Eureka: Do You See What I See?

... in which some holiday surprises don’t go according to plan (naturally), causing the whole town to become animated.

Last year, Eureka set the bar pretty high with a simply wonderful holiday episode, which hit the “Christmas special” sweet spot on nearly every front. Unfortunately, this year’s holiday offering fell rather short of that gold standard. Whereas last year we got a hilarious and heartwarming misadventure filled with the wonder of the season, this year we got a goofy lark that, rather than moving me to tears, often made me groan and roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was visually entertaining and wildly amusing, at times. I certainly laughed out loud. A lot. But on the whole, ‘Do You See What I See?’ was really lacking in the depth and heart usually on display in a typical Eureka episode.

All the saccharine “lessons learned” came in very forced little batches, and made the sentiment feel trite, not earned. Plus, the lessons largely felt like throwaway jokes or repeats of last year’s holiday messages. Fargo’s a bobble head because no one takes him seriously. Henry has a pull string so he’ll take a breath and stop overanalyze everything. Ha, ha, ha. Jo misses her brothers and gets outwardly grinchy at Christmas. Allison goes overboard trying to give her kids the Christmas magic she never had as a child. In the end, spending time with the people you care about is what makes the season special, whether they are blood relatives or not. I guess Andy wanting to be normal and fit in better was a new theme this year. Thank goodness Santa’s sled dogs were there to let him know it is perfectly fine to be different and to stand out from the crowd. How else would he ever have learned that being a robot makes him more special, not less? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

That said, there was still plenty to enjoy in this outing, and I found several of the animation stylings very entertaining. My favorites were the 2D Hanna-Barbera stretch and the anime action at the end. The musical cues and sound effects for both these sequences were spot on, and the awesome “ass-kickers” versions of our heroes had me grinning widely (especially Fargo). They even tweaked the vocal audio to give it that tin can echo a la The Flintstones! And I absolutely loved the brief sequence where Carter, Andy, and Jo transitioned through a variety of iconic styles, including Peanuts, The Simpsons, South Park, and Scooby Doo.

On the other hand, I didn’t really care for the Polar Express CGI or the ‘California Raisins’ claymation versions of our characters. The CGI was almost too realistic except for the mouth movements, which was strangely disturbing and created some cognitive dissonance for me. On the flip side, the claymation characters barely resembled our characters at all, and I found their appearance distracting (especially Jo). Plus, I think the movement of the claymation mouths and eyelids weirds me out a bit. I wish that style hadn’t taken up such a big chunk of the episode, because aside from the hilarity of the penguin-chowing Taggart bear and the awesomely toothy Giant Snow Ninja, it didn’t really work for me.

Other Thoughts

For all the fun of the animation, I missed our regular actors. Especially Colin Ferguson. He’s such a gifted physical comedian, and it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to see cartoon versions of Carter doing and reacting to things.

I also really missed seeing Chris Parnell as Noah Drummer. He was so great last year, and the claymation and anime versions just didn’t do the character justice. At least we got a brief glimpse of him at the end.

Speaking of missing people, where was Zane? Is the complexity of his ever-evolving dynamic with Jo just too hard to work into a “timeless” stand-alone episode? And why the hell can’t they put Grace in these things? Henry is married now, folks. Shouldn’t he be spending Christmas with his wife?

Carter: “Ally, why don’t you just sit down, huh? Relax, enjoy the holidays …”
Allison: “Have you met me before? This is how I enjoy it!”

Zoe: “That’s not how your family does Christmas!”
Kevin: “Yeah, but Jack says you guys always open one present on Christmas Eve, and aren’t we a part of your family now?”
Zoe: “Wow, you’re good.”

Carl: “Day in, day out, I give you my all. And what do I get in return? Firebombed, flattened, melted, blown up, and shot into space. And now this! Enough!!!”

I’m not sure I cared for the “pouty Sheldon” version of Carter’s Jeep, but from now on, I shall refer to him as Carl. (Not to be confused with Big Carl from Cougartown.)

Kevin: “Bunnies? Really? Man, that’s boring. The game needs … it needs action. Maybe some bad guys to fight.”
Zoe: “Kevin, this is Christmas, not Call of Duty.”

Jo’s first “Jo White” look and her interactions with her birds were highly amusing. “If you crap on me, I swear to God …”

Carter: “Well, at least we’re three dimensional again.”
Andy: “Yeah, but I’m freezing my nuts off. [Sproing!] And my bolts!”

Taggart: “Penguin?” [Burp!]
Jo: “I’m good.”

Henry: “You can’t ascribe thematic significance to such... [tugs his pull string] ridiculous circumstances!”

Fargo: “We’re gonna need a bigger snowball.”

Carter: “You have a dog sled?”
Dr. Drummer: “You don’t?”

Carter (to Allison): “So this is your fault? Awesome!”

I wonder what they had to pay Edward James Olmos to do Rudy the Sled Dog. That was a brief, bizarre cameo.

I loved how Zoe and Kevin both immediately figured out what was causing the world to go wonky, and quickly found a way to try to resolve the problem. Those two are incredibly smart cookies.

Henry’s anime look was kickin'! With the hat and the long, high-collared coat. And Fargo’s knee pants were pretty funny.

Final Analysis: A fun and often very funny holiday adventure, but not nearly as satisfying as last year’s effort.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

10 comments:

CrazyCris said...

Great review! I for one had a blast, and the claymation part was my favourite, so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one. ;o)

But I think the highlight was Taggart the polar bear. Penguin? Loved it! :D

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the humor and the different interations of each actor (though the claymation was a little creepy for me as well). I even liked the anime ass-kickers and I'm not normally a fan. btw, Jenna seems to be one or two years older than when we last saw her and Jack and Allison were wearing wedding bands.

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks, Cris. Yes, let's agree to disagree. :)

Holy cow, Anon! I did not notice that at all. But since my brain went "What?!!!!" when I read your comment, I immediately went back to check and they are definitely wearing rings. Whoa.

So, of course, now I have all kinds of questions about when this is supposed to occur and what not. Should we infer this tale is post the events of next season, and that Jack and Allison will get married? That would be a fitting conclusion for them. Or should we infer that in the wishful thinking of our storyteller, SARAH, Jack and Allison are married and settled with her. Hmmm ...

If the former, I hope this doesn't foreshadow why Zane and Grace are missing. Ack!

Billie Doux said...

I liked it. I thought it was laugh out loud funny, and I'm not that fond of animation. I never saw last year's Christmas special, though, so I don't have that to compare it to. It's the only Eureka I haven't seen.

Anonymous said...

And, of course, by interations I meant iterations. Where's autocorrect when you need it.

Josie Kafka said...

Dear Jess,

I must register a strong complaint. I have had the fecking "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Christmas carol in my head all day long. I just figured out why--every few hours, a new comment on your review gets auto-emailed to my always-open gmail account.

This is simply not fair. In fact, I think it constitutes a hostile work environment. In order to enact some hard-core revenge, I recommend you check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP4NMoJcFd4

If that won't clear the Christmas cobwebs, I don't know what will.

:-)

Jess Lynde said...

Just thought I'd reply so that a new comment on my review would ping into your email, Josie. :)

That video cracked me up! That poor, poor woman. Hopefully some guy who loves cats just as much as she does will see her online dating profile. And her catchy tune!

And now back to my current holiday "can't get you out of my head" song, '(Everybody's Waiting for the) Man with the Bag' ...

Josie Kafka said...

I think we can blame Billie's most recent Breaking Bad review for that one...

Anonymous said...

Words of the pseudo ominous background choir singing on the anime parts were "kenji kawai" "joe hisahishi" and "shoji yamashiro"

apparently bear mccreary is an anime fan.

celticmarc said...

Oh my

4 000 posts huh ? I'm a big fan of Eureka, and I should take time to comment on all reviews (hum, a never ending story)...

I've rewatched this episode earlier on; it always reminds me of Community's clay-mation Xmas show. Probably the latter that inspired the former ?

LMAO Josie for that youtube vid.