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‘Warehouse 13’ Provides ‘Eureka’-Style Fun, Adventure

Michael Hinman provides a spoiler-free preview of the new Syfy series

The first time I saw a preview of “Warehouse 13,” I think it was in the middle of the series finale of “Battlestar Galactica” on SciFi Channel.

It was just a week or two after NBC Universal dropped the bombshell that they were going to change the name of the SciFi Channel to a name created right in a sleepy little hamlet in Florida called Tampa on a night when I had far too much caffeine.

Anyway, the commercial did not impress me at all, and I started to group “Warehouse 13” in my mind with other SciFi Channel bombs (think “Flash Gordon”).

But then I actually sat down and watched the pilot episode, titled mysteriously enough, “Pilot,” and I think I fell in love with Tuesday night television all over again. All thanks to SciFi Chann …. er, Syfy.

This quirky little series has been compared to so many other shows. But for me, it’s like our own little piece of “Eureka.”

Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly play two Secret Service agents, Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering, who somehow save the life of the President, yet somehow find themselves reassigned to the middle of nowhere. It’s a place where the American government decided to build a huge repository of supernatural objects called Warehouse 13 (hence where the name of the series came from, for those who are a little slow to catch on).

Lattimer and Bering are tasked by some secret agency to collect these artifacts that could affect people and the world. They are really helped only by Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek) who isn’t the most forthcoming person in the world, and he probably has good reason to be.

“Warehouse 13” is part of Syfy’s continuing effort to provide more “grounded” genre series. Where science-fiction has traditionally been more about space and the future, more recent trends in sci-fi television has come from putting sci-fi elements in stories that take place on Earth in the present. We saw some of that with the Stargate universe, and watched it really explode with one of Syfy’s highest-rated shows “Eureka.”

This allows production to be cheaper, and allow more casual viewers to tune into a sci-fi show who may not have done otherwise. And while I personally prefer shows that are less-grounded, I have to admit that I like the idea of drawing in these casual viewers and hopefully turning them into full-fledged sci-fi fans.

And “Warehouse 13” works. It’s very procedural, and it’s a bit quirky — but the balance seems to be perfect. The pilot has Jane Espenson’s fingerprints all over it, writing it with D. Brent Mote, which allows the show to be evenly distributed, and not slow down. Espenson is known for some of her more somber takes in shows like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but somehow she’s always able to put a smile on audiences’ faces and maybe elicit even a chuckle. The humor works great.

I don’t think it will reach “Eureka” levels, but I think Syfy has found yet another hit on their hands with “Warehouse 13.” It’s the kind of programming that makes summertime fun, and will give us a reason to try out the new branding of the genre (for the most part) channel.

What Worked

Humor, humor, humor. After spending the last six years devoting so much time to the depressing (but fascinating) “Battlestar Galactica,” it’s great to see more humor come back into science-fiction.

While realism is wonderful for drama, it’s not always necessary. And since Syfy already is taking a reported turn to the darker side of drama with “Stargate: Universe,” having shows such as “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” diversify the network’s offerings will allow there to be something for just about everyone.

Also, while I loved the chemistry between McClintock and Kelly, they are no Mulder and Scully (but who is?) No matter what, however, the neat references to so-called inventions of past geniuses, including my personal favorite Nikola Tesla, really hit home for me, and made me loved the attention to deal.

What Didn’t Work

I know standalone episodes are better for audience growth, but I just get this feeling that “Warehouse 13” will be like other procedurals that I describe as the “Earthquake!” effect. OK, I just made up that term right now, but remember the ride at Universal’s theme park called “Earthquake!” where you get on the subway car, and a major tremor hits, the whole tunnel gets destroyed and some of Los Angeles’ streets make their way to you below the surface?

Of course, when it’s all done, the water dries up, the fires go out, and the big semi that almost hit you a moment ago, goes back to its starting position out of sight. It’s the old reset button, and I worry that if these episodes are too standalone, the safety of the stars will never really be threatened, and any attempt to put them in danger will come off as weak to today’s more sophisticated audiences.

I haven’t actually watched beyond the pilot just yet, so maybe we’ll be surprised. But I have a hard time that a program designed the way “Warehouse 13” is would do anything else.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

The “Warehouse 13” pilot was written by Jane Espenson and D. Brent Mote (although IMDb insists on continuing to give “Farscape’s” Rockne S. O’Bannon credit, although Syfy has told us a revised script that no longer carried O’Bannon’s credit was written by Espenson and Mote). It was directed by Jace Alexander.

It stars Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly and Saul Rubinek.

“Warehouse 13” executive producers are Jack Kenny and David Simkins.

“Warehouse 13” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy, the former SciFi Channel.

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