On Sunday, we got the two-hour premiere of TNT's The Librarians, which is the series based on the made-for-TV movies starring Noah Wyle as a librarian protecting the world from magic artifacts. And, yes, it is based on that. It's also very Warehouse 13-y, but with much more John Larroquette.
About fifteen minutes into watching this, I said out-loud "This is exactly the kind of ridiculousness I want on my Sunday nights." The Librarians was a pile of fun, delivered with very little care about the fact that nothing in the plot was particularly surprising. Tropes aren't bad, after all. Predictability is forgivable, when you're entertained enough.
That's not to say there weren't faults — there were. Mostly in the execution of one particular character. But the pilot had to cover a lot of ground, and it was more fun than perfunctory. And do not worry if you haven't seen the movies this is based on, it's in no way necessary to watching the show. Everything important is explained.
The basic plot is that the evil Serpent Brotherhood is killing off Librarian candidates (because they are stupid and want a lot of attention on themselves, I guess.) They also employ some of the lowest-rent magical assassins ever, who are not that good at their job. One just tries to use a dagger on a guy in the middle of a museum. And then a bunch of guys in black and ski masks, like they decided dress in the cheapest possible ninja outfits, go after another in a bar. Anyway, the Metropolitan Library has a Librarian whose job it is to go out and get magic items back and store them safely away from human usage. The Serpent Brotherhood wants to release magic back into the world because ... magic is awesome, I guess. Noah Wyle's Flynn — who is the capital-L-Librarian — does explain that this is bad because people would go to war over magic and kill each other with it, but that's a little thin. Which matches the equally thin motivations of the Serpent Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, Rebecca Romijn plays Eve Baird, who does counter-terrorism for NATO and gets an invitation to come to the Library and be the Guardian to Flynn's Librarian. Flynn doesn't need a Guardian or anyone else. He's been doing fine for ten years.
However, they do seek out the other potential Guardians — Cassandra, a genius with synesthesia and a one-day lethal brain tumor; Jake, a genius who writes art history papers under a pseudonym while he goes to work on a oil rig; and Ezekiel, who is a thief. And, congratulations, that's everything we need to know about them. Part of the problem with the episode is that the emotional arc isn't them becoming a team, it's Flynn learning to accept their help and realizing that they are Librarians-in-Training. Which is a problem for the pilot, since he then leaves all these new people as our protagonists, when we've spent the whole time following his journey.
The really poorly-written part is that Cassandra betrays them to the Brotherhood because they promise to use magic to heal her brain tumor. Of course, being evil (and I will grant that that Matt Frewer's speech about not wanting her killed on his new carpet is funny), the Brotherhood does no such thing and puts her into a dungeon. Where the rest of the team finds, releases, and forgives her in literally minutes. Flynn's all "She had reasons," but she also betrayed them, letting the Brotherhood into the Library and forcing Bob Newhart's ghost (he's a dead Librarian) and Jane Curtin to hide the whole thing where it can't be found. (Which is a blessing in disguise, since the establishing shots of the Library in New York make it officially the most crowded library ever.) Flynn spends the whole episode traumatized by that — and also his gaping magical wound which cannot be healed — but he's the one who forgives in a single line.
I was more upset by the death of Excalibur — which is the key the Brotherhood need to open the lock of magic that is the stone of "the sword in the stone" — then I was her betrayal. I was really saddened to see the sword, Flynn's friend and one of the last things from the Library he has left, go.
The pilot ends with Flynn telling everyone else we've just met to go out there and find magical items for storage — which is even more important, since the Brotherhood did manage to release more magic into the world — and him leaving to go find the library. (As Wyle is a recurring actor on the show, not the main character, which the whole episode leads you to believe.) He leaves them in the hands of Baird and John Larroquette's Jenkins, a non-capitalized-librarian who has an annex which can pull books, but nothing else, from the hidden main Library. He's a researcher, who is going to be the reluctant Rupert Giles of this group.
So, while the pilot was fun, the ending, where the super-entertaining Wyle leaves the show in the hands of the barely-sketched out newbies, feels a bit weird. The main difference between this and Warehouse 13 is that they are cut-off from the house of wonders and can't use them. Which gives them an underdog feel from the beginning. Of the three Librarians-in-Training, Christian Kane as Jake Stone is probably the best. He has the advantage of having worked with the creative team behind the show for five years on Leverage, of course, and his character feels written for him in a way that will the take the show time to achieve for the other parts. Especially Ezekiel, whose only trait thus far is "I'm a thief!" Although, Cassandra's synesthesia episodes/betrayal arc were not particularly deftly handled.
All of this is stuff that I expect to be easily worked out through time, and the show is just a fun romp outside the character issues. There part where the team is trying to get to a magical artifact before the Serpent Brotherhood, where Cassandra, Jake, and Flynn figure out the puzzle while Baird and Ezekiel distract the bad guys is proof the show can sing. Flynn tells Baird "Take Ezekiel" and she just hauls him off by his jacket. The other three are a great team at unlocking the puzzle, and the whole thing ends with Flynn making a torch out of their picnic lunch.
And Flynn's fight against the main muscle for the Serpent Society is interrupted by Baird and Ezekiel running past him going "We want to leave now!" "You want to be anywhere else!" just as the helicopter explodes. It's the best part of the episode, mixing some tension with a fair amount of humor.
If any of this sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend using The Librarians to fill the void left Sundays by everything else going on hiatus for the winter.