Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Warehouse 13: A Reaction

I've seen SyFy's Warehouse 13, and had some time to think about it.

At first I was hesitant, all the more so because of the initial description of the concept: Indiana Jones meets Moonlighting.

I was fine with the first half of that in theory, skeptical about the realization-but distinctly discouraged by the second, since while I remember that something called Moonlighting existed, I have only very fuzzy memories of it, and the distinct impression that it is a show in which the writing essentially consists of two idiots annoying each other.

Usually, I'm the one who ends up getting annoyed by character dynamics of that sort.

Fortunately, the core characters showed some signs that they won't be nearly so annoying as that, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it included Joanne Kelly, who I remembered from the Jeremiah (2002-2004), back when Showtime was into this sort of thing (an underappreciated show, season 2 of which is not even available on DVD). Parts of the pilot were frankly better-written than I expected. And at this point, anything that isn't a reality show (such as those which have been cluttering up the channel's prime time schedule as of late) is something of a relief. However, as many a hardcore fan of science fiction television suspected, it is very far from being the sort of show that breaks new ground. Instead think of it as a twist on Eureka, a very lightweight cop/investigative show with one big gimmick (tending toward the generic) as the central plot point in each episode. It's the kind of SFTV that people who don't much care for SFTV can enjoy, and for those who are more deeply into this stuff, and frankly more demanding, it is still watchable, though far from being a must-see.

Personally, I don't have a problem with SyFy airing "grounded" series as such, something it has long been doing, as with The Invisible Man (2000-2002) or The Chronicle (2001-2002). The difference is that back then such shows were clearly part of a richer variety of programming, existing alongside material for a more hardcore audience, like Farscape or Lexx. Of course, there will still be Stargate: Universe, and Caprica, and Sanctuary (which showed some promise by the end of season 1), but there is no denying that the prospect of pleasant surprises is weaker than it once was in a line-up clattered with the cheap, annoying reality TV (Scare Tactics, Ghost Hunters, etc.) that the channel's marketing people push shamelessly and relentlessly. They've gone so far as to include a "complimentary" episode of Ghost Hunters on the Caprica DVD, which strikes me as only too indicative of things to come.

New in Strange Horizons (Statistical Study of the Book Market, Dinocivilization)
From io9 (Books That Launched Their Own Genres, The Singularity Backlash, Stackpole on Breaking In)

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