Although TNT has discussed exploring edgier fare, its decision to elevate “The Librarian” movies, which starred Noah Wyle, into a series in which he’ll occasionally appear represents a throwback to the network’s broad popcorn-oriented approach. Indeed, the two-hour launch – assembling a trio of “librarians” (hence the plural title) tasked with thwarting magical threats, with Rebecca Romijn as their guardian – could have been spawned in the ’80s or ’90s, back when “Indiana Jones” knockoffs were all the rage. That’s not to say “Librarians” isn’t sporadically fun, but there’s just not a particularly strong incentive to check it out.
For those who missed the movies, Wyle (who doubles as an exec producer, and also stars in TNT’s “Falling Skies”) plays Flynn Carsen, drafted – initially to his understandable shock – to safeguard mystical treasures, a sacred trust operating in secret beneath the Metropolitan Public Library, thus explaining his rather mundane superhero moniker.
The premiere brings Flynn back, but also quickly introduces Romijn’s Col. Eve Baird, a NATO counterterrorism officer who meets him in a frenetic opening sequence, which illustrates his mastery of mumbo-jumbo and her skills at kicking butt.
Soon, she’s whisked off to the library, encountering his starched overseer (Jane Curtin) and deceased mentor (Bob Newhart), who hangs around in spectral form, a sort-of magic mirror with a droll delivery.
Faster than you can say “Sleepy Hollow,” Flynn is on the hunt for fantastic objects (the hours are subtitled “The Crown of King Arthur” and “The Sword in the Stone”), in competition with something called the Serpent Brotherhood. When Flynn says, “We don’t have a lot of time,” he’s not kidding.
That’s because Flynn must also cultivate three candidates to assume the mantel from him: A brawling cowboy type with a genius IQ (Christian Kane), a high-tech thief (John Kim), and a woman with a photographic memory (Lindy Booth) who processes and spits out data even faster than Flynn can.
Developed by John Rogers and directed by Dean Devlin, they’re a fairly pedestrian bunch, although perhaps overshadowed in part by Wyle’s presence. It doesn’t give much away to say that while he’ll be around, the baton is passed, raising questions about the franchise’s appeal without having him front and center.
Romijn will shoulder a good deal of the load – the guardian, we’re told, provides “the brawn to the librarian’s brain” – and John Larroquette is an always-welcome addition as the caretaker reluctantly charged with helping to guide them.
Some viewers will no doubt find the concept’s familiarity comforting, and the show moves fast enough – throwing out a lot of last-minute saves and campy villains, with Matt Frewer portraying the lead heavy – to keep the proceedings playful, even with the world hanging in the balance.
Even so, with all the quality dramas vying for DVR shelf space, “The Librarians” can clearly be catalogued as an elective. And while the movies were successful, it’s hard to say spinning off a series based on such lightweight material was in any way overdue.