The impact of “Warehouse 13” within the sci-fi community balances somewhere between “X-Files”, “Fringe” and old-school “Captain Scarlet”. The key to the maintainence of this series is the comedic balance of the leads with the more paranormal structure. Intensively based on a budget, the series knows its strengths.
The cliffhanger basis of last season brought into structure the importance of loyalty within the team. Like many series including the recent “Royal Pains”, the resolution happens within the first episode.
The beginning of the season starts with “Time Will Tell” which solves the conflict between McPherson and Artie (played with inventive sarcasm by the talented Saul Rubinek) but also brings into focus a new villain with decidedly more attractive qualities. The angle that always seems to jump start a series is using new locales which, with stops in Switzerland and London via stock shot inserts, allows 13 some more bad taste jokes courtesy of Eddie McClintock’s Pete which is totally accepted. Claudia’s adherence to the clan is questioned in continued fixation but it is the residual power of certain artifacts with Artie that begins motivating the series in more succinct ways which will become more important in subsequent episodes.
The second episode previewed “Mild Mannered” begins the aspect of using pop culture lore to lure more specific viewers. While many of the artifacts have historical significance, the vision of the fan crowd sometimes relays back into the comic book world. The ideas in “Warehouse 13” lend themselves undeniably to graphic novels which in turn gives the series a more visual base. Unlike the more mythology based plot points of “Time Will Tell” which incorporates a character that will likely be seen throughout the season, the stand-alone episodes like this one allow for more character development and light comedy especially with the two leads who are showing more vulnerable characteristics especially in Joanne Kelly’s character Myka which you can see when she is holding a teddy bear on her bed in the last shot of one of the episodes. She also gets to try on her first skintight costume which will no doubt heat up the boards. “Warehouse 13” also smartly spends its money on music for sequences such as this giving again the series a more pop functional reference than a normal outlay. While not as viscerally affecting as last season’s “White Rabbit” sequence in an Alice-centric episode, it shows the intention of the creators to maintain a status quo.
“Warehouse 13” in the first episodes of its new season doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but within the establishment of the characters, understands its own necessity and structure.
“Ben 10: Alien Swarm” plays succinctly towards the Cartoon Network’s afternoon/late teen audience. The program itself is not too intrinsic but also is not too safe. It understands the balance that needs to be played while still motivating a responsible audience. This is not Adult Swim, nor should it be. “Ben 10” and its presence are a very real indicator of what the programming separation should be on a channel like this. Cartoon Network is not the Disney Channel but in creating afternoon and evening entertainment for its younger viewers it needs to have some kick. That said, a good example of this is the kind of element ABC Family is doing with its programming like “Samurai Girl” and “The Middleman”.
What “Ben 10” lacks at times is good humor which is utterly necessary in this type of tongue-in-cheek outing. Director Alex Winter, former Bill of “Bill & Ted”, knows the target for his audience but doesn’t push it as far as it possibly needs to go. The technical elements including the production value, effects and shots all work very well but despite the script’s limitations, there are some advantanges that could have been taken and were not. The relationship between Ben and his “Q”, as it were, has many possibilities to it while still maintaining the dynamic. It however simply becomes a one note element. Secondly we have Barry Corbin who killled on “Northern Exposure” but is not allowed to spread his wings here. Granted this is a by-the-book for a price piece operating in a difficult genre world but the possibilities could have been pushed much further.
The story follows a betrayal which is highlighted in Ben’s former friend Elena who comes back to ask Ben 10 for help because her father is in trouble. Nobody including Uncle (Corbin) wants to believe her…but 10 does (since he has to have a folly as the hero). It turns out that there is something more diabolical at play. Considering how the film ends, it is pretty inventive considering the restriction of budget and, of course, the angle is open for another.
It is good that CN is pushing forward elements on a brand with a cohesive strategy and Winter is an apt director. However, some of the elements from his MTV/“Idiot Box” show or his “Freaks” feature, however subtle, would bring a great amount of character to the piece. Now granted these types of films are made by committee at times to hit a certain standard but within this auspice, leeway needs to be granted. Out of 5, I give it a 2.
The thing about “Cougar Town” that makes it fun is that it goes for it. After seeing producer Bill Lawrence pushing it tirelessly at TCA back in July gives it a vision of just bombastic raucousness. Granted you have to look at it from a tongue-in-cheek point of view but if you can get past that, you are in for gold. Courteney Cox doesn’t do anything half ass. Ever since “Dirt”, I give her props because she takes chances. Maybe it is because she has stability at home. Watching her out of the gate here, she has an energy that seems to be growing with age because she has no fear in front of the camera. You don’t tend to judge her on it because it works. As she grows older, her comedy has that great sexy cynicism mixed with what made her stand out on “Friends”.
The thing that the pilot does is paint everyone in her little playground as just a rider on the merry go round, wine and all. Her kid is great because he plays it just right so you know that he is not taking it too seriously. The ex is a complete dunce who knows what a cad he is. Her next door neighbor and best friend cheers her on while her younger assistant fans the flame in always an interesting albeit often wrong way. The reasons this is funny are all wrong and that is why it works for me. Cox’s star power might be just enough to push it through. While I was not a fan of “Scrubs” since it never caught me, that same humor here from the female point of view rocks out in a different way. Bill mentioned that half of the writers in the story room are women. If they can write these jokes and keep them coming with fire, this should be fun. It might be too much for the current audience but saucy it is without getting too dirty. But being messy is fun.