One of the ways in which our viewing habits have changed in recent years is that we can sit down and watch an entire run of a TV series in just a few days thanks to DVD boxed sets and on demand services. This is exactly what I did with Warehouse 13. I wanted something light and fun, gave the pilot a whirl and then woke up three weeks later having consumed 58 episodes.
Warehouse 13 isn’t, and was never intended to be, groundbreaking TV – and it’s not even original. Elements of it are stolen from the likes of Moonlighting, Supernatural and The X-Files. The basic premise is that a secret organization exists that retrieve supernatural artifacts from across the globe and stores them in a huge warehouse where they can’t do anyone any harm.
The stand alone episodes follow a basic police procedural drama format – something weird is going on, the agents go out and find out what it is and retrieve the object. These episodes are great fun – the programme doesn’t take itself seriously, the scripts are amusing, and the characters are appealing.
Where it falls down is with the over-arching, long-running storylines which tend to take over the series in the final weeks of each season. Here, a relatively anonymous cardboard cut-out baddy tries to bring down the warehouse and those who run it. This is OK in season 1, and even season 2, but then it all gets a bit repetitive and, more importantly, the overarching narratives tend to start taking over and then viewers are lost as each and every episode becomes important.
This reliance on multi-episode arcs has caused the downfall of series such as The X-Files and, more recently, Supernatural – the latter is still being made, but I’m not sure even the writers understand what it’s about anymore, the mythology has become so convoluted. It appears that Warehouse 13 suffered a similar fate – audience numbers dwindled during season 4, and season 5 is going to be the last and just 6 episodes. This is a shame, as if the series had concentrated on the stand alone episodes instead, it would no doubt have survived another few seasons.
The chemistry between the various agents at the centre of the story is actually quite remarkable, and even when new characters have been brought in as the series progressed the chemistry seems to have been important. A surprise for me was the introduction of “Jinksy” in season three. A gay character in an action role is still a very rare occurrence on TV and in film. That Jinksy is that rarity and is a gay man who doesn’t jump into bed every five minutes and keeps his clothes on and doesn’t talk with a lisp shows just how far American TV has come in recent years.
Warehouse 13, therefore, is one of the programmes that slipped through the net. Well-written and well-acted, it has fallen foul of being too formulaic and not coming up with a more original multi-episode arc in the later season. Tucked away on the Syfy channel, it may never have got the audience it deserved, which is a shame for all concerned.