Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Eureka Cast and Crew New Heroes of Comic Con
Heroes began its run at Comic Con two years ago. The Heroes panelists last year (mostly the cast members) thanked all the bloggers for creating buzz, and asked them to do it again. Measuring by the turnout, they apparently took direction too well. I like Heroes, but am willing to wait until September for the premiere rather than fighting a crowd of 12,000 for one of 6,500 seats.

Later on Saturday, another of my favorite shows hosted a panel of main cast members, and creators. Eureka is an odd little show airing Tuesdays on the Sci Fi Network. The show tends to borrow plots and tropes from famous science fiction and fantasy literature (including movies and shows). These little in-jokes ratchet up the intelligence of the show, already at a high bar.

Essentially, U.S. Marshall Carter (boyishly cute Colin Ferguson) and his errant daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) end up stuck in a top-secret town named Eureka, which the writer revealed is in Oregon (not northern California, the Town of Eureka’s actual home). The town is a conglomerate of the best minds solving futuristic problems today; most of Eureka's geniuses work at Global Dynamics (a not-too-sly reference to the major defense contractor General Dynamics). The entire town is filled with geniuses who work on futuristic studies. Only Carter seems exempt from being a triple-nine genius, but his charm, affability, and skillful use of Occam’s razor grant him entrée into the world’s smartest town. He becomes their replacement Sheriff when the former one is injured in the first episode.

One reason I like the show is that it reveals genius in many forms. Aside from the mathematicians, physicists, geneticists, and Henry (a modern-day Michaelangelo who specializes in everything, artfully portrayed by Joe Morton), only a few characters display differential genius: Sherriff Carter (Ferguson), Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), Café Diem chef Vincent (Chris Gauthier), Beverly Barlowe (Deborah Farentino) the psychologist, and Taggart (Matt Frewer). Sheriff Carter’s genius is tracking the obvious—rather than the obscure—raisons for the cataclysmic events which stymie the GD Directors. Chef Vincent’s culinary genius translates into any food, any time and deliciously rendered. (Fergusson answered the question about Carter’s fave food at the Diem “It’s probably a burger and fries.”) Jo Lupo, Deputy Sheriff, is a genius at warfare, ammo, and maintaining an upright military pose at all times. Taggart’s genius is with animals; not unsurprisingly, he often more resembles the wild lab escapees more than the town’s human inhabitants. One panelist noted that the ducks (in the Duck Duck Goose episode) actually followed him around adoringly, as if he were the animal trainer. Take that, Max Headroom.

The town’s most elusive genius is clearly Lojack, the sometimes-invisible, high-IQ dog. Questioned by a fan why Lojack has effectively disappeared from the show, Ferguson gave a very funny spiel about how difficult it is to work with animals which may (or may not) respond to their trainer’s commands. Also, the expense and time involved in working with live animals is prohibitive; Ferguson noted that trainers were calling the rats in an upcoming scene, which to him seemed silly. He got big laughs from the audience.

The cast and crew of Eureka are my new heroes because the show is still unknown enough that everyone who wanted to see the panel was allowed in to witness these warm, funny, charming actors (who are clearly intelligent in their own right) and creators talk about a show they obviously enjoy producing. Ferguson, particularly, was magnetic and amiable. He’s a dangerously charming man overflowing with energy and snappy retorts, though most of these involved being in a towel for much of one upcoming episode, referred to as the "Groundhog Day" episode. The jokes continued despite the PG warning on the backs of their place cards. One enthusiastic fan asked if Henry would be in a towel in any upcoming episodes. Clearly, the entire cast is becoming wildly popular, and approaching—if not yet reaching—sex-symbol status.

In fact, the cast seemed to have just barely grasped their own popularity among fans after two seasons of the sleeper hit. Before the panel, Jon and I ate at the excellent Masala Indian restaurant. After filling up on their buffet, on the way to the car to drop off our load of swag, we encountered an ice cream truck loaded with cones and the cast of Eureka. They were as happy as the few fans who spotted them, and the cast all appeared as awestruck as those who gathered for free treats and photo ops. I kept getting big smiles from Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake), who is obviously as mulata as I am. (I love a show where mixed heritage folks are represented.) The cast all seemed overawed at the audience response, displaying the innocence and heart-warming gratitude that proves they are not jaded by their popularity—yet.

Unlike the overexposed Heroes of NBC, the stars of this underrated show are still real enough and approachable enough to merit a spot at Comic Con, whose purpose should be to spotlight new shows. Clearly this is the main purpose of Comic Con—to advertise the underground hits—not the mega-stars, but the upstarts.

During the panel, the cast answered the rather banal question of why the show is so named. (It’s titled after Archimedes’ exclamation (“I have found it!”) on discovering water displacement as a measure of mass.) In the show, Archimedes’ statue graces the town fountain; in the first episode, the fountain’s statue is seen rising and lowering itself into the bathtub fountain. According to Ferguson, that is no longer done in the show; apparently, despite the shows fictional advances, the crew itself has to perform many of the technical stunts with muscle rather than technology, including raising and lowering Archimedes on a stick; this became too much to handle in addition to all the other prop movements, such as managing S.A.R.A.H the talking house.

The Panel was the funniest and liveliest I saw this year or last. Funnier even than Groening’s panels. But don’t take my word for it. You can watch the entire panel at Sci Fi’s website.

With 14:30 left in the panel, you can listen to my question (and the response) about the significance of the ice cream.

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