There’s an old adage that says the key element to a good Hollywood pitch is merging two successful, independent concepts to form a new product. This is definitely the case for Syfy’s new series, Warehouse 13, which on the surface feels like a marriage between The X-Files and Raiders of the Lost Ark. While at times it feels like watching Mulder and Scully walk onto the famous Area 51 warehouse set of Raiders and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the show’s structure and tone borrow more from a familiar set of modern television staples ranging from Bones to Reaper.
Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly star as Pete and Myka, respectively, a mismatched pair of secret service agents who are assigned to collect supernatural artifacts for storage in a massive, crate-lined government compound. Like most TV odd couples, the role of the soured, straight shooter falls squarely in the arms of Kelly, the female half of the team. Kelly imbues Myka with a tired sense of post-feminism: She’s not overtly concerned with her role as a woman in a male-dominated workplace, but she’s still overwhelmingly preoccupied with getting her career back on track. Pete, of course, takes the time to enjoy working with the mystical doodads he finds buried in the warehouse, treating his time there like an irresponsible toy store employee. A typical scene in the warehouse finds Pete playing around with a rugby ball that can fly around the planet while Myka frantically tries to get cellphone reception on a hill that turns out to be a 20-foot pile of dung.
The duo’s retrieval missions often devolve into familiar cop-drama formula. They don’t know quite what they’re looking for when sent on assignment, but when they find the artifact and the bad guy, you can be sure it’s always who you least expect, with the most unlikely motives. The show’s treatment of mystery is as much Law and Order as it is Scooby Doo.
Despite a tendency to dwell on the familiar, there’s a lot to like about Warehouse 13. The titular building itself is like a massive funhouse, brimming with ancient artifacts and a slew of neat steampunk-inspired inventions: Nikola Tesla’s electric pulse gun, a camera that freezes people in place, and a wish-granting kettle that produces ferrets when a person makes an impossible wish (according to the warehouse’s affably eccentric caretaker, Artie, the place was riddled with ferrets when he started working there. Artie (given wonderful quirk by Saul Rubinek) splits his time aiding Pete and Myka using his database of apparently limitless resources with traveling around the warehouse in a car built by Thomas Edison that runs on bio-energy. Both Artie and the warehouse add a slightly skewed element to the show that manages to bleed over into its otherwise uninspired drama.
Still, Warehouse 13 doesn’t quite seem to know where it wants to go. The inventiveness of the gadgetry and the wild sense of humor that sneaks into the show give it the potential to develop into an adventure that’s both funny and exciting. But like Training Flight 22, an airplane stored in the warehouse that constantly jerks in the direction of the Bermuda Triangle, Warehouse 13 feels held back from exploring any bold new territory.