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‘Eureka’ Moment for Sci Fi

Sep 26, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Sci Fi Channel has picked up 11 episodes of “Eureka,” a one-hour scripted drama about a small town full of resident geniuses. The series will kick off with a two-hour premiere sometime in 2006.

“Eureka” was one of two pilot projects Sci Fi announced at the Television Critics Association semiannual press tour in July. “Eureka” is produced by Sci Fi’s sister NBC Universal company, NBC Universal Television Studio. The other pilot, an adaptation of the comic book “Painkiller Jane,” was not picked up.

“What was really gratifying is the pilot delivered on the expectation of the script, which doesn’t always happen,” said Mark Stern, Sci Fi’s senior VP of original programming. “In this case we had a perfect storm of a great script, direction and casting; a character piece with sci-fi elements.”

Since NBC acquired the network last year, Sci Fi has embarked on a quest to broaden its appeal beyond space operas such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis,” which tend to dominate its ratings but narrow its audience. As a terrestrial-based drama, “Eureka” fits the bill.

Another nontraditional programming initiative is Sci Fi’s Wednesday night “alternative reality” block, anchored by the paranormal reality series, “Ghost Hunters.”

Sci Fi is ordering an additional nine episodes of “Ghost Hunters” for the current season. The series, which follows a Rhode Island team’s investigations into haunted houses and businesses, has averaged 1.4 million viewers for the season to date, up slightly from its prior season last fall, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“Its audience has grown week after week, and it’s maturing into a staple,” Mr. Stern said. “You never know with reality series, but this show has shown it has legs. It’s constantly reinventing itself.”

The other shows in Sci Fi’s Wednesday night “alternative reality” block haven’t fared as well. “Master Blasters,” where a father-son team created homemade rockets, debuted July 27 and was yanked after three episodes. Mr. Stern claimed there’s still a chance the show will return.

“I think the show is great, but you always ask questions when something doesn’t perform,” he said. “We’re not ready to give up on it that quickly; we’re reassessing it and trying to figure out what happened.”

Wednesday’s animated sci-fi program “Tripping the Rift” has averaged 1.1 million viewers but has improved week to week. “That [renewal] will be our next decision to make,” Mr. Stern said.