Saturday, January 6, 2007


Eureka is a SciFi Channel original series that aired on Tuesday nights starting July 18th of last year. The first season featured thirteen episodes, and it's been renewed for a second season. There's also a series of seven webisodes up at the official website.

I of course missed it the first time around, and had to scramble to catch up. But Eureka proved worth the effort.

The premise--U.S. Marshall Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), through a series of unexpected events involving a stray dog and a tachyon accelerator ends up serving as sheriff to the small town of Eureka, which may or may not be in Oregon. The town is a sort of think tank, housing all the best scientists in the US and providing them with a place to conduct high-powered research. A down-to-earth, regular, non-genius kind of guy, Carter's a fish out of water in Eureka, but as time passes he and his semi-delinquent daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) begin to make a place for themselves.

The cast of characters is about what one would expect. There's Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), the hopefully-love-interest-to-be, her not-quite-ex husband Stark (Ed Quinn), Carter's hot deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), and Taggert, a nutty animal control type (Matt Frewer, whom I remember fondly from the Max Headroom days) a la the late Steve Irwin. And then there's Henry (Joe Morton), ostensibly the owner of the local garage, but also a genius scientist in his own right, Beverly (Debrah Farantino), the hot local shrink who's moonlighting for the possibly evil Consortium, and SARAH, Carter's sentient house, which gets miffed when he's late and doesn't call. The storylines are amusingly outlandish, but not so outlandish as to be stupid, and the whole show holds together very well.

In short, Eureka is a fun, light-hearted show with an eccentric cast of characters and pleasantly kooky plotlines. It doesn't try to make any grand statements or thinky arguments about the state of humanity--it's just good entertainment. Now that I've managed to work my way through the first season, I'm glad it's been renewed, and I look forward to catching Season Two in real time.

Kim, Henry's love interest, who shows up a bit later in the series, is played by Tamlyn Tomita, who played Sam's love interest in the Season Four Quantum Leap episode and personal favorite of mine "Temptation Eyes."

Friday, January 5, 2007

Tru Calling

Tru Calling, starring Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), aired on Fox from October 2003 to June of 2005. Like many decent genre series on Fox, it was canceled after a short run. The first season ran a full 20 episodes, while Season Two was truncated at 5.

The premise--Tru Davies (Dushku) gets a job at a morgue, where the corpses occasionally wake up and ask her to save them. When this happens, her day restarts. Aided by her boss, Davis (Zach Galifianakis) and her brother Harrison (Shawn Reaves), she spends the repeated day trying to find out what happened to the victim, and how to keep them from landing once again on the slab in the morgue. As it turns out, her mother also had this ability, and late in Season One we are introduced to Jack Harper (Jason Priestley), as her opposite. Jack repeats days, too, but he considers it his duty to be sure people who were fated to die actually do, rather than saving their lives. This plotline carries into Season Two, building an ongoing backstory where Jack works to sabotage Tru's work. Without her knowledge, Tru's father assists Jack, opposing Tru. Unfortunately, the retooling of the show and the addition of Priestley weren't enough to bring in additional viewers.

Tru Calling isn't a great show, but it's not bad, either. It shares elements with Quantum Leap, an old favorite, especially in the first season, when each episode presents a standalone story. The addition of Jack didn't really help the show, in my opinion. This is partly because I just don't care for the way Priestley plays the character, but it also seemed to shift the focus of each individual episode. Before Jack came along, Tru had to sort through many often random circumstances to work out how and why she needed to save the current victim. After Jack, though, the focus became Tru vs. Jack, lending an element of predictability to each show that to me made it less interesting. Although even with only five Season Two episodes, the writers had already begun to add depth to his character, and bring up some interesting moral questions that mitigated this somewhat. (What if Jack was right? What if Tru really was meddling with Fate?) In at least one episode ("Enough"), Tru's motivations and actions really do seem to be wrong, and in another ("Last Good Day"), Jack himself questions his purpose. By the last episode ("'Twas the Night Before Christmas...Again"), Tru and Jack are working together, albeit reluctantly. One has to wonder how their relationship would have developed over the course of Season Two, and where the writers were taking the subplot involving Tru's parents. The Wikipedia entry for the series has information posted by one of the show's creators, with some thoughts about where the show might have gone. Overall, while it isn't exactly a television classic, it's too bad Tru Calling wasn't allowed a longer lifespan.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Quantum Leap--Season Five

"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator...and vanished."

From 1989 to 1993, Quantum Leap was appointment television for me. I waited with breathless anticipation for those words on Wednesday nights (or Friday nights, or whatever timeslot NBC had decided on that week). Though I had been obsessed with attached to TV shows before, Quantum Leap became my introduction to online fandom. Thirteen years later, I still have friends I met through mutual Quantum Leap appreciation (and/or mutual Scott Bakula appreciation).

With the release of the DVD box set for Season Five, my Quantum Leap collection is complete. It's been fun going back and rewatching all the shows I loved so much, finding some of them as good as I remembered, some of them a little cheesier, but still enjoyable. During Season Five, I was pregnant with my son. Leap aired at 10 pm on the east coast, and I had a terrible time even staying awake to watch it. Watching "Blood Moon," I vividly remembered stretching out on the couch, queasy and exhausted, and fighting to keep my eyes open until the bitter end of the episode. Not even recalcitrant hormones were going to keep me away from my fix.

In many ways Season Five was the strongest of the seasons, but at the same time it was the weakest. Under network pressure to vary the premise of the show, creator Don Bellisario sent Sam Beckett into the lives of historical figures for the first time. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but it never worked as well as when Sam touched the lives of ordinary people. "Lee Harvey Oswald," the first of these forays, was too obvious a political statement on Bellisario's part to really work (he stated at the time that it was a direct response to Oliver Stone's JFK), although the twist at the end nearly saves it. "Memphis Melody" and "Goodbye Norma Jean," leaps into the lives of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe respectively, worked better, but in "Memphis Melody" the beneficiary of the leap is a normal person, with the presence of the famous personalities merely incidental, and in "Norma Jean," Sam's objective proves to be minor. Overall, though, the stories were weaker for the sensational additions, not stronger, showing once again that network executives don't always know best. (They were undoubtedly behind the butchering jazzing up of the theme song, too.)

The strongest and most memorable episodes of Season Five are the "Trilogy" episodes: "One Little Heart," "For Your Love," and "The Last Door." In this nicely plotted series, Sam meets Abigail Fuller (Melora Hardin), with long-reaching consequences. In a convention I attended that year, Deborah Pratt was asked why they decided to include Sammy Jo in the storyline. Her reply--Sam deserved it. I heartily agreed. Even now, thirteen years later, the end of "The Last Door" made me cry.

With Sam leaping into Abigail's father in one episode, then into Abigail's fiancé (and literally "into" Abigail, in the Biblical sense) in the next, "Trilogy" was a rather daring piece of TV. Veering at times too close to pure melodrama, it still presented a good story with a satisfying ending. In many ways, I preferred the implications of "Trilogy" regarding Sam's final fate to the ending we were given in "Mirror Image," the actual series finale.

I hadn't watched "Mirror Image" since the original airing, and I'd forgotten how bitter I was about it until I started yelling at the TV when the words "Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home" appeared on the screen. (Actually it said "Dr. Sam Becket"--what the heck is up with that? The misspelling makes you wonder if Bellisario just slapped it on as an afterthought.) It left me with an empty, hopeless feeling then, and it did the same thing this time. We can only hope that, per his discussion with Al the bartender, Sam chose to continue his journey, in full control of his destiny, in order to help as many people as he could, rather than continuing to leap from life to life, forever hoping the next leap would be his leap home. Still, even with its metaphysical ambiguity, "Mirror Image" gave Al (Dean Stockwell) a nice wrap-up, much as "Trilogy" gave Sam the personal reward of Sammy Jo.

Unfortunately, the DVD extras have grown leaner and leaner with each season's release of this show, and this set offers little aside from the episodes themselves. But it's a solid season of TV, and well worth the price.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year

It's January 1, so I guess I'll jump on the bandwagon and list my favorites of 2006.

Favorite New Show:

Favorite "New to Me" Show:
Supernatural . I picked this up right before the season finale in May.

Favorite Fandom Collision:
David Duchovny directs David Boreanaz in Bones.

Favorite TV Trend:
Episodes being made available online.

Favorite Show Overall:
Supernatural by a hair over Bones. Though it's always hard to choose between Jensen Ackles' freckles and David Boreanaz's big shoulders.

For 2007 I'm looking forward to:

Discovering Sam's Big Scary Secret on Supernatural.

More of David Boreanaz's big shoulders on Bones.

The Dresden Files.

Season Two of Rome.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2007.