December 7, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Librarians”


THE LIBRARIANS:  Sunday 8PM on TNT – If Nothing Else Is On…

TNT’s THE LIBRARIANS is a reboot, of a sort.  It’s based on a trio of Indiana Jones-ian original movies the network aired starting in 2004 (when it was more currently a knock-off of the National Treasure franchise), toplining Noah Wyle as a swashbuckling, somewhat foppish archivist in charge of the artifacts at a magical, trans-dimensional library, with Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin as his support staff.  As a series, it’s an innocuous, silly, mildly camp fantasy procedural for 8-year-olds of all ages.

Wyle starred in tonight’s 2-hour series premiere as well (he’s an Executive Producer of the project), but he’ll only be recurring from here on, and it’s not clear whether Curtin and Newhart will do much beyond their brief appearances tonight either, as the initial episode served mostly to angle the premise to the introduction of new series regulars.  By the end of the 2 hours, the library itself had been cast off into interdimensional space to protect itself from the Brotherhood of the Serpent (headed by Matt Frewer in supervillian mode), and Wyle’s Flynn Carsen was off on a quest to find it again.  Meanwhile, Earth was to be protected on a day-to-day basis by the new corps, a bland crew consisting of a roughneck Texan expert in mechanics, history and literature (Christian Kane as Jacob), an Asian electronics genius and thief (John Kim as Ezekiel), and a mathematical wizard whose talent and photographic memory are linked to a brain tumor that may one day kill her (Lindy Booth as Cassandra).  Their “guardian,” i.e. bodyguard and den mother, is former anti-terrorism agent Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn).  With the library proper cast adrift, their base of operations is a card catalog room in Oregon magically linked to all the information in the library’s archives, whose operator is finicky, dour Jenkins (John Larroquette, collecting a paycheck).

A basic cable series budget can’t really handle much in the way of magic, and under the direction of Dean Devlin, some of the CG effects tonight were pretty woeful, especially a sequence of the library folding in on itself that was less reminiscent of Inception than of an amateur YouTube video.  Even the attempt to suggest that portions of the action were happening in London (the gobbledegook premise had something to do with Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone, which in this rendition was located below Buckingham Palace, returning evil magic to Earth) succeeded only in looking Canadian, and the supposed subterranean caves where the climactic action took place had the distinct look of walls that would have crumbled if any of the cast members had leaned against one of them.

Those shortcomings wouldn’t matter so much if there were engaging characters and dialogue, but at least in the premiere, series creator John Rogers’ script was mostly just functional, and worse when it attempted to be witty, as Wyle’s dialogue too often did.  Wyle’s charm went a long way toward selling the supposed appeal of the premise (the premiere even set up a romance between his character and Romijn’s), and perhaps now that he won’t be taking up center screen, the new leads will prove engaging on their own.  But perhaps not.  Romijn is also losing the character with whom she had the bulk of her playing time, so we’ll see next week what a Wyle-less Librarians is like.

For all the glory attached to being a Sunday cable series, very little of it is intended for viewing by little children.  (And on the broadcast networks, even Once Upon A Time and The Simpsons are aimed at a more adolescent crowd.)  So there could be a place for The Librarians.  But based on the premiere, that place will mostly be for parents seeking a video babysitter, not for viewers on the hunt for quality TV.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."