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USA2006(60 min)

This science fiction comedy/drama follows the average-Joe Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) as the town sheriff of the hidden city of Eureka. Off the public radar this town homes the nation’s greatest thinkers all working and residing here as they make scientific and innovative history day after day. Many viewers might relate such a town to the famous Silicon Valley in California. Eureka however does not boast the same reputation for housing many adults on the autism spectrum. In Eureka the only resident whose autism is obvious and talked about is barely verbal Kevin (Meshach Peters) the young son of Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield). In the pilot episode Kevin is the focus of a common scenario- the autistic savant that saves the day by filling in a large math equation on the chalkboard. This is the first time Kevin’s intelligence amazes the crowd but not the last. Kevin is not often the center of any episode but unfortunately when he is included it revolves around how his brain is ‘different’ and generally vaguely portrayed as ‘stronger’ or special’ and at one point even holds all of secrets of the universe. More often, the focus is on his mother Allison and how she copes with his disorder. Some of it is sweet and true to life. In “Noche de Suenos” she uses a device that allows her to enter his dreams with him and finally gets to at least briefly connect with him in a way she hasn’t been able to. While we struggle with hoping and wanting Allison to accept her son and perhaps some of his abilities rather than disabilities that are displayed, we do connect to her sadness and guilt that she struggles with over dealing with her expectations she may have had for them and how she must cope with the future he has.

This mother’s struggle could be forgiven and related to by the autism community but after Season 4 an unfortunate change was made. The main cast gets thrown into an alternative timeline- their lives just slightly different. One thing that’s different: here Kevin has always been neurotypical. He is outgoing, athletic, and has the strong verbal relationship with his mother she always wanted. Allison’s struggle with accepting Kevin’s differences and disabilities was relatable and realistic however saddening it may have been, but this abrupt change to his character I found unsettling. Rather than finding peace with Kevin’s diagnosis and showing all of the positive outcomes families with autism can still have, the show did away with the storyline in the quickest way possible. Unfortunately this thematically ignores the positive outcomes many on the spectrum have and instead offers a neurotypical life as the best outcome.

Shelbi Jay

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