Viewers Advisory: It's All Part of the Charm

Viewer's Advisory - two pairs of feet atop theater seats

Who We Are

We are a couple of librarians who take television as seriously as books. If there is a good show out there that can be watched for free, trust us to tell you ALL about it. Because readers advisory is our profession, but viewers advisory is our calling. We love good TV and we simply must share. In real life you might call us Appleberry and Lowell, but together, in the vast blogosphere we are called Viewers Advisory.

What We're About

Lowell:

Kimmy Schmidt making a crazy faceNew Sam Smith album coverBuster Bluth drunk on juice

Appleberry:

Tim Gunn chases Swatch around MoodDiane from Blackish putting shades on Columbo eating cookie

When we sat down to plan our second installment of this blog, we discovered that we have both resisted The Librarians as a matter of principle. The Librarians is the library cake of TV shows for us. (If you don’t know what a library cake is, look it up. But don’t send it to the actual librarian(s) you know, they’ve already seen it. Like a million times.) Librarians who love The Librarians is just too on-the-nose, right? Or is it?? We couldn't say one way or another without doing some research. We decided to check it out!

One Reason You Should Watch The Librarians

The Librarians

Lowell: One reason you should watch this show is for the know-it-all dialog. Anyone who might remotely consider themselves a witling will enjoy the banter in this wacky take on what a librarian of magical relics might be like.The librarians featured in this show represent more of the docent brand of librarianship — we'll just say they are all librarians of a highly specialized collection?? Things I don’t like about the show in general are the terrible special effects; everyone’s plucky resolve; and the assumption all librarians know everything. It bothers me that a librarian — as defined by this show — is someone who can find the answer by shutting their eyes real tight and thinking real hard. That's just called an expert fill-in-the-blank. Things that I do like about the show include terrible special effects, plucky resolve and, well okay, librarians who find the answer — especially when someone’s life is on the line. I get the attraction to this show. The nerds lead the way. There is much more brains than brawn on display, which can certainly be refreshing. I can appreciate a librarian who shushes her impatient colleagues with, "Back off! I'm doing math!" But is it too much to ask for a touch more brawn in the team's sole provider of muscle: Counterterrorism Agent Eve Baird? This group of brainiacs really does require a legit and well-armed Sydney Bristow. Also, is it too much to ask for more of the actual search process? I guess real-time, boolean searching doesn't make for good television.

Appleberry: Why should you watch The Librarians? Who knows! Are you a librarian? If not, then maybe you’re a fan of shows like Stargate SG-1, Eureka, or Sanctuary. No shade, I like those shows too. The effects are bottom-notch, the science is convoluted (at least I think it is because "Using the Northern Lights as a plasm conductor to tap into the Ley Lines" sounds like a load of bunkum to me), the dialog is eye-rollingly corny, but it turns out that it’s all part of the charm. I have to admit that I went into the show with a big old chip on my shoulder but - and no one could be more surprised about this than I am - it appears that I have come around. You really won’t get any insight into librarianship by watching The Librarians (except once Eve tells one of the librarians to Google some directions for her and that actually is exactly what we do) but it’s a fun show once you get sort of acclimated to its reality. I was legit L-ing OL towards the end of the first season. Well... chuckling at least.

The Wait-For-It Episode

L: Season 1 Episode 3, wherein Agent Eve charges a huge Minotaur, slides through his legs and shoots him in the nether regions. I must admit, I enjoyed this scene immensely and watched it about three times! Aside from this magnificent display of stunt work — it's not every day an actor will agree to work with a Minotaur — I like how this episode lays down some ground rules. For every good sci-fi, there must be clear rules. It doesn't matter a hill of beans what the rules are so long as they are consistently followed. In "And the Horns of a Dilemma" we learn there are three elements to a working spell: power, focus and effect. As the season continues, more groundwork is made to flesh out the rules of this outlandish universe in which the librarians are not employed. I can dig that.

A: I really thought Episode 4, "And Santa's Midnight Run", was going to be the one (cue Tyra Banks "we were all rooting for you" gif) because Bruce Campbell guest stars, but it’s also a Christmas episode so the cheese factor is completely through the roof. Episode 5, "And the Apple of Discord", is okay and by Episode 6, "And the Fables of Doom", (a good one all about fairy tales) the show seems to have found its footing. But my pick is Episode 7, "And the Rule of Three", which is set at a STEM fair (this is super exciting for librarians) and ties into the first season’s Arthurian storyline.

For Your Information

  • Librarians can be a versatile bunch, as not all of us travel linear path to becoming an actual librarian. Often we discover library work in a round-about way and might bring with us some expertise from another field. However, we all do have one thing in common: a master's degree in library and information science — typically accredited by the American Library Association.
  • This TV series is based on the successful film trilogy staring Noah Wyle. Since 2014, it has had a following strong enough for TNT to renew each season and even inspire Dynamic Entertainment to create a graphic novel adaptation (Librarians, #1).
  • Jenkins (our favorite character in this show) has deep connections with medieval figures Arthur, Merlin et al, and therefore links these two charming series together quite neatly! If you don't mind a spoiler, read on: Jenkins, caretaker of the Annex.

One Reason You Should Watch Merlin

Merlin

L: One reason you should watch Merlin is for the timelessness of Camelot and all that unfolds in this legendary kingdom. The subplots never get old, partly because they add so many angles to the central, enduring story. And for me, Merlin focuses on one of the more interesting storylines to take place in Camelot. Many of us first learned of Merlin through Disney's The Sword in the Stoneat least that was when I first learned of the lovable, old wizard. I am not as savvy as my partner on Medieval history and literature, but I have always been fond of the contrasting themes of honor and dishonor in the love story of Arthur, Gwenyvere and Lancelot. I remember first learning about the love triangle. I was rather shocked and thought to myself, this is real adult stuff! In my 20s I read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and rediscovered the story in a new light. I recently read that the really great myths are fluid; as they as they get retold they look a bit different. I believe Merlin does this by taking one subplot and using it as the lens. It provides a mystical balance to Arthur's puritan approach to solving all matters, yet it pegs Arthur's father Uther as the real anti-magic stickler. The character development is good in this series. As the series progresses we root for Arthur, even though he starts the series off being a grade-A jerk to young Merlin. We pull for Gwen even though we know she will make some epically-bad life choices. The characters will always make an Arthurian retelling great! So what if everyone in this show looks like they grabbed the closest dull blade and gave themselves a horrific haircut. And, so what if every combat scene staring our brave, young Arthur is flagrantly spliced with his middle-aged stunt double. It's all part of the fun!

A: "In a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name: Merlin." I’m in! I love Arthurian legend. The Sword in the Stone is my favorite Disney movie and there are so many great tellings/retellings of the story: Malory, Steinbeck, White (I cannot recommend The Once and Future King highly enough), Lawhead, Cornwell, Zimmer Bradley, and even Monty Python. I started watching Merlin in 2009 and my memory of it was that it started out really awful but ended up getting quite good. Having re-watched the first several episodes, I am happy to report it is nowhere near as bad as I’d remembered. The special effects are not great (aka part of the charm), the comic relief borders on wacky, and the plots are pretty formulaic (someone gets sick/almost dies, someone has a magical bone to pick, Uther is a stubborn jerk, Arthur is smug, Merlin hides his magic, Arthur thinks Merlin is an idiot) but it works and knowing it’s all part of a bigger story makes it all the more compelling.

The Wait-For-It Episode

A: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say Episode 1! In "The Dragon's Call", Uther has a man executed for the crime of practicing magic, which prompts his mother (clearly a young actress [Torchwood's Eve Myles to be exact] in some pretty bad old age make up) to seek revenge. Morgana warns him "The more brutal you are, the more enemies you’ll make." Uther aims to keep Camelot safe but his fear and zero tolerance approach puts the kingdom in greater danger. This will be a recurring theme throughout the series (as it has been throughout history).

L: Episode 5 of Season 1 is my wait-for-it episode, and it is titled "Lancelot". Aside from that being reason enough, I would add that Lancelot has a lovely head of hair — might be why the minute he steps foot in Camelot there's trouble. Hair makes people unpredictable. It's a fact. So, this episode starts off with a havoc-wreaking Griffin! It ends with the practical application of the joust! I did not know the joust was a real thing outside of tournaments that promise the winner a kiss from a fair maiden. My eyes are now open. For me, this episode marks the series hitting its stride. All the key players are now on the small screen. We know what is going to eventually happen, but the players are a bit out of position. It was interesting for me to see how Merlin's writers were going to get them positioned and moving forward in the direction we all love to dread. Morgana is a major piece to the puzzle, which makes me very happy! Of course, I would be remiss not to recommend all viewers read The Mists of Avalon to learn more about the powerful enchantress (aka Morgan le Fay) and how her character adds to the fluidity of this legend.

For Your Information

  • Merlin is influenced by Smallville, a show about the early years of Superman. The producers set the show before the golden age of Camelot, in a time when magic is outlawed and Merlin must hide his abilities.
  • The most recent Transformers movie, Transformers: The Last Knight, incorporates Arthurian legend into its storyline.
  • Uther Pendragon is played by Anthony Head who also played Giles, a librarian, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series.

on the next ... viewers advisory

...Lowell purchases five acres of land on Mars, but fails to actually read the fine print on her owner's deed. And Appleberry gives up parentheses cold turkey (piece of cake).

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