The new TNT series The Librarians (Sundays at 9 Eastern) is a continuation of the three Librarian movies (2004-2008) which starred Noah Wyle as the title character, a rather ordinary fellow who is chosen by the Library (yes, it has a consciousness) to be the new Librarian after the death of his predecessor.
As with the Librarian movies, the series posits a world in which magic is real. Flynn Caersen (Wyle) is recruited to serve as librarian of the “Metropolitan Public Library,” but finds out that neither library nor the job is what it seems: the library includes a super-secret repository of countless historical and magical items such as the Ark of the Covenant and Excalibur. The Librarian is responsible for protecting the collection, and in so doing he gets involved in fantastic supernatural adventures in exotic places, battling supervillains, vampires, and other assorted threats to humanity.
The films were entertaining and enjoyable, and they seemed to reflect a positive and life-affirming point of view on the part of the filmmakers. They were not strong on realism or psychological depth, as you might imagine, but within their genre of comical fantasy-adventures they worked quite well. The show conveyed a clear respect for knowledge, intelligence, scholarship, and the arts, which is also very much to the good.
Last night’s two-episode premiere of the Librarians series (TNT will air ten episodes this season) brings back Wyle and, briefly, two other central characters from the movie series (played by Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin). The pilot episode introduces the title characters: three people in their twenties or early thirties, from disparate walks of life, who are geniuses at one thing or another and who, in the course of events, become prospects to replace Wyle’s character.
Assisted by caretaker Jenkins (played well by John Laroquette) and security chief Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), the three librarians join Wyle’s character in a rather convoluted quest to stop a plan by the Serpent Brotherhood to use Excalibur to open up a portal that will release all the magic in the world. That would create worldwide havoc, although the narrative never quite explains why. We are merely given to understand that magic is too powerful to be dispersed among the general public, and should instead be confined to those in the know.
That may strike some viewers as a rather elitist attitude, but it seems unlikely that there will be much audience sympathy for the Serpent Brotherhood, given their creepy name and penchant for killing people in large numbers. In addition, the leader of the Serpent Brotherhood, Dulaque (Matt Frewer), is clearly up to no good. The first two episodes provide no hint, much less an explanation, of why the villain’s name alludes to Lancelot du Lac, one of the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. Perhaps later.
Judging by the first two episodes and the promotional pieces for the series, it appears that The Librarians will have an atmosphere reminiscent also of the hit British TV series Dr. Who, but with the romantic and mysterious elements stemming from the world of magic, whereas Dr. Who tends to rely on bizarre speculations about science. The Librarians also incorporates elements of the Harry Potter books (training of young people in the supernatural realm) and producer/creator Dean Devlin’s previous TNT series Leverage, which followed the adventures of a team of confidence tricksters who use their ingenuity to help people in trouble (and occasionally enrich themselves with others’ ill-gotten gains).
The three prospective librarians are interesting. One is a good-hearted martial artist and oil rigger with a 190 I.Q. (Christian Kane), one a troubled genius whose prodigious memory involves involuntary synaesthesia (Lindy Booth), and the other is a jaunty thief and technological wiz (John Kim). It’s a reasonably interesting mix of characters, replaying the formula Devlin used to good success in Leverage.
The Librarians did well in the ratings last night, scoring the largest audience for any cable series this year: 1.6 million adults 18-49 and 2.1 million adults 25-54.
Like so much of TNT”s original dramatic programming, The Librarians is a genre series with a little extra ingenuity and eccentricity. It’s not deep or ambitious, but it doesn’t assault the viewer with excessive sex and gore or blatant stupidity. That’s rare enough these days.