I never hold out a great deal of hope for US comedy dramas these days, simply because it’s all been seen before and is becoming frighteningly clichéd. This review will make a little more sense if I reveal now that I hate Desperate Housewives with a passion that is so all-consuming that the mere opening bar of the theme tune can send me into an apoplectic rage. However, this was not that, and so I sat down with the concept of strange-things-happen-in-highly-scientific-town with a certain amount of expectation.
And it looked promising. Very promising. In fact, it made me laugh out loud. I overlooked the main character’s name being ‘Jack Carter’ (for goodness’ sake, is there no other male first name any more?) and watched with glee as he and his daughter exchanged amusing wisecracks and arrived – after a slight mishap – in Eureka, the (too) perfect town where everyone is a genius and science rules. Kids did complex algebra in chalk on the pavement. A woman blew bubbles that came out triangular. The characters were a little stereotyped, fine, but the potential for humour and absurd situations was through the roof. Yes, I was going to enjoy this.
Then there was a slight wobble when the sex-obsessed therapist was introduced. Shades of Housewives (in fact, I’m not so sure she wasn’t in Housewives) made me cringe, but this was made for America, so I could live with it. The jokes were coming thick and fast, the plot was daft but meant there were some stunning special effects; and I wasn’t feeling any abject hatred, which was unusual.
But then…oh, how it pains me to say this…the pilot ended and I started on the series itself. And it all went wrong. You see, it started to take itself seriously, something which it should never have done, and the next thing I knew I was being thrust into cheesy stuff about divorce, father/daughter relationships, not coveting another man’s wife and all that kind of crap. The town of Eureka itself? Seemingly forgotten for a bunch of characters who, sadly, were not quite interesting enough to be the main focus of the show.
There was one episode towards the end where the old ‘everyone gets stuck in one room together’ device was brought in, and while it was horrifically trite, obvious and more worn-out than the name Jack, it gave a couple of the lesser but funnier roles to come through and show what might have been. I’d have taken ‘cliché’ had the writing maintained the interest of the pilot.
I was, therefore, expecting the final episode to contain something that would have me wishing I had Sky. No such luck – in fact, if the Waltons had walked in to the school graduation ceremony, or the old-partners reunion, or the pregnancy storyline, you’d have never noticed they were there. Worse, it was ‘all a fluctuation in the time-space continuum’ rather than a ‘dream’, which reset everything for the next series. I have one word about that, and it is ‘NO!’.
What a terribly wasted opportunity this is. Eureka, and its possibly fascinating residents, were continually overlooked by writers creating a poor man’s X-Files. This didn’t need a back story, or a hugely dramatic and/or emotional plot arc, or a talking house. It needed to show us everyday life, a few inventive little things after the pilot, and a programme which doesn’t feel it needs to fit in with the conventions of US drama. In other words, it needed to be British.
Maybe it’s me. But this felt like it had slipped off the tracks way too early. Oh yeah, and the extras? Poor. The outakes (all two) aren’t funny, the deleted scenes were deleted for a good reason, and commentaries are commentaries. Oh how I wish I could have said something more positive…
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