Thanksgiving break

A Hymn of Thanksgiving sheet music cover - November 1899

“A Hymn of Thanksgiving” sheet music cover – November 1899

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming… for Thanksgiving break!

I will be back next week with a super-sized post about The Norman Conquests, a 1977 British TV mini-series adapted from the trilogy of plays written in 1973 by Alan Ayckbourn. Each play depicts the same six characters over the same weekend, but from different perspectives and in different parts of the house. Norman, played by Tom Conti, is the title character — and reel librarian!

Until then, I hope y’all are able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!


A liberated librarian versus the volcano

Last week, I delved into how Flynn Carsen from the first ‘The Librarian’ TV movie, The Librarian:  Quest for the Spear, fits the Liberated Librarian mold. This week, I take a look at another Liberated Librarian, the title character in the 1990 screwball comedy and cult classic, Joe Versus the Volcano.

The basic plot? Joe Banks, played by Tom Hanks, is stuck in a thankless job, and after learning he has only weeks to live, he embarks on an adventure to sacrifice himself in an island volcano. As you do.

The title cards start out fairy-tale style:  “Once upon a time there was a guy named Joe… who had a very lousy job…” And what is his job?! A librarian! (Sigh.)

Reel Librarians | Opening cards of 'Joe Versus the Volcano' (1990)

Hapless Joe steps into a puddle getting out of his car and on his way to a factory-like building, and he raises his arms to heaven as if to send up a plea to save him from his hell. And how does he describe how he feels working in his workplace?

~ “Losing my soul” ~ “I feel kind of tired” ~ “I’m not feeling very good” ~

His uncaring boss, Mr. Waturi, played by Dan Hedaya, is unimpressed and suggests he should be grateful. After all, he “put you [Joe] in charge of the entire advertising library.” (Joe has worked there the past four and a half years.)

Joe’s response:  “Ah, you mean this room.

As Joe — and the audience — look around, we are met with a depressing visage of a sterile room with blocky desks, screened windows, file cabinets, flickering fluorescent lighting, and half-empty steel bookshelves. Yep, that is the entire advertising library.

Reel Librarians | The advertising library in 'Joe Versus the Volcano' (1990)

Joe obviously feels no control over his job, and he is told he is “not competent” and “inflexible.”

Joe then goes to the doctor. As if he weren’t depressed enough, that’s when the doctor lays out the bad news — and the movie’s plot — by telling him that he has an incurable “brain cloud” and has only a few months to live. His advice? “You have some life left. Live it well.

When Joe goes back to the library, his boss tells him that he’ll “be easy to replace,” which makes Joe finally snap and stand up to his boss. “I’ve been too chicken-shit to live my life.

As he quits his job, he finally asks a female co-worker out (one of many roles played by Meg Ryan!), and she says, “Wow, what a change.

The liberation has begun!

A businessman, Samuel Graynamore, played by Lloyd Bridges, then offers Joe a chance for an adventure during his final days — to throw himself into a volcano as a human sacrifice. (Why? Because PLOT.) As he puts it — and true to the Liberated Librarian plot arc — “Try to see the hero in there.

Joe then has dinner with one of Graynamore’s daughters, Angelica (another one of Meg Ryan’s roles). Their conversation over dinner contains perhaps the most quietly damning insult to the librarian profession:

Angelica:  So what did you do before you signed on with Daddy?

Joe:  I was an advertising librarian for a medical supply company.

Angelica:  Oh. I have no response to that.

And Angelica isn’t the only one slinging out insults to Joe. He does it to himself! “I have no interest in myself. I start thinking about myself, I get bored out of my mind.

So off Joe goes to seek adventure, letting loose (performing a silly dance atop of a steamer trunk floating in the Pacific Ocean) and releasing his inner brave soul (“Take me to the volcano!“)

As he faces the volcano and almost-certain death, he proclaims that “I have wasted my entire life” and “My whole life, I’ve been a victim, I’ve been a dupe, a pawn.” But no longer! In the end, he faces his own fears, alongside Patricia (Meg Ryan again!), and becomes truly liberated.

Everyman Joe Banks, therefore, also fits the Liberated Librarian character type quite well:

  • Initially similar to the the Male Librarian as a Failure — but eventually breaks free
  • Needs outside force or action to instigate “liberation” (in this case, the medical diagnosis that he has only weeks to live)
  • Younger in age, late twenties (there’s time to redeem himself!)
  • Becomes more masculine and brave after “liberation”
  • His “liberation” is the main plot arc of the film

How Joe Banks differs from, say, Flynn Carsen from ‘The Librarian’ TV movies — who is liberated through actually becoming a librarian — is that Joe is first seen as a failure in part because of being trapped in a “lousy job,” in this case a advertising librarian for a medical supply company. Being a librarian equals being a failure in his life. It is only by quitting and embarking on this adventure does he become liberated. Therefore, Joe Versus the Volcano joins the Class I category, in which the protagonist or other major characters are librarians, and the librarian’s occupation serves as catalyst to the plot.

Have you seen the cult classic Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Quest for the ‘Liberated Librarian’

After my review of the second season premiere of ‘The Librarians’ TV series, I got to thinking that it was perfect timing to revisit the original TV movie, 2004’s The Librarian:  Quest for the Spear.

The Librarian collage

Click collage image for image sources

In several ways, Noah Wyle’s by-now-iconic reel librarian characterization of Flynn Carsen is the classic Liberated Librarian character type, which I will explore here in this post. As I summed up here in my “The Liberated Librarian (guys, it’s your turn)” post from 2012:

The male Liberated Librarians may begin as failures, but they grow in character throughout the film, just like their female counterparts; their latent skills and talents find a way to rise to the forefront — but only through the instigation of an outside force, action, or other person.

The male Liberated Librarian, as I mentioned, is usually young. Their physical appearance may or may not improve (compare this with their female [Liberated Librarian] counterparts, whose makeovers are practically a requirement!), but their wardrobes tend to get better. Personality-wise, they become more masculine and assertive. For major male librarian roles, the most common character type is the Liberated Librarian, with their liberation comprising the main plot.

There are many aspects from that general description of the Liberated Librarian that ring true for Flynn Carsen, aka “THE Librarian”:

  • Young in age (and a bit immature in temperament, as well)
  • Initially viewed as a “failure” in the eyes of his mother — and potential dates!
  • An outside force (in this case, the library itself!) is the catalyst for his liberation
  • He becomes more masculine and assertive throughout the TV movie
  • His “liberation” is the main plot arc of the movie

However, unlike other Liberated Librarians — who usually need to be “liberated” from their jobs as librarians — Flynn becomes “liberated” by becoming a librarian. Let’s see how!

Reel Librarians | The perpetual student

The TV movie starts off with Noah Wyle in an Egyptian tomb, kitted out in an ill-fitting trench, spouting off factoids about Egyptian pyramids and trigonometry. He’s generally being an annoying, socially awkward know-it-all, as illustrated in an outburst by a frustrated classmate:

Stop frickin’ posing and join the rest of the students!

The first 15 minutes of this TV movie not only set up the Liberated Librarian character type and plot arc but also contain some of the most memorable dialogue about lifelong learning and libraries. Here’s a closer look at the three main scenes that comprise the first quarter-hour:

Opening scene:

In this brief scene, Flynn’s professor tells him he has completed his work and won’t be continuing in the program.

Flynn:  But I’m your best student.

Professor: Voila, that’s the problem. You are my best student. You’re everyone’s best student. You’ve never been anything but the best student… How many degrees do you have in total, Flynn? I checked your transcript:  you have 22!

Flynn:  School is what I know, it’s what I’m good at. It’s where I feel most like myself.

Professor:  You’re a professional student, Flynn. You’re avoiding life. This is a serious problem that I will no longer enable… Have you ever been out of the city? When was the last time you went dancing or to a ball game? You need to find a job, Flynn, to get some real life experiences.

Flynn:  All I want to do is learn.

Professor:   We never stop learning, Flynn. Never. It’s only where we learn that changes. And it’s about you start doing it in the big, bad, real world. Sink or swim, Flynn. Look ahead, that way. Good luck. Off you go.

Home scene:

Flynn goes home to seek comfort — from his books, naturally.

These aren’t just books. These books are slices of the ultimate truth. The greatest thinkers of all time. And they speak to me. Like nothing else.

Reel Librarians | The librarian and his books

Flynn goes downstairs to find that his mom has set him with a “nice girl,” Deborah, wearing a cardigan and pearl earrings. Small talk quickly touches a nerve…

Deborah:  What do you do?

Flynn:  Actually, I’m a student.

Deborah:  You’ve been a college student your entire… ?

Flynn:  I like to learn. Is that a crime? I mean, so what, I’ve spent most, if not all, of my adult life in school. Maybe I have missed out on a few extracurricular activities. That doesn’t make me a freak, does it?

Deborah:  Of course not. I understand.

Flynn:  You do?

Deborah:  Sure. You like to learn. [Flynn:  Yes!] And you’re in your 30’s and you’re still in school. [Flynn:  Exactly!] And you live with your mother and you’re ok with that.

Flynn:  Yes! No. No. Wait. I have to change my life.

Deborah:  I would.

Reel Librarians | Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen in 'The Librarian: Quest for the Spear' (2004)

Deborah then wishes Flynn good luck as she rushes off. And just to make the point VERY CLEAR, his mother then turns to him to say:

The things that make life worth living… they can’t be thought here [pointing to his brain]. They must be felt here [pointing to his heart]. Maybe you don’t know so much.

Librarian interview scene:

Flynn then receives a mysterious invitation to interview at the Metropolitan Public Library.

Reel Librarians | Magical invitation to interview at the Metropolitan Public Library

As he walks to the library, he joins a very long line of candidates going up several flights of stairs. (This entire scene reminds one of the nanny interview scene in Mary Poppins!)

His interview is with Charlene, played by the stone-faced and implacable (and awesome) Jane Curtin, who is as imposing as the grand ballroom setting.

Charlene:  What makes you think you could be THE librarian?

Flynn:  Well, I’ve read a lot of books.

Charlene:  Don’t try to be funny. I don’t do funny… What makes you think you could be THE librarian?

Flynn:  I know the Dewey Decimal system, Library of Congress, research paper orthodoxy, web searching. I can set up an RSS feed.

Charlene:  Everybody knows that. They’re librarians. What makes you think you could be THE librarian?

Flynn:  I know… other stuff.

Charlene:  Stop wasting my time. Tell me something you know that nobody else who has walked in here can tell me.

Flynn then taps into his inner Sherlock Holmes, rattling off several facts about her, including the fact that she has three cats (a white Himalayan, a tortoiseshell, and an orange-striped tabby). Next, the disembodied voice of Judson (Bob Newhart) asks what is more important than knowledge — and Flynn totally steals his answer from his mom (“The things that make life worth living can’t be thought here. They must be felt here”).

Charlene then officially sets up the Liberated Librarian story arc of the movie:

There will be a 6-month trial period. If you don’t screw up, then you will officially be The Librarian.

Judson then makes a physical appearance and utters what is arguably the quintessential line of the entire “The Librarians” series:

You are about to begin a wondrous adventure from which you will never be the same. Welcome to the library.

Reel Librarians | Flynn's first look at the Metropolitan Public Library archives

The rest of the TV movie and plot focuses on Flynn’s adventures to return a stolen artifact. Oh, and saving the fate of the world. (Obviously.) He teams up with Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger), the librarian’s bodyguard.

One of my favorite aspects of the entire “Librarian” series is how it excels at clever, seemingly throwaway moments, like when Nicole and Flynn have to waltz through a booby trap — and Nicole ends up dipping Flynn at the end of the waltz. ;)

The Librarian:  Quest for the Spear boasts multiple male reel librarian characters (as played by Noah Wyle, Kyle McLachlan, and Bob Newhart), a rarity in film. It is the character of Flynn Carsen, however, who best exemplifies the Liberated Librarian character type.


Becoming The Librarian:

In the final action scene, Flynn has to match wits — and spears — with the last librarian, Edward Wilde (Kyle McLachlan). He also battles his former professor from the movie’s first scene, a very clever way of “closing the loop.”

Here’s a side-by-side, before-and-after visual comparison of Flynn in the opening and final action scenes of the movie.

Reel Librarians| Before-and-after collage of Flynn, the librarian

By the end of the TV movie — and after the librarian has saved the world, as you do — the final scene showcases just how far Flynn has come. (Even Excalibur, the “sword in the stone” thinks so.)

Reel Librarians | The librarian and Excalibur

Flynn is not only dressing better, it is also obvious that he has more confidence, both inside and out. He even stands up to his mother! ;)

Reel Librarian | Flynn Carsen and his mom

Margie Carsen [speaking to a group of ladies]:  Flynn is a librarian now. But he’s capable of so much more. Just needs the right woman to push him.

Flynn:  Mom, you don’t understand. Being a librarian is actually a pretty cool job.

As he speeds off on his next adventure, Flynn is now truly a Liberated Librarian; in other words, THE Librarian.

If you can’t get enough of Flynn Carsen and “The Librarian” TV movies and TV series spin-off, here are more of my posts for all-things-The-Librarian:

Next week, I’ll delve into yet another Liberated Librarian portrayal… stay tuned!

Second impressions? Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’

Y’all knew where I was this past Sunday night, right? Watching the Season 2 premiere of “The Librarians” OF COURSE. The premiere kicked off, like last year, with two back-to-back episodes:

  • Episode 1: “And the Drowned Book”
  • Episode 2:  “And the Broken Staff”


The first episode starts off with the news that the librarians-in-training have all been working on their own for the past few months, so they have to learn to work together again in this episode. The library is back, but Jenkins discovers that items are going missing and that the library is rearranging itself. Something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

There are new villains for Season 2, fictional villains from great works of literature — referred to as “Fictionals” — including Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories. As some of my favorite episodes from Season 1 focused on inventive twists on fairy tales and legends, I am looking forward to the librarians taking on the “Fictionals” throughout Season 2.

My husband, a college English instructor, personally liked how literary Season 2 is already. And I already have more appreciation for the Season 2 tagline, “This season they’ll need every trick in the book.” :D

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

The gang is back together! Librarians unite!

My favorite bits from Episode 1, “And the Drowned Book”:

  • 8 minutes in, Flynn and Eve are going to a museum exhibit on a new mission:
    • Flynn:  A new exhibit brings in the fundraisers and gives the big-wigs a chance to rub elbows with the rock star archivists and librarians.
    • Eve:  Every girl’s dream.
  • 30 minutes in, Flynn’s fan-boy glee when he thinks he’s met Sherlock Holmes:  I love you! I mean, I love your adventures… A team-up with Sherlock Holmes!
  • 45 minutes in, Prospero casts Shakespeare as the villain:  Shakespeare broke my staff; he drowned my book. Who is more real? Authors or their creations? Again, I appreciate how inventive the writing is.
  • Almost 50 minutes in, the librarians are trying to figure out how to stop the storm system of hurricanes Prospero has unleashed upon New York. Problem-solving at its finest:
    • Jake:  People don’t have great track records of stopping hurricanes.
    • Flynn:  Well, they haven’t had the resources of the library. [Snaps his fingers, turns to Jenkins] Zeus’s lightning bolt?

The second episode continued the Prospero storyline. The librarians are trying to prevent him from putting his broken staff back together while also trying to protect the heart of the library. The library’s security system actually traps the librarians inside the library, so they have to work together (sensing a theme here) and use the library’s internal resources in order to stop Prospero and protect the “tree of knowledge” at the heart of the library.

My favorite bits from Episode 2, “And the Broken Staff”:

  • Almost 10 minutes in, Ezekiel researches references to lost or broken staffs in the old-school library card catalog. Actually, this scene both amused AND infuriated me. (Especially because Ezekiel is tossing the cards onto the stairs as he goes through them. NOT COOL. You better be planning on re-filing those cards, dude.)
    • Ezekiel:  I’ve got references to a bunch of lost magic staffs in here…
    • Jake:  Just cross-reference staff with “broken”
    • Ezekiel:  How? It’s not like it’s a search engine.
    • Jake:  What do you mean, how? You don’t know how to use a card catalog?!
    • Ezekiel:  It’s the 21st century. I don’t know how to shoe a horse, either.

Jake’s look of outraged incredulity during this scene was PRICELESS. I feel you, Jake, I feel you.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

What do you mean, how? You don’t know how to use a card catalog?!


  • 20 minutes in, the librarians-in-training have to bribe a young girl who checked out the local library’s only copy of the unabridged, complete works of Shakespeare. I guess you can put a price on knowledge… ;)
  • Almost 40 minutes in, Flynn’s attempt at soothing Frankenstein’s monster:  Hug it out. For humanity. Yes. There’s no need for violence. This is how librarians solve problems. With our minds and our hearts. [Frankenstein’s monster throws hims off.] Worth a shot.
  • Eve’s eternal frustration with Flynn because he never has a plan; rather, he just goes off adventuring and reacting in the moment. And 46 minutes in, she totally calls him on it:  I want you to stop. And think! (I also love that the planner in the group is the non-librarian.)
  • 55 minutes in, Flynn’s description of the tree of knowledge:  Knowledge is young, always growing. No matter how much [knowledge] you think you have, there’s always room to grow.

My favorite aspects of the series are still in full force. It’s so earnest and fun, and you learn a little (or a lot) along the way. In fact, what I said last year still sums up what I find appealing about the entire series:

Reel Librarians | Quote from 'First Impressions' review of 'The Librarians' TV series premiere

I always finish watching an episode of “The Librarians” with a smile on my face. :D

‘The Librarians’ are back!

I was reading through this week’s issue of People magazine, and I literally squealed out loud and clapped when I saw this ad for ‘The Librarians’ TV show.

'The Librarians' magazine ad

That’s right, ‘The Librarians’ are back! The tagline for the second season is:

“This season they’ll need every trick in the book.”

This season will kick off on TNT this Sunday, Nov. 1, at 8/7c. You’ll know where I’ll be this Sunday night! You can find out more on the TNT website.

And if you’d like to catch up on the first season, check out my posts below from last year: