This isn’t exactly breaking news, it was announced back in the end of July, but it’s *relatively* new to me, and it’s fairly interesting not so much for what it is as what it represents: “Eureka” has been picked up for a 4th season.
This isn’t terribly surprising new. The show is fairly light viewing, kind of fun, not particularly challenging enough to chase away casual fans, and it’s got a good cast who do their job well. Also, the comedic elements make it appeal more to people who may not like Science Fiction per se, but maybe enjoy the Nutty Professor and don’t quite realize that’s SF too. So it manages to sidestep the “Snob” factor pretty consistently. Though it’s a rather expensive show, they’re able to amortize the expense somewhat by running the show on USA Network’s other channels, which mean it gets consistently higher ratings than SyFy’s other shows, past and future (For instance, Battlestar Galactica, while getting ten times the buzz of Eureka, was never seen by nearly as many people on a weekly basis.)
What is surprising, however, is that it’s been picked up for a full, traditional season.
For those of you not in or closely following the TV Biz, in the US a traditional television season for a drama (And most sitcoms) is 22 episodes. We’ve seen that dwindle over time, as I’ve discussed elsewhere (Back in the 60s, Westerns used to have no trouble cranking out 35 hour-long episodes a year, and genre shows were able to put out ludicrous numbers of episodes by today’s standard (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea did 32 its first year, Star Trek managed 30 its first year, if we count the pilot, and The Wild Wild West managed 28 its first season), but as production budgets increased, episode orders decreased, and for the last 20 years or so, 22 episodes has been the standard in the US. The way this usually works out is a network gives an order for 13 episodes up front, and if the ratings are still good towards the end of that run, they’ll pick up the “Back Nine” episodes.
Lately we’ve seen a disturbing trend towards 13 episode seasons of genre programming (Kings, Dollhouse, Defying Gravity, the first season of the new Galactica, etc), which is no doubt driven by the really high cost of producing an SF show. SyFy, back when it was still called “The Science Fiction Channel,” frequently did 13 episode series, but for things that seemed more of a sure bet, they went 20 episodes per year, assuming no one would miss the extra two, then they took to (Annoyingly) breaking these up in to two 10-episode blocks that they’d air months, or even years apart.
Despite being a fun little show, it seems Sci-Fi and/or USA didn’t have a lot of faith in Eureka, so the episode orders per season have been really low. Its first year was only 12 eps, its second was 13, and its third season - which sat on the shelf seemingly for freakin’ ever - was signed on to a more cautiously ambitious 18 episodes.
By signing the show to a full 22 episodes, it suggests that the new regime at SyFy believes in the show more than Sci-Fi did. This suggests that perhaps SyFy is hoping to put some of Bonnie Hammer’s tomfoolery behind them, and run a show like the big boys do. Good news all around, assuming this interpretation is correct, since we’ll get more Eureka, and we’ll also theoretically get more of Stargate: Universe and other shows as well.
Of course we’ll need to find out more details about Warehouse 13’s renewal to be sure - did they get a full year, or just the titular 13? Stay tuned!