The new series from SyFy (I'm getting to the point where I can let the channel name go by without comment, but not quite yet), Warehouse 13, is one of the most fascinating cases of 'almost good' I've seen in a while. I've watched the first five episodes, now, and the promise and interest that the pilot had has slowly given way to deep cheesiness and a sinking sense of potential being squandered.
While the pilot managed to mix cool sci-fi bits with pathos and humor and keep them all balanced, it's pretty clear that the freaky object of the month - a common theme in syndicated sci-fi shows - is going to hamstring the operation. Five episodes in and they've got Fred Trump donning a feathered Lenape robe and walking through walls to steal sculptures that when collected, will show some kind of mystic map to a lost cave in NYC where the elements of ultimate power are to be found. And while the idea of it isn't so bad - really, that could make even a decent Ghostbusters film with the right script - the writers can't seem to work out how to fit the characters they've created in with the spooky objects. They'd be better off trusting the actors and scenario and playing down the freak out of the week.
Said scenario: a humungous warehouse way out in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, where the government has been storing dangerous supernatural artifacts since the late 1800's. A pair of rogue Secret Service agents are recruited to work for the nebbishy know-it-all who single-handedly heads up the operation. Sure, the premise is cobbled together from a million different obvious sources, but all genre films are when you break it down. The most obvious high-concept version would be, "Scully and Mulder set loose in the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse." And I can personally see lots of fun to be had from that.
Problem is, they almost immediately started fucking with the formula. Rather than leave the nebbishy guy alone and with a sketchy back story, the fill it in and then bring on board an unbelievably annoying college-age girl to fight with him/seek his approval (it's a long story). I thought she would be a one-off character, seeing as how they brought her in on episode four, well after the show's vibe had been established, but it looks as though she's going to be a regular. What?
Anyway, you can't watch the pilot anymore online, but six of the later episodes are online at both SyFy.com and (where else?) Hulu. Just in time to watch the series start to teeter and fall.
I'm still going to watch - interspersed with episodes of Spaced (which gets weaker in its second series, it turns out), but I'm starting to get that sinking feeling that the thing has hit an iceberg and is going down, right on the maiden voyage. This must feel like being a fan of Kolchack when it first aired. Why is it so hard to take great sci-fi premises and bring them intact to an ongoing series? And why doesn't someone make the obvious Back to the Future series, already?