a secret government-constructed village inhabited by big-brained nerds living in seclusion in exchange for an unlimited budget to fund their goofy projects (provided they work on the occasional military contract, natch).
In the pilot movie, U.S. Marshal Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) stumbles into Eureka while stranded in the boonies, then earns himself an offer to join the sheriff’s department after solving a puzzler involving partially vaporized buildings. An abundance of genius kids and whimsical inventions creates the potential for overwhelming cuteness, but a welcome streak of darkness and intrigue deflects that bullet. The messes Jack cleans up are often the result of experiments twisted by greed, lust or paranoia, and the machinations of a psychologist with multiple hidden agendas (Debrah Farentino) imply that the quirky scientists are pawns in a sinister game being played by outside forces. (Ally McBeal’s Greg Germann is fantastic in the pilot as an egotistical brainiac who’s also manipulating circumstances, though in subsequent episodes he’s replaced by the less effective Ed Quinn of CSI: NY.) Jack’s chief function is serving as a straight man to the oddballs (including the always fine Joe Morton as a rocket scientist turned mechanic), and Ferguson’s deadpan wit ensures the ostensible hero is never engulfed by the scenery. Mix a jigger of Real Genius, a healthy pour of Picket Fences and a spritz of The X-Files, and you’ve got a fizzy cocktail that offers quality refreshment during the summer TV dry spell. — Andrew Johnston