Aug 27 2009

I am dropping SyFy's Warehouse 13 off my DVR

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SyFy Channel's Warehouse 13 started out with a good premise, and some interesting characters but now that the shine has worn off it, I'm bored with it now. No offense to Jane Espenson who is listed as one of the series creators, but I think that the writers that you left in charge have gotten bored with it too. The most recent episode had too many clichéd tropes and the characters are actually acting less and less like trained Secret Service Agents and more and more like bumbling comic relief.

There are still things I like. The premise is a good one, it worked well for Friday the 13th the Series and it works here too. There is lots of fodder for historical and mythical artifacts to be recovered so there will be no shortage of ideas. I like the character concepts: Pete - the hard-to-take-serious goofball who has a useful ability and is a stone-cold agent when it counts. He's the guy you always want to have your back. Myka (although I HATE the name, it sucks) who is the emotional wreck of the duo although her by-the-book and logical approach to everything balances Pete well, and he can't help but want to take care of her. Artie - the curmudgeon with secrets, and his pseudo-mad-scientist's-daughter Claudia.

But the things I hate are mounting up. Characters like Mrs. Frederic (a tip to classic Sci-fi author Frederic Brown perhaps?) who struts around with her Odd-Job sidekick and makes vague threats against everyone without displaying a thread of authority. Claudia is rapidly becoming a sore point as nobody lets her do anything...everyone yells at her and she seems to serve no useful role except to produce the magic device that solves the problem every episode. It is Wesley all over again. - the character that is there that nobody seems to know how to write for. The character of Leena is such a cypher. Is she part of the team? Is she like the counselor in Star Trek whose job it is to be sensitive and touchy-feely to offset Artie? There's been at least one of the cases I felt like she should have gone into the field for.

And those cases! Ugh! They have started to fall into a pattern like this:
Pre-show) Spoiler-rific promo/ad break that blows the plot completely.
Teaser) What the hell kind of teaser was that? I don't know if I want to watch this episode now.
1st Act)Okay that's an interesting idea. That idea was used in [geek reference 1] but there's room for a new spin as long as they don't do [cliché 1] or [cliché 2]. Artie does something secretive and introduces a new device we've not seen before that has little or nothing to do with the plot.
2nd act) Opens with [Cliché 1]. Ugh. Pete does something unprofessional. Myka does something petty. Someone (probably Artie) yells at Claudia.
3rd Act) Artie withholds information that the agents in the field need to know. Myka starts to narrow the possible suspects down to a point where Pete can figure out the hook. Leena is sensitive. Somtimes but not always [Cliché 2] appears.
4th Act) The bad guy creates a situation that could have been avoided if either Artie had provided better background or Pete and/or Myka had been thinking tactically (as would be expected of a trained Secret Service Agent). The heroes triumph in the end often because of Claudia's mystery device which we will never see again.
Coda) Pete and Myka bond, Leena smiles, Claudia stands around looking awkward, Artie grumbles and we get a spoiler-rific teaser for next week.

At the end of it all I'm left feeling like a bulemic after a big meal. My mind wants to purge everything I've just seen but I feel guilty because I didn't want to watch it in the first place but I watched it anyway. Blecch.

The worst part is that it could be such a good show if they would just look at their scripts and do these three things:
1) Don't fall back on clichés. That is lazy storytelling. If you use a cliché like playing White Rabbit during a sequence featuring Alice (could you not think of anything more original?) then have it start when they run through a Las Vegas lounge with a Jefferson Airplane Tribute band playing...hang those lampshades baby!
2) Every character should have something useful to do. Don't make up reasons to use those characters (like Claudia) out of the blue, give them brains and real insights not pop psychology (like Leena).
3) Like the Warehouse, keep an inventory of your Macguffins. If you use a gimmick once, use it again so we realize you didn't just pull it out of your ass (even though we both know you did).

Things I would like to see (aside from the writing improving and some character growth):
1) The United States can't be the only place in the world with a warehouse like this. The UK must have one too. Let us see some British MI-13 agents who are tracking an artifact that has been smuggled here.
2) Fire Artie. Seriously, Mrs. Frederic needs to can his ass, and put Myka in charge of the warehouse itself. make Claudia Pete's partner and turn them loose for about 2 or 3 episodes. During that time Artie will be in Leena's B&B as a reference for Myka and brooding (and vulnerable to MacPherson) until he finally learns to trust people. THEN he can have his job back. That should have happened after the "Burnout" episode. Something really needs to shake up Artie's stranglehold on the secrets.
4) Claudia and Leena need to get out into the field (this ties into #3 above). Leena needs to go out with Myka to both help her reach into some emotional reserves and Claudia needs to pull some Cyberpunk whoop-ass out on these Artifact thieves.

I'll probably actually watch a few more episodes (because it is still better than most TV that is on right now) but unless something changes in the very near future they've had eight episodes to make an impression. They are past their "trial period" and they have not grabbed me. Better luck with the next show, guys.