Summer Season Premieres 3: Eureka and Alphas

A week after the big Monday premiere night, I’m finally talking about two of the three big Syfy season premieres: Eureka and Alphas (I’m sorry I won’t be talking about Warehouse 13, but I just never got around to watching the first couple seasons of that.  I probably will eventually…)

Eureka

I have watched Eureka devotedly since it began in July 2006.  It’s hard to believe this is the 4th season already; it still feels new to me sometimes.  Eureka is about the fictional town of Eureka, Oregon a secret town inhabited almost entirely by scientific geniuses who almost all work for Global Dynamics, an advanced research facility controlled by the government and responsible for every major scientific/technological breakthrough in the last 50 years.

As is true for most shows/movies about secret organizations and so forth, the audience needs a “normal” person to be their entrance into the culture of the show.  For Eureka this person is Jack Carter, the main character.  In the first episode he is a U.S. Marshal who is attempting to take his delinquent daughter back home to her (divorced) mother.  Jack and his daughter Zoe accidentally end up in Eureka, and in the course of the first episode, find themselves making their home there.  Jack becomes the town’s new sheriff, a person of average intelligence and no scientific background responsible for keeping a whole town of mad scientists for destroying each other or the world in a wide variety of crazy situations.

As you may be able to guess, this show is part scifi, part mystery, and part comedy.  The scifi elements are always interesting and creative.  The mysteries Jack has to solve each week are usually strange and not always as obvious as you might first assume.  And as for comedy: the show is HILARIOUS, and Colin Ferguson’s portrayal of Jack Carter is brilliant.

Last Monday’s premiere of Eureka was actually a mid-season premiere as season 4 was split into 9 eps in July 2010, a Christmas ep, and 9 more eps now (its confusing, and I don’t know why they did it…).  At the beginning of season 4, the writers did something unexpected and, I thought, a little insane.  The main cast of characters went back into the past and came back having changed things so much that their lives (as seen in season 1-3) had been completely rearranged.  Almost everything the viewers knew about the characters lives was now up for grabs.

I had almost expected the writers to reverse this trend in the mid-season premiere.  But they didn’t.  So apparently the new version of the character histories is now the official version.  What they did do for the premiere was wonderful.  Two of the main characters, Fargo and Zane, are accidentally launched into space with only 6 hours of oxygen, in a collision course for the International Space Station.  I’ll tell you a few reasons why this was great.  First, as always, the entire situation was hilarious.  Second, the writers brilliantly portrayed Fargo (who is usually screwing up) being competent and calm; and Zane (who generally has smart-ass reaction and unconcerned demeanor no matter the situation) finally found a situation that made him the most panicked and useless person in the room.  Finally, the magnitude of this particular accident (out of the many that occur on the show) became the straw on the camel’s back that forced the government to respond, threatening the town’s future existence.

Tonight’s episode should be highly entertaining and enlightening.  I can’t wait to see it.  It’s at 8/7c take a look if you haven’t already.

Alphas

I don’t have quite as much to say about Alphas because it is brand spankin’ new and I only have 1 episode to work with.  I was rather skeptical about this show when I first saw the commercials and heard about the premise.  I thought it sounded a little too much like Heroes, and then even more like X-Men.  Still, I was curious, and I like Ryan Cartwright (who plays Gary in Alphas and Mr. Nigel-Murray in Bones), so I thought I’d give it a shot.

If you’ve seen the commercials you know this, but Alphas is about a group of people called Alphas with special abilities who work for the government.  The premiere opens with a man receiving a phone call.  The phone call seems to be some kind of brain-washing message telling the man to kill someone, which he does.  We then switch to a quick succession of scenes showing five people: Dr. Lee Rosen, a doctor who leads the Alphas; Nina Theroux, who has the ability “override a person’s willpower;” Bill Harken, who possesses super-strength when his fight-or-flight response kicks in; Rachel Pirzad, who can enhance one sense at a time by exclude all other senses; and Gary Bell, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and can “read” electromagnetic waves.

The team is called in to find out who killed a federal witness and how, as the witness was killed while in a locked interrogation room with a bullet that appeared to come out of nowhere.  I won’t tell you what happens from here, in case anyone is interested from starting at the beginning of the series without my interference, except to say that in the course of the episode it is revealed to the audience that there is another group of Alphas who work as terrorists and criminals.  It seems that this second group of unknown Alphas is set on attacking the group led by Rosen, and it is up to Rosen’s team to stop them from committing crimes.

So, what’s my verdict?  The premise is not exactly original or unique.  Secret government groups with superpowers abound: S.H.I.E.L.D leaps immediately to mind (and I’m flashing my geek cred again here), as does the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense from Hellboy, and even the short-lived tv show Invisible Man (2000), just to name a few.  And the show still reminds me rather forcibly of X-Men, especially in the moment when we realize that there are two Alpha teams: one a group of terrorists and the other a group used to control rogue/criminal Alphas sound like the Brotherhood of Mutants and the X-Men to anyone else?  Yeah, I thought so.

That being said, the saving grace of the show, so far, is the characters themselves.  The four Alphas are all neurotic to some extent or another obviously Gary is the most extreme, but he is not alone, they all have issues.  They have conflicting personalities, and it is up to the Dr. Rosen to keep them all stable and working together.  Add to that the fact that there seems to be some hinting that Rosen himself is not all he appears to be, and you’ve got the workings of some very interesting character interaction.  The main appeal of this show, besides the cool scifi special effects stuff, might end up being showing up every week to see how long the team can last before they all kill each other.

I’m still on the fence about this show.  However, the next episode is tonight (Monday, July 18th) at 10/9c, and I think I’ll keep watching for the time being.  (Or recording, and then watching rather, as The Closer is also on at 10/9c, and that trumps Alphas currently.)

So, what did anyone else think of the series premiere of Alphas?  Or the season premiere of Eureka?  Does Alphas remind anyone else of X-Men, or is that just me?  And what did you think of the series re-boot that happened in Eureka when they changed the timeline?