Warehouse 13

 

warehouse_13

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.

Advertisements

This Week’s TV: Supernatural & Glee

 

Supernatural1

Contains minor spoilers.

I’m not quite sure when it happened – at the end of season seven, I think – but Supernatural lost its way.  I remember looking forward to each new episode during the period when it was, first and foremost, a monster-of-the-week type of show, a Scooby-Doo for grown-ups.  Then it all got a bit convoluted with the introduction of angels, but we went with it.  Then there were angel wars and it all seemed to be getting a little bit silly.  Then there were leviathans and, despite the fact we never really understood what they were and never really found them such a menace, we went with that too. 

But season eight found Supernatural doing something I have yet to forgive:  it simply got a bit shit.  The scripts got weaker, the stars were at times looking visibly bored, and the whole thing was like watching Supernatural through a frosted window.  The first half of season eight wasn’t helped by the awful flashback structure or the introduction of Benny, a character it seems most fans didn’t warm to.  The second half was passable, but only because it was a TV series the fans loved and didn’t want to let go of. 

Now we have season nine – four seasons more than the original intention.  The way forward might have been to go back to the monster-of-the-week format, but this week’s first episode doesn’t point towards that happening as  one of the Winchesters is again at death’s door (literally).  How many times can they die or nearly die before us not shouting at the screen “just die and be done with it?”  We know they’re not going to die.  Or, if they do, they won’t stay dead.  There’s no suspense in these scenarios anymore. 

To be fair, the first episode of season nine was better than the first episode of season eight, but that’s not saying much.  There’s no inspiration here anymore, and certainly no logic – just scatterbrained ideas with no rhyme or reason to them.  It’s almost as if the writers have got together in a panic having learned yet another season is on its way and they have no idea what they are going to fill twenty-two episodes with.   I’m not even sure they understand the storyline anymore and how we landed up at this point.  Even the re-cap at the beginning of the episode gave up on reminding us of the story so far, it was just 60 seconds of snippets that could have been thrown together by a kid at a computer. 

To be fair, there were some highlights of S09E01.  Ezekiel seemed like a nice chap, but it doesn’t look like he will be around on a regular basis.  Castiel is present and correct, but he’s gained and lost his powers more times that a recurring guest star has found themselves filming a death scene.  And it’s always nice to see Bobby (killing him off in season seven was hardly the programme’s most sensible decision), but his appearance seems to have been to delight fans rather than to serve any great purpose.  Finally, there was Castiel recreating a famous laundrette-set advert – the episode’s highpoint and one reminding us that the surreal humour that used to a be a trademark of the series has been sorely lacking of late.   Castiel with his kit off, though, actually makes us realise he now looks younger than Sam (who hasn’t had a haircut since the last season, in case you were wondering).  

I wanted to be drawn back into Supernatural, but I now sit here and wonder if I can really be bothered anymore. 

I talked about the return of Glee a couple of weeks back, and last night saw the broadcast of the anticipated episode dealing with the passing of Finn Hudson, following Cory Monteith’s death in the summer.  Reviews of the episode have ranged from luke-warm to very favourable.  Glee might miss the mark quite a bit these days but, unlike Supernaturalit does seem to be trying its best.  There have been comments that there was no explanation for Finn’s death, and that the series could have force-fed us a drugs-related issue-of-the-week episode.  But this probably wasn’t the time or place for a drugs-related episode (although the absence of such a storyline is a mysterious omission over the last four seasons).  Instead, Glee played a blinder dealing with an issue that effects more teenagers than drugs does:  grief.

The episode starts three weeks after Finn’s death, with both old and new members of New Directions coming together for a private memorial to Finn.   The supposed leap in time from the last episode makes one wonder why this wasn’t the first episode of the present season, as it would have made more sense given the summer break.  Even so, this was played to perfection…mostly.  The teen audience was told that there was no right time or right way to deal with grief when someone close to you passes away, and that is something of a valuable (and rarely mentioned) lesson.  

The sequence near the beginning of the episode where Kurt returns home and he and his Dad and step-Mum (Finn’s mother) start to go through Finn’s things, deciding what to keep and what to not keep, was superb.  Romy Rosemont gave a stunning, heartbreaking  performance, and the writing was spot-on as those of us who have been in similar situations will know all too well.   Amber Riley’s vocal performances reminded us of just what a fine singer she is.  Perhaps the big mistake was affording so much screen time to Puck – Mark Salling’s acting was never exactly stellar, but seems to have got worse since he has been away from the show, and his performance seemed to be the only weak link in the episode.   The show didn’t forget it was a comedy at heart either, and there were some unexpected but welcome comedic moments (most notably when Tina goes to grief counselling).   It’s hard to imagine how the episode could have been dealt with better, especially remembering this is, primarily, a show for teens.   It would have been all too easy to pull at the heartstrings every thirty seconds but, oddly, the whole episode seemed less manipulative than normal – and that was a welcome surprise.