Monday, January 05, 2015

The Important Thing About 'The Librarians'

If you're going to watch TNT's new series 'The Librarians'--and let me make it clear at this point that I am doing exactly that, every week, and that I consider it to be "appointment television" in a way that about three other shows on the air right now are and I'll freely admit that I let two of the others pile up for weeks on the DVR in much the same way that this sentence clause is piling up in this paragraph--then there's something you should understand first. Because if you don't, you're going to hate it.

Namely, the show is crushingly unsubtle. Deliberately, hilariously, thuddingly unsubtle. Not a thing about this show is subtle. I feel reasonably safe in saying that it's by design and not by accident, but this is a show that works in big, bright, obvious strokes like a live-action cartoon. It's ludicrously straightforward about everything it does, and if you don't see that as part of its charm, seriously. Stop watching. Now. Because I don't see it changing.

How unsubtle is it? The Christmas episode is all about Matt Frewer's recurring villain Dulaque (whose true identity has been given a few crushingly unsubtle hints here and there) and his plans to kill Santa Claus. This is the level of subtext we're operating on, people. They're establishing who the villain of the season is by giving him a story where he attempts to kidnap and murder Kris Kringle. (Jolly old Saint Nick, by the way, was played by Bruce Campbell. I never knew how much my life had been missing a scene between Matt Frewer as a Bondian supervillain threatening the life of Bruce Campbell's Santa Claus until I got it.)

Does this make the series bad? Hell. No. As I say, it's being done for a deliberate purpose--they have a lot of silly action-adventure ground they want to cover in any given episode, and dancing around with the setup takes up valuable time that they can use doing the fun stuff later. Why bother with subtle, understated character arcs when you can get that stuff out of the way in one early scene where everyone talks about their ideal Christmas? It's not like dwelling on it is going to make it any better, and this way you get to the stuff everyone wants sooner (like Bruce Campbell delivering the immortal line, "Someone jacked Santa's ride!")

This week's episode is another perfect example. It's about fairy tales coming to life and turning a small town into a rolling disaster-broth of big bad wolves, trolls, and wicked stepmothers who accidentally fall into their own ovens. Does this need subtlety? Like a fish needs a bicycle.

Ultimately, I think that Ezekiel Jones sums up the series perfectly. There has been a scene in just about every episode where someone tells him that he needs to change, he can't just be a happy-go-lucky dimwit who coasts on his luck and thieving skills to replace intelligence, empathy and strength of character. And every episode, it turns out that nope, he's just going to keep being a live-action cartoon and it'll all work out awesome for him because he's just that awesome. That's the series in a nutshell--be awesome enough and you can just glide right past all your flaws. Hey, it's worked so far.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agree whole heartedly with you..You summed up the show beautifully! better than i could! I love the wacky good ole' fashion fun and that is a show the whole family can watch! Christian Kane brings his own magic to THE LIBRARIANS! so i am so looking forward to more and hoping for lots of seasons for this show!

Anonymous said...

The Librarians is one of the bet things to come out of TV since Leverage! Christian Kane and the cast bring us a show worth watching every week.

Anonymous said...

Must see, and repeat, TV!!

magidin said...

I'm a little sorry to see Kane again cast as the "heavy", even though he now can temper it with smarts behind it. I'm enjoying the series, much like I enjoyed the original movies (and perhaps a bit more, since Noah Wyle was getting tiresome, though I miss Jane Curtin and Bob Newheart).

John Seavey said...

It's funny, but I don't think they did cast him as the heavy. I think he just plays the role that way. :)

blackcoat said...

@magidin Interestingly, I keep commenting that what I *really* like is that they didn't cast him as the heavy. Note that every time there's been a physical confrontation he's pretty much gotten his ass kicked (even if he wins), whereas Eve just wades through multiple dudes without breaking a sweat

Heidi Dobson said...

I love the series, every week the show gets better and more fun.

magidin said...

Perhaps "heavy" is not the right adjective... but his demeanor most of the time is far too reminiscent of his "Leverage". Maybe they'll slowly move him a bit away from it.

DeeB said...

I posted a spoiler-free review of the "Fables of Doom" episode here:
http://allthroughthenights.blogspot.com/2015/01/review-librarians-episode-6-and-fables.html