Leave it to the universe to cancel a show moments before I manage to discover it. This morning, before I sat down to watch the most recent episode, I noticed a buzz on Twitter, than pretty much sealed its fate. After checking with a few sources, it seems official: Season 5 will be the final season. Say it ain’t so.
Well, actually, I’m pretty okay with that. For all that Eureka is, at the center it is a dramatic comedy that depends on a fresh cast that can play off of each other to produce the jokes. A sci-fi version of The Andy Griffith Show, where hometown logic and an old-fashioned sensibility can solve even the most sophisticated dilemma that this particular sci-fi geek-fueled techno-babble can create. True, on one level you can use the formula ad infinitum, and there will probably be an audience that will follow. But there are only so many times that Henry and Jack can put their heads together and find a conventional solution to an unconventional situation. Sooner or later, you’ll have exhausted the gags.
In full disclosure: I’m not even fully sure how I feel about this show. Since Lost ended, it has been hard to find a new TV show to sink my eyes into. To me, Lost had everything I didn’t even know I wanted in a TV show, and many things that I’m a complete sucker for. So to follow up something so brilliant with just about anything is going to leave the new thing a little lacking. So, for some time I wandered. Circumstances led me to this and that, and many recommendations were made but few were followed to the bitter end. I had a brief affair with Mad Men, and may well return, but something was missing. But through my roommates, I managed to catch one or two episodes of Eureka, and it seemed like a harmless – if nothing else, mind candy on my way to something else.
While modern technology does afford us amazing opportunities, it is the ability to watch many episodes all at once that has ultimately spoiled the show for me. The comedy millieu requires a certain amount of the formula to be in effect, and repetition becomes particularly apparent one after another. In making the effort to quickly catch up, the elements that made the show work became far to obvious to continue to be charmed by it. Smaller doses would have been great, and I can see now why it would have paid off to have watched from the beginning, as these were coming out. But, what’s done is done, and I now have to pay the price for being impatient.
That being said, there are some wonderfully great moments in this show that make it worth watching. In keeping with the episodic nature of the show, they don’t make it a point to create a sprawling narrative. In that regard, character development, and the interactions between the core members of the group, tend to supersede plotlines, sci-fi gimmicks, and the elements that I find particularly attractive in television. Occasionally, they will diverge into a developing story that will last several episodes. But even then, it would build using the old Stan Lee A story, B story, C story model. As with many things in the world, the subplots in Eureka are often the best parts of the show. The secret military bunker from the late ’30’s was getting great, until the literally sealed that plotline in concrete. The Artifact subplot was interesting, but ultimately went nowhere. The Organic Computers were interesting for a while. Etc. Everything comes to a close, and moves on. The story is about characters – and comedy – and not sci-fi.
This is probably a good place to mention the role Twitter has played in all of this. As a recent convert, I started following some of the Eureka cast (@wilw & @neilgrayston) to see what it was all about. To my complete joy, they are very hilarious, as 140 characters also happens to be exactly joke-length. But this only endears me to the show more, in that I can get this close to the people I’m a fan of. And for a character and comedy driven vehicle, this can only reinforce things for the good.
So, in the end, this is why I’m okay with the show ending after Season 5. I don’t want to see the formula become so watered down that it no longer works. Already, Eureka has used two of my least favorite conventions (Christmas episode and, urg, Clip Show), and having finally written a story to explain their own opening credits, they may be getting so self-refrential as to be bordering of incoherent.
Yes, I can see a good final run, and if you pace yourself and get caught up, you’ll probably enjoy it, too. Because, in the end: the jokes are really funny.
10 August 2011 Update:
It appears that there has been a lot of inter-web buzz about this cancellation, and on some sites it seems to have been reported that a sixth season was also ordered for this show, with a possible ongoing status that may never end. However, this seems like optimistic speculation on the part of many fans, and more to the point, the cast has all made announcements that Season 5 will be the last one. I’m sure there will continue to be rumors about a sixth season until the bitter, bitter end. Personally, I still think that it is time to wrap it up, and move on to other things. Perhaps some of the cast can move over to Warehouse 13, while others can move on with their lives.