Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Idiot Box: Warehouse 13 Geekery, And A Top 5 List!

The Syfy Channel original series Warehouse 13 comes back from its mid-season four hiatus next week, and since it took that break just before I started this blog last year, I never had any reason to do the kind of weekly review series I now do for other shows like Who, Hannibal, and that I will be doing for the new series Defiance. Evidently the first new episode is available online, but I'm waiting for the official airing before I post a review. Now that its here again, I figured this was the perfect time to discuss my thoughts about the show as an introduction to more episodic reviews to come, and as a flimsy pretext for more blog content.

If you've never seen the show, Warehouse 13 follows a secret group of government-ish agents who investigate Artifacts, in most cases seemingly ordinary objects with famous provenance imbued with often dangerous magical powers as a result of their history. A typical episode will have the team come across something like Mata Hari's stockings, able to seduce men by touch, or Beatrix Potter's tea set that brews hallucinogenic tea, as they combat various forces who seek to use these items for nefarious purposes. Though the premise feels like a PBS children's adventure show from the 90's designed to teach kids about history, it actually comes together a lot better than it might sound on paper.

The thing I like most about the show is the way they've been able to develop a complicated mythology based on an idea that is in the abstract rather silly. Its a far enough jump to suggest that sufficiently famous historical figures somehow unknowingly facilitate the creation of magical objects revealed long after their deaths, but to go from that to the logical extension of secret societies, ancient Egyptian mysteries, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen style literary pastiche, and magical terrorism is more inspired than the show often gets credit for. Though the self contained arcs of each season have a tendency to end somewhat anti-climactically, the overarching story has always been and continues to be an interesting and entertaining one.

If I had to point to one major problem with the show for me personally, I'd say that I wish it would establish a more consistently serious tone. I'm sure many fans of the show would probably balk at that right off, considering that much of the appeal of the series is in its light hearted approach and jokey dialogue, but I just think it sometimes goes a little too far in that direction. When it wants to take things seriously it does, but individual episodes can often get bogged down by the sometimes too casual interplay between the characters, and a will-they-or-won't-they sexual tension between the two main leads that I always find insufferable in TV shows, no less the case with this otherwise very good one.

In any case, if you're a fan of sci fi-fantasy shows and looking for a low pressure romp through esoteric Americana, I'd definitely recommend giving Warehouse 13 a shot. As of this writing the first three seasons are on Netflix streaming, and its particularly easy to pick up and get into, without much need to invest so much energy as to make the experience a chore.

And on that note, to wrap this up I thought I'd present my own ideas for my Top Five Artifacts I'd Like To See On Warehouse 13!  -

1: Thomas Edison's Last Breath - Little known fact, inventor Thomas Edison's last breath was preserved in a bottle by his good friend industrialist Henry Ford upon his death. I'm thinking that when released, it travels from person to person like a demonic spirit, compelling each host to develop an obsessive Tommyknockers style inventiveness. I particularly like this one because it presents the problem of having to capture something without physical form, and how one might extricate it from someone without killing the person.

2: Timothy Dexter's Ledger - Timothy Dexter was a notable eccentric most well known for writing one of the weirdest autobiographies ever published, consisting of a long and rambling stream of consciousness narrative with no punctuation. The reason he was free to do this was because he was filthy rich, having amassed a fortune despite making all the wrong choices in business that through dumb luck always seemed to come back to his benefit. His business ledger would impart upon its owner this same luck, but only if the person holding it acts counter intuitively to his intended goal. If he does what he logically thinks would help him succeed, he will always fail, but if he does the opposite, he will always win out.

 3: St. Simeon Stylites' Cross - A particularly oddball Catholic saint who always shows up on lists of wacky comedy saints along with St. Guinefort, who as I've mentioned previously on this blog, was a dog. Simeon's order was known for climbing atop tall vertical pillars and living on them for years to get away from the world and its various distractions from prayer and monastic silence. His cross that I assume all monks wear around their necks based on every movie I've seen would be used as a murder weapon to compel others to share his need to climb to the highest possible point, regardless of whether it can support their weight.

4: Jeremy Bentham's Head - I'd want to include this If only for the story that this is actually a thing. Noted Utilitarian philosopher and personal favorite liberal thinker of mine Jeremy Bentham is, like Lenin, perfectly preserved as a modern day mummy on display, only with a wax head replacing his actual one, so as not to be quite as creepy as it could be (or possibly to be creepier, I'm not sure exactly). I don't even know what this would do as an Artifact, but I envision an episode centered around a heist inside the University College London where the body is stored publicly under glass, where the team squares off against a sophisticated crew of thieves out to steal the wax head as it begins to manifest some dangerous effect on those around it.

5: Le Petomane's Lucky Pants - And finally, the whole reason for this article quite frankly, a shameless excuse for me to talk about a guy who farted for a living. Le Petomane was a famous French performance artist with the unusual gift of having complete muscle control of his sphincter, allowing him to fart at will and with enough variation of sound that he could parlay his talents as a fart impressionist. Oh how our world is less amazing for having lost Le Petomane. How is it that a carpenter born two thousand years ago who just said some shit about turning cheeks is so venerated, but no religions sprang up after this guy died? My idea for the show - his pants absorbed years of directed sonic fart vibrations, granting anyone who wears them the ability to mimic any sound via their asshole. That I have not been made head writer of this show already is just mind boggling at this point.

Honorable Mention: Hitler's Brain - Had to bring it up. Not sure what they would do with it, but you know its out there somewhere...plotting something...

Anyway, that's it, hope you enjoyed yourselves, and stay tuned for my regular reviews of Warehouse 13 starting next week!

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