Posts Tagged ‘ warehouse 13 ’

Warehouse 13 – Season 3

Back in 2009 I wrote this of the first season of Warehouse 13:

“There’s a lot wrong with this show. On paper it looks good, but the way the concept is put into practise is really very shabby in places. The whole thing has a kind of sheen of cheapness about it – plots are unpolished and full of holes, special effects are awful and some of the dialogue is truly dreadful. However the casting is superb and all of the actors are wringing every last drip of fun out of the scripts and making the show a lot better than it deserves. I really hope next season they manage to find some writers who can produce scripts worthy of their cast and really raise this show up a notch.”

Two years later and I have to report that they really haven’t taken it up a notch, it’s still just as shabby and cheap as the first season. But the astute amongst you will notice that despite that, I’m still watching the damn the show!

It really does take a special talent to make a show as bad as this. I can only really conclude that they are either so cheap, or so lazy that they just don’t bother reviewing their scripts to see if they hang together. Every episode I can spot at least a dozen ways that the stories could be made better even while simultaneously eating my dinner and doing a sudoku. That’s not me boasting at all, that’s just how utterly awful the scripts are.

The other reason that I multi-task so much is that the simple act of watching, rather than just listening, also has a notable impact on the enjoyability of the show. It still seems to be one of the cheapest shows on television, with huge quantities of it blue screened to avoid having to go on location and the CGI seemingly priced on a pixel by pixel basis. I think the big expense this year was a relatively well trained dog, although the ridiculous amount of product placement for Priuses (Prium? Priai?) may have covered that.

So why am I still here? Two reasons. Firstly, there is painfully little sf on television, and that is about the only thing my housemates and I watch together. We never really took to Eureka, Dr Who is over for another year and there’s only so many times you can rewatch Firefly.

Secondly – somewhere underneath the terrible scripts there’s a really talented and entertaining cast desperately trying to drag themselves out from under cliché and twaddle. They’re charming and funny and bring a genuine sense of wonder and excitement to the adventures they have. Most importantly none of them are perfect, they all have their little flaws and failings that prevent them from becoming the kind of super-agents that just get really irritating. This season had a really lovely collection of little character stories, Claudia making a friend, Pete finding out a family secret, Myka finding her confidence as an agent, Artie getting a dog – it was just nice.

Fortunately Warehouse 13 is on when there’s not much else to compete with, on a quiet network and doesn’t have a very long run each season – all meaning that it doesn’t need spectacular ratings and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Thanks to all that it let it sneak below my quality radar, but I do get frustrated with it because the stuff that it’s failing at is the easy stuff and it really wouldn’t take much to make this a really great little show.

Three golden rules for science fiction

What’s gone wrong with science fiction shows this year? It looked set to be a good year, with a spattering of returning shows and a good crop of new ones coming in. Sitting at the end of the year looking at the list though, there are very few successes, a lot of mediocrity and a couple of high profile failures.

The most embarrassing failure of all has been FlashForward. Promoted to death as the new Lost, launched with a pretty decent pilot it barely made it out of the gate before its ratings collapsed and the critics turned on it. For me there are three big problems with FlashForward, and they’re representative of what’s been wrong with some of the other sf shows this year.

1Smugness
Yes, yes Mr Showrunner* you’ve got Big Ideas – parallel universes, complex analogies, virtual reality, fate and whatnot. You’ve also got a big budget and a giant marketing team. But you have to actually deliver that. If you’re presenting yourself as smart, you need to BE smart.

I need to have confidence in the people that are making a show that they know what they’re doing, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. It doesn’t matter if every episode is action and excitement melded into a perfect 45 minutes, if the next week you contradict everything that happened I’m rapidly going to get annoyed. But at the same time it doesn’t matter if you have an amazing plan for a five year series if every episode is really dull, I’ll rapidly get bored. It’s a difficult middle ground to hit, but it is achievable – go back to and watch Babylon 5. That’s how you create a masterpiece.

2Charisma vacuums
My god there’ve been some boring characters this year! The lead character of FlashForward was just a kind of gaping, well paid hole where an engaging person should be. The cast of V looked so good on paper, but as it turned out by the end of the first episode the only ones I found interesting were the aliens (notably the Firefly duo of Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk). If on careful consideration I’ve evaluated your entire ensemble and have decided that in fact the best thing for you is to be eaten by the invading alien force, you’ve rather failed in your mission. I lasted half a dozen episodes and then gave up. Sure, the show is shiny and some interesting ideas, but if I don’t care about anyone, I’m not gonna bother.

3Lighten up!
The other big failure of the year for me was Caprica. I’m a big fan of Battlestar and thought this could be really interesting – same concept, different setting, characters and philosophy. Six or so episodes in and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Battlestar was never exactly laugh a minute, but at least they blew stuff up periodically and appreciated a nice fist fight or sarcastic aside. Caprica was the most depressing, soul destroyingly slow thing I’ve seen in a very long time. Battlestar seemed to be about hope in the face of overwhelming destruction, Caprica was about doom in the face of overwhelming shininess.

When it works… it works
Caprica and FlashForward both got good pilot reviews from me and then failed to deliver. On the flip side, Stargate Universe got a poor pilot review and then I cheerfully ate my words for the season review. The Stargate showrunners have been at this a while and I should have had more faith. They pulled it all together – it was smart AND fun, happy AND sad, sometimes characters moved forwards, sometimes they moved backwards, but they actually seemed like real people who it would be interesting to have coffee with. The confidence from the showrunners was quiet and reassuring – ‘we know what we’re doing, just trust us’.

I personally thought Defying Gravity had a lot of things going for it. I found it interesting and entertaining. This is one I think where the show was let down by everything around it – it wasn’t on the right network, it wasn’t marketed right and it was kind of doomed from the start. I think if it had been on the sci-fi channel we’d probably still be watching it, but Grey’s Anatomy in space was gonna be a tough sell.

Warehouse 13 is a truly awful show. The plots are all over the place and the production is often terrible with poor blue screening and budget effects. But it somehow manages to actually pass all three tests and ends up being one of the staple shows in our house just because it’s so entertaining! The characters are likeable, the dialogue snappy, the stories follow on from each other and no one is taking themselves seriously, it’s like some sort of ugly mongrel that you can’t help but love.

When it doesn’t, it’s kind of sad
Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse should have worked. It has great characters, an original plot, some fun episodes and a showrunner with a built in fanbase and a lot of success under his belt. But, much as it pains me to say it, I think it failed on the smugness test. It put a lot of emphasis on the long term plot and asked for a lot of trust, which only those of us with an unhealthy obsession with Joss had any faith he could deliver. To everyone else the cocky attitude of “you’re watching something special and you don’t know it yet” was too patronising.

Although I adore Supernatural, I find I have to also put this season into the “kind of sad” category, because it too failed a couple of the rules. It often drifted away from being fun to watch, the endless misery of the apocalypse does get you down after a while. The smugness also occasionally overwhelmed, it took the season a long time to get started, spending way too much time wallowing and mucking about before finally squashing a lot of plot into the final half dozen episodes. It’s a real shame, because I think the first four seasons managed a really good balance of the rules, I have high hopes for season six though.

And there’s no coming back once you’ve lost me
Of course the gaping hole in this review is the assessment of Lost. This year of television will probably be remembered as the year that Lost ended. But I can’t comment on it, because I stopped watching three years ago, when the smugness became too much for me. I don’t know whether it redeemed itself, maybe it really was as good as it purported to be. Maybe one day I’ll go back and watch it all again. Today is not that day though.

* I did a check, although sadly imdb doesn’t seem to list ‘showrunner’ as a job title, despite the fact that it’s referred to in the press a lot, so I looked at ‘creators’ and ‘executive producers’ (and no I don’t really know what they do). Of the shows I have name-checked (and Doctor Who and Fringe which were mentioned and then edited out) in this article there are a total of seventeen people listed as show creators, only one is a woman (Jane Espenson on Warehouse 13). Of the 43 executive producers listed, there are seven women (including Jane Espenson again for Caprica). These are not good percentages people.

Warehouse 13: Season 1

There’s a lot wrong with this show. On paper it looks good, but the way the concept is put into practise is really very shabby in places. The whole thing has a kind of sheen of cheapness about it – plots are unpolished and full of holes, special effects are awful and some of the dialogue is truly dreadful. However the casting is superb and all of the actors are wringing every last drip of fun out of the scripts and making the show a lot better than it deserves. I really hope next season they manage to find some writers who can produce scripts worthy of their cast and really raise this show up a notch.

2008-2009 Television

I decided this year that rather than do a summary of my tv watching at the start of the year, it made more sense to do it in the middle, once all the ‘current’ seasons of stuff have wrapped for the year. It means almost all the US shows (which make the bulk of my watching) have completed their seasons and can be reviewed as a whole. Also, I basically failed to get round to doing this in January and after a while this excuse seemed valid.

A quick add up shows that I’ve watched approximately 400 episodes of television this year. That’s about 300 hours and it’s not including the stuff I’ve watched that wasn’t new this year or random stuff like Top Gear and documentaries, probably about half as much again. Just imagine the useful things I could have got done in that time!

So, here’s the list of this year’s shows I’ve watched:

  • Battlestar Galactica – Season 4
  • Being Human – Season 1
  • Bones – season 5
  • Brothers and Sisters – season 3
  • Castle – season 1
  • Criminal Minds – season 4
  • CSI – Season 9 (about halfway)
  • CSI:NY – season 6
  • Dollhouse – Season 1
  • Friday Night Lights – season 3
  • Gossip Girl – Season 2
  • Grey’s Anatomy – season 5
  • Heroes – Season 3 (Up to episode 14)
  • House – season 5 (Up to episode 21)
  • Lie to Me – Season 1
  • Mad Men – Season 2
  • Merlin – Season 1
  • NCIS – season 6
  • Primeval- Season 3
  • Pushing Daisies – Season 2
  • Stargate Atlantis – Season 5
  • Supernatural – Season 4
  • The Mentalist – Season 1
  • Torchwood – Children of Earth/Season 3
  • Warehouse 13 – season 1 (Up to episode 10)

This year’s new additions
This year’s new shows were either instant hits for me or instant misses, I started with ten, dropped three within a few episodes but will watch season 2 of the remaining seven. The Mentalist, Castle and Lie to Me are all fairly standard procedural type things, extremely watchable thanks to very strong leads (all male, where are the female leads?). Each of the shows has the danger of becoming too formulaic if the writers aren’t careful, but the first seasons were all very fun to watch.

Warehouse 13 (which is a midseason show, so only about 8 episodes in), Being Human and Merlin are an interesting triangle. Warehouse 13 is a fun concept that disappointingly looks and feels very cheap – the CGI is bloody awful, the writing is clumsy and dumb and the only saving grace is some enthusiastic actors who are doing more with the scripts than they deserve. Being Human meanwhile is a great concept that is charming and fun pushes the limitations of its budget and scope as far as humanly (or otherwise) possible and was much better than I expected. Merlin meanwhile was pretty much exactly as I expected, cheesy and ridiculous but an entertaining way to spend an hour on a Saturday night.

The final new show I’ve stuck with is Dollhouse, which got off to an extremely bumpy start but eventually kicked into gear and got very interesting in the second half of the season, finishing with a superb ‘finale’ that was actually never aired in the US. The blatant network interference to give more action and sex made a real dent in the interesting concepts that Whedon was trying to investigate through his customary quirky, fun and occasionally traumatising style. I’d also like to praise the casting, with Whedon extending his growing family of actors with some wonderful and non-standard additions.

Shows I gave up on this year include The Unusuals – a ‘quirky’ procedural that wasn’t nearly quirky enough. I watched the pilot of Fringe but didn’t get on with it, I might give it another try at some point though. Knight Rider gave itself away as painfully awful when about 5 minutes into the pilot they came up with the dumbest excuse ever to get their characters to strip to their underwear, and just continued to get dumber.

Tune in tomorrow for cops and robbers and medical mysteries.