TV Reviews: Oddballs populate quirky 'Eureka'

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'Angela's Eyes'
When: 10 tonight, Lifetime.
Starring: Abigail Spencer.
'Eureka'
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sci Fi Channel.
Starring: Colin Ferguson.
   

New lighthearted drama "Eureka" wants so badly to be a sci-fi-tinged "Northern Exposure." Premiering at 9 p.m. Tuesday on Sci Fi Channel, the show features a fish-out-of-water U.S. marshal, Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), who gets stuck with his juvenile delinquent daughter (Jordan Hinson) in a Pacific Northwest town full of oddities and oddball characters.

But "Eureka" just doesn't rise to a "Northern Exposure" level of quality. The characters, though strange, are cookie-cutter weird ? not original or quirky. There's a strange scientist, an arrogant scientist, a smart engineer and a butch female deputy, but none rise much above these simple descriptions.

Only in the closing scene of the two-hour premiere is there even a hint of mystery about one of the characters, a revelation meant to draw viewers back for more episodes. It brings to mind an "X-Files" conspiracy more than it does the gentle whimsy of "Exposure."

Viewers learn in the first episode, scripted by series creators Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia, that the town of Eureka became a government stronghold after World War II when President Harry S. Truman commissioned development of a top-secret lab, staffed by Albert Einstein, that would "protect and nurture America's most valuable intellectual resources." A community, home to scientists and their families, grew up around the Advanced Research Facility.

Cosby and Paglia seed the pilot with hints of romantic entanglements to come between Jack and government liaison Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) or Jack and psychotherapist Beverly Barlowe (Debra Farentino). But there aren't enough connections among the town residents to make Eureka the credible, living and breathing community the show's creators envision.

Sci-fi fans will be pleased with some of the casting choices, including Farentino ("Earth 2"), Matt Frewer ("Max Headroom") as a "biological containment specialist" and Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") as the local mechanic/brilliant engineer. It's just a shame they haven't been given more multi-dimensional roles in a series that strives for greatness but sadly falls short.

'Angela's Eyes'

Lifetime's latest, however, is so patently ridiculous, it's impossible to have any sympathy for what a botch of a series the network has created in "Angela's Eyes" (10 tonight), the story of a young FBI agent.

It starts from the first scene, which is ripe with overly obvious exposition ("I know you've got a gift of spotting liars, Angela," says a member of her team). On top of that, Angela (Abigail Spencer, "All My Children") and her partner Leo (Lyriq Bent) and tech guru Dozer (Joe Cobden) are charged with surveillance of a terrorist suspect in plain sight of his building. Then she confronts the suspect and taunts him when he puts a gun to her head. No worries about death for Angela, who says she could tell by his widening eyes that he was too afraid to pull the trigger.

Even the middling NBC series "Profiler" was more subtle.

Created and written by newcomer Dan McDermott, Lifetime is promoting the show as "from the producers of the Academy Award-winning 'Crash,' " which unfairly casts aspersions on that Oscar-worthy flick. "Angela's Eyes" is worthy only of derision.

Angela, who claims early in the episode she only made a mistake on the job once, blunders again by the end of the episode by allowing a confrontation no real law enforcement officer would let happen.

In addition to the crime-of-the-week, the show also gives viewers Angela's back story: Her parents are both in prison for treason, so she has trust issues, which leads her to bugging her new boyfriend's cell phone.

Go to bed early tonight. Your eyes will thank you for avoiding Lifetime's preposterous "Eyes."


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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