SyFy gave away some of their intent by showing National Treasure before the pilot of the new show. It feels like it wants to be quirky yet friendly with serious undertones like the popular Eureka, and with names like Jane Espenson attached to the show, it's an attainable goal. However, it must rise above some serious flaws to maintain any interest. The dialogue was just clunky, and I'm not sure if that was the result of poor writing or poor delivery. The mechanics of the artifact that the team is chasing in the pilot just don't make sense, or are not made very clear. And the plot also hinges in some part on apparently smart people doing really stupid things: the designers of the gargantuan Warehouse 13 have devised methods to quickly move people from the office to various points in the warehouse, but they didn't figure out a way for those same people to get back quickly? And the caretaker forgot his communication device when he suddenly figured out that the rest of his team might be in danger?
The premise of the show has a lot of possibilities—this is the storehouse where magical artifacts are stored; think of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the warehouse in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The idea of Houdini's wallet somehow facilitating contact with the dead is a fascinating one. But I'll be darned if I understand why the non-powered painting of Lucrezia Borgia sits in an extra secure area of "America's attic" instead of in a museum.
The acting is a mixed bag, but again that may be an effect of the writing. Saul Rubinek has been typecast into the role of the manic genius, and he plays that role with aplomb here. The male lead, Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer, is somewhat believable as the Secret Service agent who relies on instinct and is somewhat easy-going. Joanne Kelly's Myka Bering is his partner and so plays the stereotypical staid, no-frills career-oriented partner. But there is no real life to the character; her issues before being assigned to Warehouse 13 are clichéd and there is nothing in the pilot that makes her remotely likable. Even the final scenes and their promise of her loosening up a little are countered by ads for the next few episodes where she seems just as stick-in-the-muddy as in the pilot. Clearly, she needs to talk to Dana Scully about how to deal with strange governmental tasks as quickly as possible.
Warehouse 13 has a lot of potential, but nothing in the pilot indicated that it would live up to that potential, and really nothing in the pilot makes me want to come back and find out more about these characters. I will probably give the show another couple of episodes to sell itself, but if my only interest after the first episode is to ask "What's the deal with the magic football?" then the show has an uphill battle to win me over.