By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Librarians makes for some great Christmas time and mid-season filler material when all the prime-time shows are taking a break. But, fans of The Librarian trilogy will be sad that Noah Wyle is not helming the TV series. Ten years ago, producer/director Dean Devlin created a light-hearted whimsical take of the pulp-action adventures of Indiana Jones. Instead of a globe-trotting professor of archaeology intent on preserving artifacts of the past, viewers are introduced to Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle), an irrepressibly and socially awkward hero who tends to bumble into situations where his vast knowledge saves the day more often than his charm. Carsen is the type of guy who would prefer a life in academia, earning himself multiple PhD’s so he can be a storehouse of information. But if it was not for one particular professor who simply kicks him out of graduate studies to get a life, he would most likely there until he becomes chairman.
When he gets a letter from the Metropolitan Public Library, he gets a chance at doing what he loves. But there is more than meets the eye to what the job of being a bookworm entails. What a true ‘Librarian’ represents is essentially that of a Knights Templar — to protect the weak and uphold an ideal.
In this TV series’ case, it’s also to retrieve historical objects containing supernatural power so they can locked away before evil forces can lay their hands on them. In the first film, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, Judson (Bob Newhart), the main library’s curator, mentioned Adolf Hitler once held a piece from the Spear of Destiny. If that was not bad enough, there’s a Serpent Brotherhood intent on gaining any artifact they can find in their quest for power. They make for the perfect series antagonist in a television series that continues the adventures. But when the focus is not on Flynn, the question of how long this series will last depends on how often he returns to look in on the four replacements in training so fans of the televised films can watch their favourite hero back in action again.
Instead, what viewers will see is a rag-tag team of wannabes being led by Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), a former military officer specializing in counter-terrorism. Ezekiel Jones (John Kim), Jake Stone (Christian Kane) and Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) have to get their act together if they are going to be able to deal with the Brotherhood. They each have their special skills which can come in as useful. Respectively, one is a master thief, the other an expert historian of the arts and the last a mathematical prodigy who sees equations through her six senses.
As the first two episodes of this series, “The Crown of King Arthur” and “The Sword in the Stone” shows, they are hardly a team. These episodes have also been edited together to comprise a film because of its Arthurian themes. Sadly, because of a short episode order, the question of how successful this series will perform will depend on how well it will reach its intended audience of adventure thrill-seeking 30-somethings. The quest for a new object every week is nothing new to viewers familiar with this formula that has been repeated in many a show like Warehouse 13 in recent years or Friday the 13th: The Series. The execution is campy, with a lot of story being compressed into a 45 minute program. The performances are above-average. Thankfully, the character development is quite good. The stand-out performances are with John Larroquette as Jenkins, a Bilbo Baggins-like caretaker who looks over this group much like Judson was with Flynn and Matt Frewer as Dulaque, the shadowy leader of the Serpent Brotherhood. This show has promise if they can get more screen time.
But as the third episode “And the Horns of a Dilemma” demonstrates, the focus will be on Baird working on building a team from individuals used to working alone. When Cillian betrayed the team in the second episode, this series shows it’s not above opening tension right away. She has to work hard in rebuilding everyone’s trust in her. To see how that develops makes this show worth checking out. Instead of a steadfast piece of pulp fiction, there’s some good character drama going on.
As this universe of the Librarians gets explored, hopefully the writers can delve into stranger mysteries that’s not often looked at. When a number of objects, namely Pandora’s Box, The Ark of the Covenant and Excalibur are contained, just what else they can find is limited. There’s still the Holy Grail, the head of Medusa or the scabbard to Excalibur (which can heal Flynn) to locate, but not every episode may have the team finding some artifact from the past. The Philosopher’s Stone is overused and the series writers are most likely not going there since the titles of the first season’s run are released.
The question of whether or not another Librarian movie will be made with Wyle starring is questionable. The series sets up the fact that he will be on a quest to restore the central library, and hopefully that will drive the momentum to get that made. However, the series looks like it will at least have a two season run. Hopefully the series creators have a plan in store so that The Librarians doors will not be permanently closed. After all, just where can fans eager for discovering factoids for Trivial Pursuit go?