Saturday, July 26, 2008

Season 1 Episode 1
“The Pilot Episode Sanction”
Teleplay by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

“You know how in comic books, there’s all kinds of mad scientists and aliens and androids and monsters and all of them want to either destroy or take over the world?”
“In comic books, sure.”
“Well, it really does work like that.”

Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) is a comic-loving, Xbox-playing artist whose temp job inadvertently brings her into contact with the Middleman (The Last Days of Disco’s Matt Keeslar), whose job it is to deal with comic book evil.
You see, all those wonky four-colour baddies—the monsters and aliens and mad doctors and killer robots? Well, contrary to what straight society wishes us to believe, and lining up precisely with what we’ve always known, they actually exist.
And the Middleman’s our non-spandex wearing hero.
And Wendy? Well, she’s about to be the Middleman’s sidekick. (Though I imagine Wendy would much rather be called, I dunno, his assistant?)

That’s ABC Family’s new show, The Middleman, in a nutshell.
Based on a comic book written by former Lost writer, Javier Grillo-Marxuach (which, if memory serves, is pronounced “Ha-vee-air Gree-joe Marks-watch”), The Middleman is a fun and irreverent romp that finds all the neat hilarity in comic book tropes and pop culture fixtures without making fun of them.
This first episode alone (directed by Jeremiah Chechik, whose feature film work includes Benny & Joon and the Diabolique redux) takes on a convention beloved of DC Comics, and is a great introduction to the wacky world of the Middleman.

Aside from the fact that Grillo-Marxuach’s writing is silly-sharp-funny, Morales and Keeslar are well cast, fully getting the tone of the show, not always as simple a task as it may sound; sometimes, there’s only a narrow margin between loving, good-natured, humorous homage, and spoof/parody.
Not only are Morales and Keeslar amusing and engaging protagonists, they also prove to be adept at delivering sometimes incredulously goofy lines at a mile a minute.
And sure, the CGI is distinctly TV-grade, but the fakey look of the effects just adds to the B-movie charm of the show’s premise.

Admittedly, this doesn’t leave the gate with quite as much propulsion as, say, the Heroes Pilot, and the show does appear to have some minor kinks it’ll need to work out (hopefully sooner rather than later), but if you’re a comic book geek, The Middleman is definitely a show to be checked out; if you know how to have fun with your comics, I’d like to think you’ll have fun with this too.

Parting shot: 24 fans, take note: Mary Lynn Rajskub shows up in the Pilot as Dr. Gibbs of Simionics Animal Laboratories.

(Images courtesy of

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