TV Review: Warehouse 13 Pilot

I must admit, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Warehouse 13 from the SyFy Channel. (Yes, the name change is now official. Let’s just get used to it, shall we?) Not because I think the show is going to break the mold, but because, well, it seems like ages since we’ve had a sci-fi show on TV, and Summer is looking bleak as all heck for the genre. So, thankfully Warehouse 13 has arrived last night with a 2-hour pilot episode, and I must admit – better than I expected, but also worst than I expected. What do I mean by that? I liked the characters and the set-up, but the Monster of the Week they chose for the pilot was, shall we say, stunk up the joint.

The show stars Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly as Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering, respectively. After the duo saves the life of the President during a museum visit, they are re-assigned to the titular Warehouse 13 by the mysterious Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder). There, they meet the massive warehouse’s curator/manager, Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), who is hesitant to bring on two new faces to the mysterious, paranormal and unexplainable science-infested warehouse, the previous two agents he worked with having met untimely demises while doing their jobs. Not that Myka wants to be there, though Pete seems keenly interested in all the cool stuff housed in the place.

As it turns out, Warehouse 13 doesn’t officially exist, and is exactly what you think Area 51 is, except, well, in South Dakota. It is a super secret place that has been in existence since the turn of the century, and houses all the inventions that mankind has ever produced that were too dangerous to release into the public, and a lot of other things it never made. Basically, this is where all the weird, unexplainable tech goes that the American Government either wishes to hide, or doesn’t know what to do with. Myka and Pete’s job, they are told, is to assist Artie in searching for and apprehending these mysterious items, referred to on the show as “artifacts”, and bring them back for safe keeping.

The first hour of Warehouse 13 is all character stuff, as Myka and Pete are introduced to the warehouse, with the go-with-the-flow Pete more than willing to accept his new job (he had just been suspended, anyway), while the tightly wound Myka attempts in vain to get her boss to overturn her transfer. In the pilot’s second half, the duo are sent on their first case to Iowa, where they must confront a possessed comb. I kid you not. One had hoped the pilot episode would have featured a bigger, more world-threatening task than a cursed comb, but that’s what we get here. To be honest with you, this is the pilot’s biggest failure. Couldn’t they have come up with a more fearsome or at least interesting Monster of the Week to introduce to the audience? This is what filler episodes are made of, not the pilot for a new ongoing series.

Generic running around small town looking for the monster second half aside, I found Warehouse 13 to be mostly entertaining, and really enjoyed the interaction between the high-strung Myka and loosey goosey Pete. Joanne Kelly (of the late FOX show Vanished) has just the right balance of model good looks and intense ambition that is required of the role, while Eddie McClintock (one of the boys on TBS’ My Boys) is obviously having a ball as the “if it feels good, do it” Pete Lattimer. Without a doubt, Kelly has to shoulder more than McClintock in their respective roles, and it’s a good thing Kelly cuts a mighty fine figure in her suit, because the character can be dangerously unlikeable at times. Thankfully, the combination of Joanne Kelly’s beauty and the character’s vulnerability were more than enough to keep me watching. I hate to be so superficial about it, but there are times in the second half where the show just meanders. Of course, the silly Monster of the Week storyline didn’t help.

Warehouse 13 features a couple of outstanding supporting players, including the pivotal Artie, played by veteran actor Saul Rubinek. CCH Pounder is the mysterious Mrs. Frederic, who may or may not be older than she looks. And how exactly does she get around with that huge Chinese guy? There is a lot of unexplained history between Frederic and Artie and their management of the warehouse that will provide good fodder for future episodes. Since this is Warehouse 13, was there a Warehouse 12? 11? 10? And what exactly happened to the two previous agents before Pete and Myka? Artie seemed mighty enigmatic about what happened to them. The show gets a lot of mileage out of how Artie moves about the seemingly endless warehouse, though to be honest, with all the insanely high-tech inventions in the place, one would think he could find better modes of transportation other than zip lines that he must fall from once he reaches his destination within the warehouse.

Although the show has been compared most often to FOX’s long-running The X-Files, in that both main characters are Government agents, with the male being ready to believe and the female being the skeptical one, I found Warehouse 13 to have more in common with the whimsy UPN show Special Unit 2. There are moments in Warehouse 13 that I thought would lend itself to a more paranormal, spook show, but it never quite gets there, and indeed, doesn’t seem especially interested in scaring you, which it could have done if it was so inclined. That warehouse is pretty spooky, and who knows what awaits visitors around each corner. In that respect, I think if the writers (including former Farscape head honcho Rockne S. O’Bannon) had wanted to go the horror route ala the WB’s Supernatural, it would have been easily accomplished.

Fortunately, the show does seem intent to keeping things light and fun, which is not necessarily a bad thing. As I said, Warehouse 13 is more Special Unit 2 than X-Files, but hopefully it’ll last a little longer than the UPN show. The first order of business will be to come up with better Monsters of the Week for Myka and Pete to chase down. An old chick with a comb ain’t gonna cut it. The show also needs better directors. The finale of the 2-hour pilot, which features Pete and Myka confronting the Monster on stage at some teenage play is so painfully choreographed that I cringed throughout the entire 10 minutes. Get better directors, more world-threatening Monsters of the Week, and we got ourselves a show. The cast is in place, and the warehouse is fully stocked for a long run. But please, please, no more Italian cougars.

Jace Alexander (director) / Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jane Espenson, D. Brent Mote (screenplay)
CAST: Eddie McClintock … Pete Lattimer
Joanne Kelly … Myka Bering
Saul Rubinek … Artie Nielsen
Genelle Williams … Leena
Allison Scagliotti … Claudia Donovan
CCH Pounder … Mrs. Frederic
Simon Reynolds … Daniel Dickenson
Tyler Hynes … Joshua Donovan

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