M: E and I are splitting up a couple of new shows that are starting that look like they may actually be worth the time and effort. She will be reviewing the new series 10 Things I Hate About You, which, as the commercials say, is based on the hit movie of the same name. That’s right, they forget that the movie is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, one of the most successful pieces of literature, well, ever, and pitch it with a movie from 10 years ago that was mildly successful for its genre. But I digress, and am probably stepping on E’s toes. Anyway, I’m tackling the new SciFi… sorry, “SyFy” Network series Warehouse 13.
First to tackle the network’s name change. I’m sorry, but if a network supposedly devoted to science fiction can’t hang with the “SciFi” label and has to try to spice things up with a funky new branding of it, well, I think the wrong people may be making the decisions. To be fair, despite being a huge scifi fan, and a fan of the recent Battlestar series, I have been holding a grudge against the network for a while now. In my experience, the network does a pretty good job of developing new science fiction series, which is commendable. The problems start pretty much as soon as those series build a following. You see, science fiction shows are notoriously expensive to make. They can be done relatively cheaply at first, but as they go on they tend to move heavier and heavier into special effects, which are expensive. And that, my friends, is when the “SyFy” Network generally decides to dump on its viewers and pull the plug. They did it with the mildly successful and entertaining Invisible Man. They did it famously, and most painfully, with the fantastic series Farscape, which if you’ve never seen you must watch. The producers of Battlestar wisely learned from the pitfalls of their predecessors, and pulled the plug themselves when they could see the writing on the wall, and bravo for them, as they pulled off a satisfying series finale. (C: “Satisfying”? *choking noises* M: apparently we will need to debate this!) Because of this, with any show starting out on “SyFy” I am going in with trepidation.
Now, on to the show. Warehouse 13 is a series about a special division of the Secret Service (because The X-Files took the FBI) that keeps a warehouse in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota that houses all sorts of paranormal artifacts and treasures. Basically, it’s the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the “top men” stick the ark in storage never to be found again. We are quickly introduced to our main characters, Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering, before they are assigned to the warehouse, when they are trying to protect the President from a possessed Mayan stone. In other words, typical Secret Service work. As we are being to be introduced to their characters we find that, wait, sit down, you’re not going to believe this, they’re opposites! I know, I know, I didn’t see it coming either. He’s very instinctive, goes on what he calls ‘vibe’, and is a bit scattered, while she is completely by the book, hyper ambitious, and a bit of a stickler. Yep, total shocker! Ok, you can stand up again.
On thier watch, the stone is stolen from an exhibit openning by a mysterious stranger, who seems to know Lattimer, and has at his disposal a lot of what Jack Nicholson would refer to a ‘wonderful toys’. Bering bathes herself in glory while taking out the guy that the stone was possessing, while Lattimer earns himself a suspension and a drug test for mentioning the details of the stone and how it was stolen. Later that night he’s approached by the equally mysterious Mrs. Frederic and he’s being transferred, and ends up in South Dakota. In another huge surprise, Bering shows up at the same place just after him. Sorry, forgot to tell you to sit down for that one, my apologies. Shortly after they get there they find out that the mystery man who stole the rock, Artie Neilsen, is the keeper of the warehouse, and basically their boss as well as tech support. He shows them around the place, teaches them a few things, and while they’re in there stick-in-the-mud Myka wishes on a magic tea kettle, but because her wish (to be transferred back to DC) is unattainable, it gives her a ferret. Technically, Lattimer was holding the kettle so he got the ferret, but he gave it to her, and by the end of the episode she was becoming attached to it. During this, Artie explains that they have locked up all sorts of wonders so that they won’t harm anyone, and so that they can be figured out when science advances, tells them its their job to go find these things, neutralize them and bring them back to the warehouse, or as he calls it, “America’s Attic.” The tour ends, and while Bering and Lattimer head off to the local bed and breakfast, we see Mrs. Frederic ordering Artie to give them a good mission so that they get hooked and want to stay.
Most of the rest of the episode is typical paranormal cop show fare. They go to Iowa based on very limited info on a domestic abuse case, find out something weird is going on when the kid who beat up his girlfriend makes an interview room heat up, rips his cuffs out of the shackles holding him to the table, and flips the table, all while muttering in Italian. You know, standard stuff. They chase down leads, follow clues, and eventually find that Italian renessaince femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia’s hairpin is possessing the kid’s Godmother. They start to bond a bit, end up working together to save the day, and like the mission so much that they decide to stay on at the warehouse.
Some notes on the cast, which I found to be fairly well put together…
Lattimer is played by Eddie McClintock, who looked really familiar to me for the whole episode in a “I know him from some obscure place” kind of a way. I can usually think of those on my own, but he looked too much like Craig Sheffer, so I had to look him up. Turns out he was the slightly off-the-wall roommate in the brief-lived but highly funny sitcom Stark Raving Mad. I’m glad to see him getting a shot; he was really funny on that show, which absolutely should have been on for five years, instead of part of one. He did well, starting off shallow but showing hints at depth, and a good comedic touch.
Joanne Kelly, who plays Bering, to the best of my knowledge (which includes a search on IMDb), has been in nothing I’ve seen. Her introduction scene was a little weak, with the acting quality feeling a little sub par, but after that she picked it up. She was a bit stiff, but that is likely just the role, and the way she is being directed to play it. I don’t have a good feel for her or her character yet.
Artie is played by Saul Rubinek, who you’ve all probably seen in a dozen different things, but first caught my eye as the man who tried to steal Data in the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “The Most Toys.” Excellent episode, and he really stood out in it, hence my remembering it almost two decades later. Here he’s quite good in a mostly comedic role. Mrs. Frederic is played by the veteran TV actress CCH Pounder, who’s been in virtually everything. She has a terrific presence, and is prefect for the secretive, sorta-kinda shady head of a covert government program role. She even came equipped with a large Asian assistant or bodyguard or something that reminded me of the guy in the first Austin Powers movie who throws the shoe. Nice touch.
As for the show as a whole, it definitely had its moments. We were given some insight into the background of the characters, details about Lattimer’s father, Bering’s lover and how she made it to where she was at the start of the episode, Artie’s past and past Warehouse 13 team members, and even a little about Mrs. Frederic and the keeper of the bed and breakfast. Thankfully, they didn’t fall into the trap that a lot of shows do of giving too much information too quickly, leaving nothing to be discovered after only an handful of episodes.
Some of the scenes were pretty cheesy, like when Artie used a zipwire to travel across the warehouse, and it was fairly formulaic, at least for the genre. However, there were a few really funny moments, like when Lattimer and Bering first arrive at the Warehouse and are refusing to trust Artie, until he tells them that he made cookies, at which Lattimer excitedly jumps at the offer and follows him in. Perhaps the best line of the night was after the possessed Godmother crashed their car and Bering is suggesting that Lattimer go to the hospital, he came back with “I’m trained to take a bullet if necessary… but I’m not sure how to stop a dead Italian cougar.”
All in all, it’s another beneficiary of the low bar of summertime, and certainly won’t be up for any awards any time soon. Still, it was good enough for me to set my DVR to record all episodes… at least until “SyFy” gives it the axe.