Shhhh! TNT’s ‘The Librarians’ Is On!

Press Kit Shot of cast of TNT's The Librarians
The Librarians (Photo: Turner)

Because three cable TV movies deserve at least one season of serialization. 

Show

The Librarians, Sundays at 8/7c on TNT.

Premise

Join the newly-enlarged staff of the Metropolitan Public Library as they crisscross the globe looking for magical artifacts of lore before they can fall into the wrong hands. Noah Wyle is The Librarian (there can only be one at a time) guiding Rebecca Romijn’s former counter-terror officer, Christian Kane’s art historian-cum-oil rig worker, John Kim’s tech-savvy catburgler, and Lindy Booth’s math genius/synesthete1 in their work. John Laroquette gets to be delightfully put-upon as the head of the annex in which the team is now based.

Lineage

Spun-off from the successful2 trilogy3 of The Librarian movies starring Wylie as the titular world-saver, The Librarians can’t be discussed without noting its general parallels to Syfy’s Warehouse 13 or TNT’s Leverage.4  It fits neatly into the team of skilled individuals on a treasure hunt for the betterment of the world genre which is definitely a genre and one I freakin’ love.5 Think Indiana Jones or the Ocean’s movies, or all of Dan Brown’s oeuvre.

Who is The Librarians For?

Presumably for fans of the movie trilogy, or any of the cast involved, or anyone who likes Warehouse 13 or Leverage but wanted more magic. Or me, as I was, as I noted to fellow WEIOer Ryan, watching this show with something rather akin to gusto.

What Works

Noah Wyle! John Laroquette! Plus most of the rest of the cast are also great at deadpanning the over-the-top dialogue of this sub-Harry Potter-level world. Like Warehouse 13 (and, I assume, the movie trilogy) the show looks to center around complex, historically-influenced6 treasure hunts. Like Leverage, the team’s diverse skills will need to come into play in order to beat the bad guys to the treasure. Like The DaVinci Code, pieces click and people hurry off to the next step with a verve and vigor and a general suspension of all disbelief. It’s quite fun, in a distinctly middle-brow way, so long as you (and the show) don’t pause to think much about what’s going on.

The ‘this season on’ clips playing over the closing credits also suggest that The Librarians will have a real and growing arc vis a vis good vs. evil, keeping it from becoming a rote procedural. I’d count this as a plus as too much of the same thing is what felled Leverage. On the other hand, Warehouse 13 continually shows the dangers in underselling or under-including a mytharc.

What Doesn’t Work

The pilot’s second hour became too pat and schmaltzy – a certain amount of this can be attributed to the necessities of the origin story, but more zippy dialogue throughout would have helped. A few lines landed with thuds in the last twenty minutes – the only ones to do so in the two hour premiere. This underscores my general concern: The Librarians needs to sustain a pretty fast pace to maintain its illusions, and that can be tough to do. Look at the film versions of The DaVinci Code versus Angels and Demons. Neither was brilliant, but the former dragged while the latter barely paused for breath before lighting Ewan MacGregor on fire.

Other concerns: I fear a cheapness setting in after the pilot’s budget goes away. This show doesn’t need big special effects to succeed, but it’ll stumble hard if the greenscreens become too obvious or the sets too small. If the show limits itself to ‘classic’ depictions of magic (mostly European, mostly Middle Ages) that could quickly become repetitive. And someone needs to pick a new font for the episode titles. I’m sure it’s the same as in the movies, but it reads 1990s Disney straight to video.

Does This Pass the Bechdel Test?7

Not in the pilot. Theoretically there’s plenty of room for that going forward with two uber-capable female main characters, but it could just as easily wind up being Booth’s character counseling Romijn’s (or vice versa) on how to get in touch with her feminine side for a date.

Like I said: this show hits all its marks within its world, and that world isn’t particularly concerned with much more than magic, good vs. evil, and library porn.

Verdict

Oh for pete’s sake I can’t recommend anyone watch this show, but I’m watching this show, and I suspect I’ll be writing up some sort of giddy ‘analysis’ of the artifact and quest and one-liner of the week each week for a bit. This thing looks like it’s going to entertain me the way NCIS:NOLA was supposed to. As long as it sustains pace. Which may only mean three episodes. But damn I hope it’s more.

  1. Filling a role taken on other shows by those on the Asperger’s spectrum.  
  2. By cable TV standards  
  3. Yes – three of ’em.  
  4. On which Kane starred for five seasons. So – more lineage!  
  5. I’ve watched every episode of both Warehouse 13 and Leverage and while I can’t recommend all of either you can’t dispute that such shows are fun.  
  6. Probably not historically accurate.  
  7. 1. Two named female characters 2. have a conversation 3. about something other than a man.  

A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

About Aaron Mucciolo 206 Articles
He does things. That's all we can say at this time. E-mail: mooch@whatelseison.tv
  • Okay, well, if YOU won’t recommend that other people watch this show, then I will. It’s cute, funny, fast, and enjoyable. I too worry about whether it can sustain the pace, mostly because Noah Wyle is only going to be “dropping in” from time to time, and he was the primary pace car driver in the first two episodes.

    Plus, we could all use a little more Dan Fielding in our lives.

    • Aaron Mucciolo

      You’re absolutely right on all counts. The cast looks like they understand how to say the lines; but Wylie’s really the only one who can make it work if the writers have fallen asleep on the job. Fingers crossed…