The Syfy channel likes its weirdness in neat little packages.
• In "Eureka," beginning its fourth season today, a U.S. marshal and his daughter (Colin Ferguson and Jordan Hinson) are stranded, then take up residence, in a strange town in the Northwest. It turns out to be a settlement for scientists conducting out-there research that goes awry far more often than it goes right.
• In "Warehouse 13," which began its second season Tuesday, two FBI agents (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly) are assigned to a top-secret storage facility in South Dakota that holds the world's collection of strange, supernatural, goofy and dangerous artifacts. Armed with purple "neutralizer" goo, they travel the world to track down problematic pieces and contain them.
• And now, in "Haven," arriving today, young FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) is sent to small-town Maine on a routine fugitive case and discovers that the town is named "Haven" for a good reason: It's a sanctuary for people trying to keep a variety of paranormal powers in check.
The Maine setting should be a clue that "Haven" has a Stephen King connection, and it does. The series is billed as being inspired by a 2005 King novella, "The Colorado Kid."
Arriving in dramatic fashion when her rental car plunges to the edge of a cliff, Audrey meets Nathan Wournos (Lucas Bryant), an adorable policeman who cannot feel pain, and becomes his unofficial partner in solving not just her case but several more interesting puzzles. Eventually, she tells her boss she'll stay in Haven a while — which might be just what someone (or something?) wants.
"Haven" gets off to a bit of a slow start, although it almost certainly will improve when seen with special effects intact rather than in the extremely rough cut provided for review by Syfy. A subplot delving into Audrey's past, about which she knows nothing, could wind up being involving.
Like "Warehouse 13," "Haven" is an example of where Syfy wanted to go a year ago when it adopted its new name, dropping "Sci Fi Channel" and announcing that it would expand its offerings beyond hard-core science fiction to attract a broader audience, including more women.
"We don't want to be in the niche space," network president Dave Howe said at the time. "We want to be in general entertainment."
Some fans of that niche were infuriated, accusing the network of abandoning the audience on which it was built. But the "brand evolution," as Syfy calls it, has been successful, the network said on its first anniversary.
In its first season, on the strength of its humor, accessibility and character-driven stories, "Warehouse 13" became the most-watched series in the network's history, averaging 4.1 million total viewers.
"Eureka," which adds "Battlestar Galactica" veteran James Callis to the cast for Season 4, averages 3 million viewers per episode, and the network hopes to boost that even more via a "Warehouse 13" crossover set for Aug. 3 and 6.
Among what Syfy calls its "imagination-based entertainment," reality shows also play an increasingly important part. In addition to the "Ghost Hunters" franchise and "Destination Truth," the network is creating a Thursday night reality block, which launches next week.
It includes "Mary Knows Best" (8 p.m. Thursday) featuring Mary Occhino, a psychic, radio host, author and "matriarch of her colorful Long Island Italian-American family," and "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Investigators" (9 p.m. Thursday), which follows former FBI agent Ben Hanson and a team as they try to determine whether reported events are real.
Syfy will also continue its deliberately ridiculous and cheesy Saturday night original movies with titles like "Stonehenge Apocalypse" and "Dinocroc vs. Supergator."
But come this fall, the Syfy brand will expand further to include a show that might be called fiction, but probably not science.
"WWE Smackdown," the long-running entertainment-wrestling series that had aired on MyNetworkTV (Channel 46 in St. Louis), will move to Syfy in October. The deal will bump the science-fiction shows that had aired Fridays, including "Stargate Universe," to a new block on Tuesday nights.
And just how does "Smackdown" fit the Syfy brand?
Howe cited the series' "fantastical thrills."