[07/06/09 - 12:05 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Warehouse 13" (Syfy)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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(Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c starting July 7)

The network's description: "Premieres Tuesday, July 7, with two-hour pilot from 9-11PM (ET/PT) - Two Secret Service agents find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota which houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The Warehouse's caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping him to control the warehouse itself. CCH Pounder guest-stars as Artie's boss Mrs. Federic, along with Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan, a young, hip, brilliant techno-wiz. The 13-episode series (including the two-hour pilot) is produced for SCI FI by Universal Cable Productions. It is executive produced by Jack Kenny (The Book of Daniel) who also serves as showrunner. David Simkins (Dresden Files) is executive producer; Jace Alexander (Burn Notice, Rescue Me) is co-executive producer and director of the pilot; and Stephen Surjik (Monk, Burn Notice) is producer/director of the series."

What did they leave out? "Warehouse 13's" development dates all the way back to December of 2005 when Ronald D. Moore supervised original creator D. Brent Mote. Rockne O'Bannon, Jane Espenson and David Simkins took subsequent stabs at the project before it was ordered to pilot in October of 2007. Mote, Espenson and Simkins are credited with final teleplay, based off a story by Mote and Espenson. Only Simkins remains onboard the series.

The plot in a nutshell: Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) are trained to take bullets for the President. At a reception at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. however, they find themselves taking on something much stranger. When one of the pieces - an Aztec bloodstone - literally begins dropping blood, its curator finds himself compelled to attack the President. Myka thankfully intervenes while Pete tries to stop a scruffy intruder (Saul Rubinek) - aided by some strange devices - from making off with the aforementioned artifact. And despite their respective success and failure, both are approached by the seemingly ageless Mrs. Federic (CCH Pounder) who has orders for them to report to South Dakota in the morning. There they find their new "national security" assignment is actually the thief from the night before: Artie Nielsen, the government's sole caretaker of the mysterious, century-old Warehouse 13 - a seemingly endless storage site for relics and artifacts deemed too dangerous for the outside world. Whether it be Houdini's wallet or Pandora's box or a kettle that grants wishes (or instead generates ferrets if it's too far reaching; no, I'm not joking), they're all here. "I like to think of it as America's attic," Artie quips.

None too pleased with her apparent demotion, Myka pleads with her supervisor back in D.C. for a way out but will have to stick it out for at least 48 hours. Pete conversely is intrigued by the relative insanity of his new assignment. You see, he's the instinct guy while she's the cerebral one, making them - by TV's standards - perfect partners. And despite their conflicting reactions to their new assignment, both agree to press forward for the time being. Their first case then involves a college student in Iowa who inexplicably attacked his girlfriend. Artie seems to thinks something outside the norm had a hand in it and wants them to retrieve whatever "that" is. And thus they're outfitted with their artifact-busting gear - a stun gun, a video communicator and a portable artifact diffuser, all of which look straight out of the 19th century. Sure enough, Artie's hunch turns out to be right as the man in question not only displays supernatural strength but starts speaking in an old Italian dialect. Now Pete and Myka must apply their newfound tools and their old-school detective skills to get to the bottom of it, ultimately solidifying their reasons for staying in the process.

What works: The show's core concept - who would watch over that warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark?" - is definitely an intriguing one as the storytelling possibilities literally appear to be endless. McClintock and Kelly are also likeable leads as a "Eureka"-esque charm bubbles underneath the surface of the show. It's just unfortunate then that...

What doesn't: ...so much of it is rendered inert by a clunky script that never quite gets the show off the ground. First and foremost, I should preface this by saying that considering the multiple iterations of the script (see "What did they leave out?"), the ensuing weeks could prove to be decidedly different. That being said, the two-hour pilot provided for review feels like, at best, one hour of story stretched over two hours. Unfocused and meandering, the show gets too caught up in the inherent quirkiness of the concept to move the story along at a compelling clip. Nearly half the premiere goes by before Pete and Myka actually start investigating something as instead we're treated to countless scenes of Artie trying to navigate the Warehouse's de facto labyrinth and/or trying to use its anachronistic technology. Even worse, Pete and Myka don't seem particularly phased by any of it as far too many questions any normal person would ask in said scenario go unasked. More troubling however is that the show's rules are far too vague and non-descript to really invest in the drama. Problems are solved or started for no discernable reason other than they have to be, logic or motive be damned! It's one thing to technobabble away what happened or what is going to happen, it's entirely another to just clap your metaphorical hands and diffuse the situation. At the end of the day, I genuinely want to like this show...

The bottom line: ...now if it would only give me a few more reasons to do so.

  [july 2009]  


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