Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warehouse 13 and my Lists

It's fall, and it even feels like it today. Yay! It's a good day for a good TV marathon, so I'm rewatching the beginning of Warehouse 13, leading up to the season finale tonight. That show managed to become one of my favorites, which is funny because I wasn't planning to watch it until my mom told me to catch the rerun of the premiere. But when I think about it and match it against all those lists I've made as part of the Ongoing Quest for World Domination, it comes out to being the TV version of the kind of book I like.

For one thing, it strikes the perfect light/dark balance. It has just enough whimsy without being cutesy, and it's funny without being fluffy, but it also gets serious and has consequences that matter, but without going overboard into dark and edgy. I'm a little tired of the general belief in all of entertainment these days, from TV to movies to books, that dark or edgy automatically=good.

I also like that the characters are basically nice people. They're people I would probably enjoy hanging out with in real life, which, again, is kind of rare these days when everyone has to be edgy, with the lines blurred between the good guys and the bad guys. I had an epiphany of sorts this summer when I realized that I was watching people on TV that I wouldn't want anything to do with in real life. Not that every character has to be a decent human being (we do need bad guys), but I need at least someone on the show I enjoy spending time with, and I prefer that the good guys be reasonably pleasant. When I was trying to come up with some pop culture associations as a way of describing this series, it was pretty easy to relate Myka to Hermione Granger -- the brainy, bookish girl who does the assigned reading, is detail-oriented, and likes to follow the rules (and has curly hair). I had trouble finding a character who reminds me of Pete because it seems like these days every science fiction/action hero has to be tortured, haunted or damaged by some terrible tragedy. Pete has a tragedy in his past, but if it did damage him, it seems like he's healed or is in the process of healing. He's pretty sane and emotionally healthy -- enough so that he can be the strong, solid one for others in emotional turmoil. I had to reach outside the genre to find a good comparison. Pete is a lot like Jim on The Office, if he joined the Secret Service and carried a gun -- he's the guy with a sense of humor and playfulness who is also the steady, supportive friend and often the voice of reason. It's a refreshing change from all those dark, moping heroes who wallow in their past tragedy and unhappy childhoods.

That brings me to another thing I like: The relationships among the characters. It seems like they keep setting up and then subverting expectations for this kind of show. The pilot made it look initially like it would be the standard goofball guy/uptight woman situation, with all the bickering that comes with that, probably leading to tons of sexual tension and the will they/won't they romantic build-up. And then before the end of the pilot they were already changing that. Pete and Myka do have their differences, and that leads to the occasional disagreement, but they work well as a team, for the most part. They like each other, trust each other and care about each other. It's the two of them against the world rather than against each other -- and without much hint of sexual tension so far. Ironically, the fact that they don't seem to be building this into a romantic situation makes this a rare TV relationship that in the real world you could imagine actually working and that might not kill the show if it did become romantic, mostly because it wouldn't have to change much. Most of those will they/won't they relationships are based on the conflict between the characters, so if they get together, the relationship has to change or else it looks horribly dysfunctional, and that then takes all the sizzle out of the relationship. Not that I'm advocating for a romance here. I'm just finding it interesting that when TV writers aren't deliberately setting up a grand romance, it so happens that they're actually setting up the kind of thing you could imagine actually working. Then there are Artie and Claudia, who complete the group and create that kind of found family thing I find so interesting. Artie's struggling with the role of "Dad" to Claudia, while Pete fell automatically into big brother mode, and Myka seems to be finding herself growing into the role of big sister. I like that they've allowed these relationships to grow gradually.

Meanwhile, I really like the production design of the Warehouse and the gizmos, that sort of quasi Steampunk with a bit of Art Deco. There's a lot of pseudo-scientific handwaving to explain the effects of the artifacts, but to me it feels like contemporary fantasy that isn't "urban" fantasy -- just the mix of reality and fantasy I like. Plus, cookies!

So, that boils down to a contemporary fantasy with a sense of whimsy but without being overly cute and without being too dark and edgy, with nice characters who have interesting interrelationships. That's exactly what I want in entertainment. Now I need more books that fit this model.

I'm a little sad that the season finale is tonight, but at least it's already been renewed.

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