The Sci Fi Channel marks its official name change to Syfy as it launches “Warehouse 13,” the latest in a long line of “Men in Black”-inspired series where things that go bump in the night are in fact real. Yet while the male-female team thrust into this weird world is promised “an invitation to endless wonderment,” the grand opening is more like a ticket to banality. Although the premise is rife with possibilities, based on the two-hour premiere, one suspects there’s better inventory hidden away in Warehouses 1 through 12.
The title, of course, is a cheeky joke in itself — “Warehouse 13” being the place to which federal agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) are whisked away — after an opening action sequence — in order to serve as “gatherers and protectors of secrets.” It’s a massive, Area 51-like facility in South Dakota where laws of physics don’t always apply, and caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) haphazardly dribbles out crumbs of information with a nonchalance that belies the fantastical nature of the warehouse’s contents.
If only the series (whose “created by” credit goes to Brent Mote and “Battlestar Galactica” alum Jane Espenson) conjured any magic that hasn’t already been liberally sprinkled elsewhere. Instead, the two hours play like a mish-mash of the “National Treasure” movies, the horror-based “Friday the 13th: The Series” and the under-appreciated “Special Unit 2,” which even contained its own numerical gag (as in “You mean there’s a ‘Special Unit 1?'”) in the moniker.
Tonally, there’s also a vague resemblance to Sci Fi’s miniseries “The Lost Room,” which might explain why the series was ordered. Too bad that the relationship between the central characters is so numbingly well trodden, with McClintock as the more intuitive agent and Kelly cast as his by-the-book partner. In addition to Rubinek, “The Shield’s” CCH Pounder turns up as their mysterious recruitment officer, but she has relatively little to do except glare as only she can.
Exec producers David Simkins and Jack Kenny might still make something of this hash, but the concept has the decided feel of an idea that’s been batted around and put through a homogenizing blender. (As a footnote, “Farscape’s” Rockne S. O’Bannon wrote an early draft, but isn’t affiliated with the show.)
The bottom line is that while the series represents an inoffensive stab at a sci-fi (or if we must, Syfy) procedural, those eager to find true “wonderment” will have go shopping somewhere other than the big-box store known as “Warehouse 13.”