For some reason science fiction shows have a short shelf life on television. The brutal schedule of television coupled with the need for massive ratings to fuel equally massive budgets for special effects can cause even the best sci-fi shows to jump out of the gate quickly, only to falter under the weight of their own mythology. "Warehouse 13" wrapped up Season 3 last fall and even managed to deliver a nice Christmas-themed episode in December, and the show has built an incredible head of steam heading into Season 4. So how does a sci-fi show manage to deliver great suspense without crippling itself?
Keep it short and sweet
Instead of trying to deliver 22 episodes, "Warehouse 13" stays true with 13 episodes (including the Christmas episodes). By keeping the story arcs short, the show is forced to move things along and not stick on any one plot point for too long. The speed at which the season has to move places importance on every episode, which makes for an entertaining and fast-paced show. Still, TV.com is reporting that Syfy has ordered 20 episodes of the show for Season 4.
The right network
If "Warehouse 13" was on one of the big four networks, the pressure to deliver high ratings time after time would be astronomical. However, as TV by the Numbers reports, the show performs pretty well for Syfy, but having the kind of programming around the show that Syfy has only serves to elevate the series.
The creators and performers
The writing on "Warehouse 13" is pretty much top-notch, which is important for any sci-fi show. Managing to keep the artifacts straight and combining them with a touch of actual history helps keep the show from shifting too far into the unknown. The actors deserve a ton of recognition as well, because they are the faces of the show that fans see every week. On-screen chemistry can be difficult to find, but the cast of the series seems to have no trouble delivering on that note.
The right concept
The concept that drives "Warehouse 13" is elegant, clean, and simple: agents track down artifacts with mystical properties and store them in a massive warehouse. Keeping it simple allows the show to explore new ground on a regular basis without having to worry about stepping on a rule set down in a previous episode. Sure, the show regularly keeps things moving on a bunch of different fronts, but having a weekly search with some development on a season-long arc every episode is special.