I Want to Talk About Eureeka’s Castle Some More…

So, this is kind of a haphazard blog post and the first in over a month. I just want to say a few more things about this half-forgotten show now that I’ve seen more of it.

Eureeka’s Castle Has Been Saved…Kinda

So, a few weeks ago it came to my attention that Eureeka’s Castle has been made available on the Paramount+ streaming service. I was ecstatic, because, coincidentally, I had been scouring the internet for anything I could find related to the series last spring. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a mixed bag as there are only 26 episodes available out of a 65 episode first season and 22 episode second season. There was also a 52 episode third season, but these were comprised of re-edited sequences from the first two seasons together in new combinations. According to Wikipedia, the first two season episodes were one hour long while the third season episodes were a half hour long. Since the material on Paramount+ universally clocks in at 22 minutes each, that means we have half of the third season available to us now.

There are a handful of episodes available via bootleg recordings online as well, which may reveal one possible reason we weren’t given more. You’ll notice that Eureeka’s Castle is not only comprised of the main cast of puppets, but also extended cutaways to footage of children playing and cartoons/storybook readings licensed from other studios. Of the Paramount+ material, we only have episodes which feature the footage of children. There are no episodes featuring clips of the licensed animated segments. This leads me to believe that the rights to air this material is still tied up and thus, Paramount+ is withholding anything that could get them in legal trouble. But even this theory still doesn’t explain why they’ve withheld the Halloween, Christmas and “Don’t Touch That Box” specials, none of which contain any licensed footage whatsoever. Who knows why they weren’t included. The only explanation I can think of is sheer carelessness.

ASIDE: As a fan, I have to say I wouldn’t mind if they just aired the puppet segments from these other episodes and edit the cartoon segments out, if that’s truly the cause of the holdup. Both the cartoons and candid footage of kids are universally dull as dirt. They bring the whole show down anyway, and in this writer’s opinion it was a mistake to include them at all from the very beginning. No one but the most diehard purist would shed a tear for them. But I guess editing even just the other 26 episodes of Season 3 would be too much trouble for this billion dollar mega-corporation. Sigh.

Ya got all that? Good, because it gets even more confusing. We still don’t have titles or plot descriptions for the individual episodes. Everything is called “Show #X” and the synopses for each are just a generic description of the series as a whole. In addition, it can now be confirmed that at least one of the three VHS releases from the ’90s was comprised of recycled skits with newly filmed material meant to serve as a narrative framing device. “Wide Awake at Eureeka’s Castle” features brand new footage of Eureeka, Batley and Magellan agreeing to have a “stay awake” contest. These scenes cannot be found anywhere else but this long out of print VHS tape. But throughout the video, they cut away to reused skits from the series proper revolving around the characters having trouble sleeping. That aforementioned new footage will almost certainly never be released again in any format, presenting yet another hurdle fans must deal with if they want to preserve the series in its entirety.

As it happens, Paramount+ includes other previously buried gems, like Gullah Gullah Island and Legends of the Hidden Temple. For the first time, we now have access to the complete series of Clarissa Explains It All in decent picture quality, which has always been one of my holy grails of entertainment media. But like Eureeka, there’s a catch: episodes are all out of order, grouped into the wrong season and some are mislabeled in the selection screen. It’s frustrating being a fan of 90s Nickelodeon, let me tell you; even when we score a win, it still feels like we’ve been disrespected and ignored.

All in all, it’s a start and I’m thankful for what we’ve been given. But the sloppiness of the whole thing does leave a bad taste in my mouth. It shows me that Nickelodeon/Paramount/CBS/Viacom (by the way, don’t you just love these bloated conglomerations? #LateCapitalism) still doesn’t really give a shit about these programs. They just want to beef up their streaming catalog to compete with Netflix and Disney. It’s all about throwing as much material out the door as quickly and as cheaply as possible. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s excitement because this is still a huge step in the right direction, but I just wish they’d stop goofing around and put someone in charge who cares enough to get it right. In the case of Eureeka, even just a blurb explaining why so many episodes are missing would go a long way.

As I will discuss in the next section, Cheryl Blaylock (Eureeka’s puppeteer) is insanely talented at what she does and deserves more acclaim than she’s received. She makes this show, in my opinion.

How Does Eureeka Hold Up?

I made a blog post about this series last year, though I was severely hampered in my assessment by the lack of available episodes. Now that I have 26 more on which to base my opinion, has anything changed for me?

No, not really.

As I said earlier, I find the “candid camera” segments of the kids to be a complete waste of time and a momentum-killer. The licensed cartoons are often worse. Perhaps they were a cost-saving measure, and if so that’s just what happens on struggling cable channels sometimes. If they had the ability to make more puppet segments per episode and chose not to, that was a grave mistake.

In my personal opinion, the show lives or dies on the presence of its titular protagonist. Without Eureeka’s moderating influence, I find the Moat Twins too loud and annoying as an adult. I find Batley’s boasting at the expense of others (mostly Magellan) obnoxious without Eureeka there to gently put him in his place. (You can tell from Eureeka’s demeanor towards Batley that she sees right through his crap.) When Eureeka’s not there to balance out the shenanigans of these three, I find myself fast-forwarding most of their scenes. Mr. Knack’s alright in my book, but his personality is a lot more subdued than the others. He doesn’t take anything away but he’s not exactly a scene-stealer. It seems like Eureeka was supposed to be the responsible one of the group, the glue that holds these disparate personalities in check and keeps things from getting out of hand. She’s the unspecified caretaker to a wacky family of outcasts, which is fine as long as she’s there to play that role. Strangely, she really isn’t in too many skits despite lending her name to the title and being the best thing about the show.

Magellan’s childlike demeanor is adorable, especially when Eureeka’s around to be his nurturing mother-figure. These two play off of each other so well, I could watch them do just about anything together. In particular, the scenes where Eureeka puts Magellan to bed are by far the cutest and most enjoyable moments of the whole series, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not too often anymore that we see something so wholesome on TV that isn’t trying to push a homogenized “American family values” lifestyle or “very special episode” moral on us. It’s sincerely comforting and heartfelt for its own sake, mirroring positive emotions for the young audience to emulate in real life, and I appreciate that. I just find it very soothing to watch any two characters love and support one another unconditionally like this, especially with all the wackiness surrounding them. (Not to mention all the craziness in the world right now.)

Besides this setup, my other favorite sequences tend to be those which involve Eureeka attempting magic in her workshop while the other characters interrupt her to fix their own problems. She’s like a single mom trying to eek out a little “me time” amidst the chaos, which is the source of most of the show’s humor. It’s a subtle nod to the parents watching along with their toddlers by mirroring their own frustrations in a lighthearted way. Not to beat a dead horse with this, but I feel the series ought to have focused more on Eureeka and maybe emphasized the special relationship she has with Magellan. Perhaps the show ought to have been retooled with Magellan as the more obvious and consistent audience stand-in, with Eureeka as both his (and their) teacher and emotional support. This setup would have provided some much-needed focus to a somewhat disjointed and uneven program.

So, does it hold up? Yes and no. You won’t catch me re-watching the series as-is on Paramount+, but I do unironically enjoy watching supercuts of the skits that feature Eureeka. (By the way, if you want proof of how little Nickelodeon cares about this series, just know that my uploads to YouTube haven’t been flagged yet, same as it is for Just For Kicks.)

I absolutely adore the final skit in this video, where Eureeka sings a lullaby that namedrops Godzilla! It’s the perfect combination of wholesome and offbeat, just like all the best 90s Nick shows. Until just a few weeks ago, it was impossible to watch this clip anywhere. I could have gone my whole life without ever seeing it again, and that’s just really depressing to think about. Imagine how many other great moments like this await in the remaining episodes!

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