One of the Syfy Channel’s most beloved shows, Eureka is began its final season on April the 16th. Leading up to the series premiere the network offered a group of journalists the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with the series creator Jamie Paglia and star Colin Ferguson. Of course, the event began with the most basic of questions: What’s coming up on the show? Though not wanting to spoil anything, Paglia does share that some story elements that were obviously meant to be a larger part of the show’s mythos are being brought to completion in this season, with Beverly Barlow and the Consortium being a specific example.
Eureka premiered as a unique series in the genre. At the time the show started Battlestar Galactica was a big success and Stargate was also still successful. These were shows with spaceships and aliens, the parts that make up the space opera puzzle. Eureka had none of that, plus it had comedy. After the success of Eureka, the possibility of other similar leaps into this sort of grounded sci-fi with comedy seemed possible. Thus Warehouse 13 was born a show this is extremely successful for the Syfy Channel. So it’s an easy assumption to make that the show had some influence of the genre as a while.
“I don’t know if I can speak to how it’s affected the genre as a whole because I don’t have a ton of perspective on it. I know that when we came on we were told no space, no aliens… over the course of it, and we’d get marching orders like that, like no space, no aliens, no comedy. and come to find a show that has some comedic beats and we send a ship into space in this the final season. So how it’s affected the genre? Gosh. I know that Warehouse was supposed to be its sister show,” Ferguson says.
“I think that the interesting thing was when we took this – the pitch in to SyFy and they bought it in the room, in the follow-up meeting, Mark Stern, who has, shepherded us from the very beginning said, we didn’t really know what we were missing on our channel until we heard this concept, because they weren’t doing really kind of grounded, earth-based sci-fi, especially with a sense of humor,” Paglia adds.
“I mean I think that we were kind of inadvertently creating something that was sort of all the favorite things that we like in television that we like to watch and write, and kind of maybe putting them into a new blend of elements, and sort of a – the earthbound sci-fi space dramedy hadn’t really been done. And I can’t say that it was a plan to create that. I think that we kind of all of us collectively, that’s – that ended up sort of being the outcome. And I am proud that it has, I think, opened up the possibilities for other shows and they’ve had more success on the channel with Warehouse and Haven is now on, and Alphas coming into its second season,” Paglia further explains.
Obviously Eureka isn’t the first Earth-based sci-fi series, but it’s the first in a long time and it did come in a time when space dog fights, blasters, and aliens were the rule of the day.
Eureka has always managed to bring in guest stars and give them something real to do outside of just being the coll celebrity cameo. With this being the final season, you’d think that the show would pull out all the stops.
“Well, we’ve got Felicia Day and Will Wheaton are back for, as a number of episodes. I’m thrilled that we’re able to bring back Wallace Shawn as Warren Hughes, and even more was excited that I got to direct him in the episode that I did. We’ve got a couple of surprises that I don’t want to spoil because they might be at the very end, but you will see Matt [unintelligible]… You might see him in that final episode. There’s always – there might be a surprise there, so yes. And then obviously [unintelligible], Debrah Farentino, but there might be another surprise there in the final episode as well.”
The events leading up to Eureka‘s cancellation were overly public and ridiculously confusing. There were a lot of pieces at play during this time and we may never know exactly what happened. At any rate Paglia has a lot to say about the show’s cancellation and the work that had to be done to get one extra episode and build a proper ending to the series:
“I’m sure that you all probably remember all the sort of publicity debacle about having gotten picked up for a sixth season, but it was only going to be six episodes. And that was one week, and then we were actually on the final day of prep for the season finale, which was a huge cliffhanger that was going to set up, excuse me, what season six was going to be.
And originally we had actually hoped, and everybody at the network, we were all on board with wanting this to be a full season order for season six, so it was already a little bit of a surprise that it was only going to be six for budget reasons. So we thought, well, okay, well we can truncate some of those storylines and get it down to six episodes. But then on – it was Monday I think at five o’clock that we got the phone call that there was not going to be a sixth season and that was it.
But I told – Mark Stern called Bruce Miller and I personally to give us the news. And it’s – of course it’s impossible to course correct the script at this point. And this would be just this giant cliffhanger and there would be no resolution for the characters, much less the storylines. So is there any chance that we could have one more episode? And he said that he would support that, that I would have to write an email to everybody, because obviously with the Comcast merger it was not going to be a single unilateral decision. So we ended up – I wrote a long email. It took 24 hours before we got the answer that we could have one more episode, so when we went in to tell the writers that following Wednesday, it was basically the good news is we have the last episode. The bad news is it cuts tomorrow. So normally what would be basically a two-month process of breaking the story, writing an outline, getting notes on an outline, writing the first draft, getting notes on that first draft, polishing it, what’s a two-month process, we had (unintelligible). So I think it was really a testament to our creative team that we didn’t, nobody – obviously it was disappointing, but nobody really even blamed – they just said, well, let’s get to work.And we broke the story in two days. I had different writers writing pieces of the outline, and I started writing the script as soon as we had the notion of what we were going to do. We finished it. Basically I wrote the episode in three days over the weekend, and we started prepping it. We only had a four-day prep instead of seven, that following Monday.
So we’ve had to try to do that with the full lot. Obviously that was never going to be planned that way, but I think given the sort of constraints that we were under, and the pressures to really wrap up a lot of especially character storylines, I’m proud of the episode that we actually ended up delivering.”
In further discussing the finality of the final episode Paglia seemed open to a movie with different sets down the line or more potentially a spin off of the series but the quote is “No hard plans at this moment.”
Inevitably someone always asks what their favorite episodes are in every roundtable. The question did come up here as anticipated:
“Jack of All Trades, I loved. Smarter Carter, I loved. Up in the Air, I loved, and Your Face or Mine, which was my directorial debut, which will always be a phenomenal place in my life, and also the first time Erica got a big plot line, and to be there for her was amazing, to be there for Alexandra, our script coordinator’s, first episode was amazing. How funny! All of my favorite episodes are someone’s directorial debut. It’s…” Ferguson answers.
“…you actually named a number of my very favorite episodes, and it’s true I think that, like Your Face or Mine, the reason for them I think in some ways, and it’s funny, I was just given – they did a little featurette for our season five DVDs, and they were talking about the making of the episode that I directed, and Colin is giving me a hard time for having written a small character episode, and – but the truth is those are the stories that I love the most, and for Colin’s directorial debut I wrote him a small character episode, Your Face or Mine, and I think that he and I both and all of us really just love what you can do when you have the time, where you’re not necessarily having – the world is about to explode, that the stakes are smaller from the danger standpoint, but for the characters they’re higher.
I think from season one my very favorite episode still is Once in a Lifetime, the season one finale. I felt like that was the episode where we found the right balance of real, true emotional drama and humor. And that was kind of the benchmark going forward for us, and Founder’s Day will always also be a favorite, just because we were getting to create a new world with a new time, and that had been an idea that I’ve had since season one, wanting to go back to the origins of the town, and we were never able to afford it for various reasons, mostly because of the standing sets that you would have to build.” Paglia added.
With Eureka coming to an end the people in front of and behind the camera will be looking for new projects to jump into. Paglia and Ferguson share what they will be up too:
I’ve known Bill Lawrence for a while. He did Scrubs and Spin City and Cougar Town, and we just finished shooting a pilot last week called Like Father. I guess it’s through Warner Brothers for Fox, and we’ll find out in a month whether it’s going to go or not, but I was – it was really fun sort of doing, you know – talk about easy. We had seven days to shoot 30 pages,” Ferguson says.
“I’ve got a project that we’ve set up over at Universal that (Eric Watchford) is actually the creator of the show, a writer out of AFI, and a producing partner of (James Middleton) who was an executive producer who he was actually the guy who developed the last couple Terminator movies, and he developed Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
So he and I have been partnering on that, and I’ve got a number of other projects that are in development with some other producers and companies, and we’ll sort of see I think which one goes first as far as – this part of the process is a little bit of a waiting game. So – and then I think it’s interesting, this is actually the first time that I’ve been free.
This will be seven years of Eureka being on the air when you count the split seasons for three and four. And then it was two years of development prior to that, that it was pretty much taking over my life. So I might actually go and work on someone else’s show for a while if I find a show that I really like that makes sense and is a good fit. It would be really fun I think to try to do something in maybe a different capacity, as well as create something new. So I’m keeping a lot of options open,” Paglia shares.
Finally, Paglia and Ferguson share how they’d like Eureka to be remembered in years to come:
“By this last season. By this last season. I want them – yes, I want them to remember by season five. I want them to remember it by the end of our journey, where we got to, the growth that we all went through, how our stories got tighter, our acting got better, our lighting improved. I want – it’s been a great journey, but I’m so proud of the end of the road that I’d love them to look back on that and remember us for that,” Ferguson says.
“Yes, I think – I hope that people remember the town and miss the town still and wish that they could be a part of it. I think that’s – that for me, the part of the show that always resonated the most was this sort of Northern Exposure aspect to it. I grew up in a very small town in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
And there was the dynamics of those people and the kind of characters that you meet that – that’s what I love to write, and that’s kind of what I love to watch, too. And I watch a lot of things, but that’s one of the things, and so when I – when people started talking about how they want to move to Eureka, even though you’re just dying on a weekly basis, that’s a good thing to have created. So I hope that it’s sort of remembered fondly that way,” Paglia adds.
These two came off as real friends during this roundtable and through all of the back slapping you can tell the entire team actually gets along off the set. It’ll be a shame to see the series end, but if this season is a good as the last one it’ll go out on an extremely high note. Eureka airs on Syfy on Mondays at 9/8c.