The Librarians Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: The Librarians
  • Season: Season 1
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: TNT
  • Cast: Noah Wyle, John Larroquette, Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth, John Harlan Kim, Matt Frewer
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

TNT’s The Librarians is the sequel series to three made-for-TV movies starring Noah Wyle. I have reviewed those films on this blog please see links below.

The first episode of The Librarians plays like another “The Librarian” TV Movie, as Noah Wyle returns as the Librarian, Flynn Carsen, working out of The Library hidden beneath New York’s Metropolitan Library, and home to a collection of hidden knowledge and magical artifacts. Flynn meets Eve Baird, his new Guardian. They discover someone is killing off potential Librarians, and gather together three people who were also meant to become Librarians: Jake Stone – a oil rigger with a 160 IQ with an encyclopedic knowledge of art history, architecture, and related areas; Cassandra Cillian – a woman who’s brain tumor makes her both a synesthetic (someone who sees numbers as colors; or associates complicated formulas with smells) and a genius at math; and Ezekiel Jones – a thief. Together, Flynn, Eve, and his new Librarians try to stop the Serpent Brotherhood, led by Dulaque (Matt Frewer) from using Excalibur and the Stone to release magic into the world. They fail. Eve is nearly killed, Cassandra betrays everyone then comes back to the fold when she realizes her mistake, magic is released, and Dulaque escapes. However, all is not lost, Flynn survives, Charlene and Judson release the Library into Space and Time to prevent Dulaque from taking it or destroying it, and Flynn realizes he’s going to need help from his new recruits. He turns them over to Jenkins at the Library Annex to solve mysteries and capture magical artifacts, and leaves to find the Library.

The new team, under Jenkins, works to find and return to the Annex dangerous magical artifacts, and to help people threatened by the newly released magic in the world. From a town threatened by fairy tales, to the Minotaur, to helping Santa bring good will back to the world, the Librarians travel far and wide, helping people and putting down magical threats. The episodes seem to be self-contained however, every story brings them an element that ends up being extremely important to the final episode of the season. In the final story, Flynn returns again, and they attempt to bring back The Library. Dulaque arrives, kills his assistant Lamia, and opens a door to the River of Time and the Loom of Fate. Dulaque cuts the Threads of the Loom. Eve and an alternate non-Librarian version of Flynn must find a way to stop Dulaque. The leap from reality to reality finding alternate Librarian versions of the Librarians: Cassandra – a powerful magic user from a world filled with dragons; Jones – a scientist in a world where most of the population has been turned into ghosts; and Stone – the Librarian. Eve and these alternate versions must find a way to repair the Loom, stop Dulaque, and prevent Eve’s death. Along the way, we discover Jenkins’ secret past, as well as Dulaque’s “real” identity.

The Librarians is a fun, light, enjoyable series. It has magic and adventure, and for the most part no one is really ever harmed. Noah Wylie appears periodically through the series, and the episodes are always better when he’s there. However, the Librarians and their Guardian form a D&D-type adventuring group: The Soldier (Eve Baird), the Thief (Ezekiel Jones), The Scientist/Mathematician (Cassandra Cillian – rather than a Magician); and the Historian/Art Expert (Jones Stone). It’s a slightly more modern version of D&D heroes. Recommended.

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Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future DVD Review

  • Title:  Max Headroom:  20 Minutes into the Future
  • Original Network:  ABC (US)
  • Original Airdate:  1987 – 1988
  • Cast:  Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays, Chris Young, Jeffrey Tambor, George Coe, W. Morgan Sheppard, Concetta Tomei
  • DVD Format:  3-4 episodes per disc, 5 discs total (final disc is special features only)
  • Number of Episodes:  14

Max Headroom is an  excellent SF program, that was way ahead of its time. This program originally aired when night time soaps like Dallas and Falcon Crest were popular, as were formula action series such as The A-Team, MacGyver, Miami Vice, and Magnum, PI. Max Headroom was completely different. Following the adventures of a crusading, caring tele-journalist and his “computerized” alter-ego in a dystopian future – each episode addressed futuristic issues that seem even more relevant now than then. The look of the show mixed the old and the new – antique typewriter keyboards hooked up to sophisticated computer screens. The effect of the mix was that nothing was shiny and new, everything was old, dirty, and re-used. In one episode, Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) tries to get some information from Sully in the “Fringes” (the bad section of the sprawling metropolis) who remarks, “Nobody makes nothin’ new anymore. We just recycle the old ones.” – He’s specifically talking about cars, but it seems to apply to everything.

Corporations rule this world, and television is everywhere – taking over every aspect of life. Not only is the Japanese Corporation, Zik-Zac the top advertiser and client of Network 23 (where Edison works) – but at one point they actually manipulate a crash in Network 23 stock – a comment on Sony’s acquisition of ABC at the time the series was made. In the world of Max Headroom, television is how people vote, educate their children, shop, attend church, are entertained, and how people are informed. Television is literally everywhere, even in fancy restraurants – and the sets cannot even be turned off. There is also no video tapes, no movie theaters, no books, and no other form of entertainment – just television.

The show commented on television network politics, instant ratings, violent extreme sports, genetic engineering, pervasive private security, televangelists, censorship, and consumerism. And always, always, always – the series mocked the very medium that created it, which is why it didn’t last. Max Headroom predicted many things we now find commonplace, more if you substitute the word “computer” for “television”. For example, Edison and Theora both carry “credit tubes” – these are used to make all payments, as ID to enter Network 23 or any place that requires it, even as the way to unlock their (respective) apartment doors. These days it’s becoming very common for people to not carry cash or checkbooks but to pay for everything with debit or even credit cards. Both Google and Apple have launched payment apps so that in the US, people can start to pay for things using their cell phones (something that’s been common in Europe for years). Personal security companies are creating “smart home apps” that allow you to do everything from program the optimal temperature to lock and unlock the front door. Is it hard to imagine a time when your smartphone is all you need to carry and it becomes the device for personal ID, unlocking doors, and making all payments?

In the episode, “Lessons” (or Project:  Fringes Literacy) it’s revealed that free public education no longer exists – and well-to-do parents pay for subscription paid educational TV. In the episode, Edison meets a Blank (non-registered) person whom the cops think is pirating educational TV tapes. In reality, she’s printing illegal books to teach children in the Fringes how to read. That is also the episode that takes place during the annual “Sky Clearance” festival – where old satellites are shot down to make room for new ones. Today, Earth’s orbit is getting so full of various pieces of space junk, the idea of cleaning it up by destroying bigger chunks isn’t that far-fetched.

Whereas, in the episode, “Dieties” (Vu Age Televangelists) it’s revealed traditional religions more-or-less no longer exist, and have been replaced by Televangelists hosting their own TV religious hours.  Even movie theaters are gone, as shown in the episode, “Dream Thieves”, when Edison does a brief nostalgia piece at a worn out, empty theater – the blanks and fringers he interviews, man-on-the-street style don’t even know what a movie or movie theater is.

Max Headroom was an intelligent, smart, show. The dialogue was frequently snappy and ironic. The characters were great, and had excellent relationships with each other. It was a show that called attention to being television – much of it took place in the newsroom control center, where Murray (Jeffrey Tambor) would decide what stories air and what don’t (though he could be over-ruled by the Network 23 board of directors, or even by the Censor computer.) The room was filled with multiple TV screens, smoke, and streaky blue lighting. Many episodes would start or end with Edison’s “What I Want to Know” program – but at times, rather than filling the screen and being the focus for the audience, it would play in the background, and other characters would talk over what Edison was saying – just as today, TVs play in the background all the time and no one pays attention to what is being aired.

The DVDs in this set look fantastic – the copy quality is very good, and the episodes have been cleaned-up and restored beautifully.

I highly recommend this show. If you haven’t seen it, rent or buy the series on DVD.  If you like Cyberpunk, or dystopian SF – this show is for you.