Ellen Gray: Syfy's 'Warehouse 13' and 'Eureka' premiere new seasons this week

Posted: July 06, 2010

WAREHOUSE 13. 9 tonight, Syfy.

EUREKA. 9 p.m. Friday, Syfy.

BEFORE WE make too much fun of the Russians for going to such trouble to infiltrate American suburbia - could another "Real Housewives" edition be far behind? - consider what they may have learned just for the price of their sleeper agents' cable bills.

For one thing, that U.S. tax dollars are spent for things we'll never hear discussed on C-SPAN.

Take Syfy's "Warehouse 13," which returns tonight for Season 2.

The rebranded NBC Universal network's most successful series ever - its first season averaged 4.1 million viewers - it focuses on a couple of U.S. Secret Service agents, Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), whose job isn't guarding the president or the U.S. Treasury but rounding up supernatural "artifacts" for a storage facility in South Dakota whose eccentric caretaker, Artie, is played by Saul Rubinek.

How top-secret is this operation?

Let's just say "Warehouse 13" apparently can't even be filmed inside U.S. borders (it's produced in Toronto).

Kidding aside, I didn't get much beyond last season's special effects-filled two-hour premiere - so much television, so little time - which means much of what happens in tonight's season opener, which takes up where a cliff-hanger finale left off, struck me as confusing.

Though fans of H.G. Wells might not want to miss it.

Next week's show, which has Pete and Myka tracking down a vigilante who seems to have sprung directly from the pages of a comic book, is probably an easier entry point for newbies, but I still found a bigger welcome in Syfy's "Eureka," whose Season 4 premiere launches Friday.

One of those shows I'm mostly fond of from a distance, checking in once or twice each season, "Eureka" is about another outlandish example of your tax dollars at work, a small town in the Pacific Northwest that's full of genius scientists for whom a sheltered environment was created 60 years ago. It's run by a corporation called Global Dynamics under the oversight of the U.S. Defense Department.

Colin Ferguson stars as the town's sheriff, Jack Carter, whose commonsense approach to phenomena and people that often defy common sense gives "Eureka" its grounding (though Joe Morton, as Henry Deacon, a genius of all trades who chooses to work as a mechanic, is much more fun).

If it wasn't clear already that the two series occupy the same slightly off-kilter universe, Syfy has scheduled crossovers between "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka" for their Aug. 3 and 6 episodes.

Still, "Eureka" remains my favorite of the two, maybe because it seems to do a better job of integrating new characters - and viewers - even as it allows its writers to reset the show's reality as often as they choose.

In the first two episodes of Season 4, some of Eureka's residents are transported back to a time that predates the town's establishment and introduced to one of its founders, a Dr. Grant ("Battlestar Galactica's" James Callis).

When they return, some significant things have changed in each of their lives, something that shouldn't surprise anyone who's seen even one episode of "Star Trek," but which sets "Eureka" up for an intriguing reboot, one that apparently involves making Callis a regular.

With Fox's "Fringe" on holiday, I've been getting my weekly ration of sci-fi whimsy from BBC America's latest "Doctor Who," Matt Smith, who's proved a worthy successor to David Tennant.

Don't know if you saw it, but I'm still a little teary about the recent "Vincent and the Doctor" episode, which was written by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") and featured a cameo by Bill Nighy inside what appeared to be Paris' actual Musee d'Orsay.

With the latest season of "Doctor Who" coming to end this month - a two-part season finale airs at 9 p.m. July 17 and 24 - I'm tempted to add a sprinkle of "Eureka" to my DVR's weekly diet.

Second-chance TV

IFC has acquired rights to cult favorites "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared."

"Freaks," which was created by Paul Feig but is most often mentioned these days in connection with another of its executive producers, filmmaker Judd Apatow, started airing on the independent film channel last week. Subsequent episodes will premiere at 11 p.m. each Friday.

"Undeclared," the college show Apatow created, will launch in the fall and will include an episode that was never aired.

Both shows have long been critics' darlings, but why should you care?

Well, as IFC notes, the two shows "helped launch the careers of Jay Baruchel, Jenna Fischer, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel" (not to mention "ER's" Linda Cardellini).

And their cancellations helped make Apatow the very successful guy he is today. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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