Warehouse 13 (Pilot)

Review by Stephen Theaker

Warehouse 13 is reminiscent of the much-lamented Middleman (which apart from the odd clip on YouTube is only available to UK viewers on import DVD, but is well worth the effort), in that it's about two beautiful people who work for a secret organisation that stops the world's weirdness from getting out of control – but it's as if some maniac wondered what The Middleman would be like without wit, sass, excitement, plot or sexy uniforms. And now the experiment is complete – but did they have to make the results public?

Some very dull people go to work in a big boring warehouse. They have to find troublesome magical artefacts and put them in a pressure cooker full of goo to neutralise them. Then they file them away. In short, they take the unexplained and put it on a shelf.

I would love to watch someone like Russell Davies or Charlie Brooker sit through this painfully slow, leaden pilot: imagine their expressions of astonished disbelief as the guided tour of the warehouse drags into its millionth deadly minute! I’ve stepped on pacier slugs (inadvertently, of course)! It even seems to know how dull it is: the score, for example, noodles away apologetically in the background, careful not to draw attention to itself, unable to hit any peaks because there’s nothing exciting happening on screen. ‘I have to be here,’ it says with a nervous smile, embarrassed to be seen at such a lame party.

The none-more-generic lead characters are Pete Latimer (Eddie McClintock – the guy who wanted Bones to sail away with him), who gets ‘a vibe’ about things – wooh! – and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), a standard-issue FBI agent in a tight blouse. McClintock’s tone is all wrong – he smirks through the whole thing and looks thoroughly bored. The best I can find to say about Kelly is that she’s probably playing the role as written. The support is better: C.C.H. Pounder must feel she’s on holiday after those gruelling final seasons of The Shield, while Saul Rubinek, who I’ve often thought would be perfect as Ben Bova’s Sam Gunn, plays Artie, the guy who looks after the warehouse.

The screener only included the pilot (thank goodness – I couldn’t have taken any more!) – but who knows, maybe with better scripts and direction it could become watchable. Programmes often get retooled between pilot and series. Brief nods at Monk-ish cosy crime showed potential. But after a pilot so drab it made K9 & Co look like Band of Brothers, the best reason for giving this a second chance is that there’s little else on telly in the summer months.

Warehouse 13 will begin its UK run on Sci Fi on Tuesday, 8 September 2009, at 9.00pm. Thanks to Sci Fi for sending us the screener. I hope they don’t regret it too much…

This review is from the September 2009 issue of Prism.