The Middleman


Year 2008

Matt Keeslar as  The Middleman
Natalie Morales as Wendy Watson
Brit Morgan as Lacey Thornfield
Mary Pat Gleason   as Ida
Jake Smollett as Noser
Brendan Hines as Tyler Ford
 
Directors - Various
Screenwriters - Various
Comic Book Writer - Javier Grillo-Marxuach  

This commentary isn't about a movie but about the gem of a televsion series called The Middleman. It came and went so quickly that you may not have heard of it. Fortunately, there's DVD so you don't have to miss out on it completely. Yes, I like it and there's enough "stuff" going on that you can watch it again and again just to pick up on a joke or a sight gag that you might've missed before.

The Middleman (Keeslar) is a solitary individual who must thwart the forces of evil every episode. The forces of evil are usually aliens, demons, monsters, or bad guys but with a twist. Zombies? Try, "The Flying Fish Zombification" where Venezuelan flying fish become zombies. They fly like humming birds - hovering, zipping, and darting, while chanting, "Trout," instead of, "Brains." Now tie this into a new energy drink that will spread the zombie outbreak and you've got the essense of The Middleman.

Like all great satires and parodies, this is not out there waving a flag and shouting, "I'm funny!" It manages to be entertaining in its own right even with all of the allusions and send-ups of M.I.B., X-Files, and Kolchak situations. It also manages to make social statements along with providing punch lines.

It's fresh. Take the zombie fish episode. It combines the trendiness of energy drinks with the public's current infatuation with zombies. (When I was growing up it was Godzilla followed by vampires. In 2008, it was zombies. There's always a type of monster or undead type that's popular.)

The premise of the series is that The Middleman needs to train a replacement. He selects Wendy Watson (Morales) to that replacement. Every week she gains experience.

And I like that, too. She's as much of a wise acre at the end as she was at the beginning, but she grows a little bit each episode. It's not one of those series where every episode starts out forgetting about everything that had happened previously. The show builds and grows.

The main character is NOT The Middleman. He's too introverted and private. The main character is Wendy Watson. The story is about how she becomes a Middleman in Training and how she reacts to her assignments while trying to juggle a social life. Even her social life isn't typical. She shares an illegally sublet apartment with her roommate Lacey Thornfield (Morgan). You get to meet Lacey, a vegan and animal rights activist who develops a crush on The Middleman, or as she refers to him, "Sexy bossman," and "Pillow lips."

You get to meet Noser (Smollett), a guitar virtuoso and master of all songs but never plays a note. In one episode, a game of Stump the Band is played with Noser as the band. People shout of the names of songs and he takes his time before telling the audience, "I know that one." He doesn't play the song, he just tells people whether or not he knows the song.

There's Wendy's old boyfriend, who taped his break-up with Wendy, put it on the internet, and got a director's contract as a result. There's Wendy's new boyfriend who wrote a song about his then girlfriend Monica and quit the band before the song become a huge hit when he found out that Monica was involved with another band member.

The Middleman has his share of business acquaintances as well. My favorite is Roxy Wasserman (Elaine Hendrix) who runs a combination modeling studio and halfway house for succubi who are trying to kick the evil part of their seductive ways.

Then there's Ida. Ida (Gleason) is a robot who maintains control at Middleman headquarters. She's quick witted and has a running schtick with Wendy about marijuana. She accuses Wendy of always being high and comes up with new ways of referring to the condition with every utterance. Along the way, Wendy becomes more at ease in her surroundings and starts giving as good as she gets.

If you enjoyed the seemingly endless allusions in HotFuzz then you'll find The Middleman entertaining in that respect as well. Know who Harry Lime is? He's referred to. Recognize the Fat Boy logo from an old restaurant franchise? You'll smile. Every episode has dozens of these references. You may not get all of them, but you'll get enough. Does the mention of The Wilhelm Scream strike a note? You'll hear it.

And watch the time displays at the bottom of the screen. Mostly they're the correct time. But every so often they'll read, "Killing time" or "Greenwich Time" or something equally entertaining.

I've mentioned the running gag between Wendy and Ida. There are others. For example, there's the utterance of, "My plan is elegant in its simplicity." Every villain says this. Noser and The Middleman play their own version of Stump the Band whenever they meet. There seems to be a new room visited in every episode, but once it has been entered it's used in other episodes. There's continuity.

Boy bands who want to conquer the world? That's an episode. Lucha libre wrestlers with a score to settle? Yep. Vampire puppets? They've got that. A possessed sorority? Aren't they all?

What're the bad things? Well, the special effects are cheesy, but I think that's a combination of lack of funding and intention. The characters aren't always likable. Lacey can be particularly alienating. But, every character is true to themselves, so it's alright. None of the episodes are stale, but some have more verve than others.

The biggest problem is that there are only twelves episodes and the twelfth leaves too many things in the air. Will Lacey and The Middleman get together? Will the world end? Who was The Middleman's real love? The show was cancelled before any of this could be explained. So, if you just watch the show, you'll be left hanging.

So, don't hang. Try and get a copy of "The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse". Ew! Amazon is selling it for $101.96 new and $99.95 used. Really? It's not worth it. There's also a Table Read of episode thirteen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE4a1kjvd78 with the original cast. The sound is bad.

Some unnecessary blasphemy, no profanity or nudity. Because of Wendy Watson, a.k.a. Dub Dub and Dubbee, there's chick flick potential.


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