FF MINI-REVIEWS #3: NEVERMORE, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, THE HOUSEMAID, FATSO, REDLINE
October 8, 2010
SET VISIT REPORT: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
October 8, 2010

DVD REVIEW: MIDDLEMAN, THE – THE COMPLETE SERIES

CANCELLED SHOW


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STUDIO: Shout! Factory
MSRP: $39.99
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 360 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Commentaries With the Cast and Crew
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Web Featurettes
• Gag Reel
• Audition Footage
• The Complete The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome Table Read
• A Gallery of Middleman Photography by Ralph King
The Pitch
When the Ghostbusters, MIB, and BPRD are too busy, who ya gonna call?… The Middleman! The Humans Actors: Matt Keeslar, Natalie Morales, Mary Pat Gleason, Brit Morgan, Jake Smollett
Showrunner: Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost)

Kong Corleone?
The Nutshell “You know how in comic books there’s all kinds of mad scientists and aliens and androids and monsters and all of them either want to destroy or take over the world?… Well, it really does work like that.” O2STK (“Organization Too Secret To Know”) delivers orders to the Middleman department located at the Jolly Fats Weehawken Temp Agency (set-dressed in NASA-punk gadgetry and WPA posters) via the soulless android from outer space masquerading as a cranky librarian, Ida, to the Eisenhower-jacket-clad and milk-drinking Middleman and his sidekick/trainee/replacement, Wendy Watson. MM represents clean-living and the “can do” attitude of the 40s and 50s while Wendy (AKA “Dub Dub” AKA “Dubby”) brings the starving artist and modern cynicism POV. Together, they solve “exotic problems” which almost always involve saving the world from some nefarious and comic booky threat: Mexican wrestlers, boyband-disguised alien dictators, gangster gorillas, vampiric ventriloquist puppets, etc. A TV spec pilot script was turned into a comic book and then back into a TV pilot and into a series that was ended prematurely (IMO) just as it was finding its groove. With fast–paced dialogue and fast-flying pop culture references, The Middleman is a whimsical pulp adventure serial set in the super-heightened modern day. Heavily influenced by 60s Spy-fi (The Avengers, Get Smart, Gerry Anderson’s oeuvre) and Golden/Silver age comics, the show is a sillier version of X-Files or Fringe with a much more throwback “BAM!POW!” raygun aesthetic, and clearly, entertainment “made by geeks for geeks”.

Sore beau?

The Lowdown “House of Pancakes!” It’s niche. Very. I believe The Middleman would have blossomed more on SyFy (although forgotten show, The Chronicle, begs to differ) alongside similar high-concept programming like Eureka, Warehouse 13, or Sanctuary. ABC family is just a strange home for a show like this. The breakneck run-on line delivery is often reminiscent of an anime dub in speed and a little hard to follow but repeat viewing is rewarded. It’s a mouthful for sure, but the show grew on me quickly over my condensed viewing period. Homages, references, and pop culture Easter eggs abound. Any show that makes mention of Usagi Yojimbo and Bruce Willis’ album, “The Return of Bruno”, casts Mark Dacascos as a luchador-mask donned martial arts master, or utilizes 60s-Batmanly music and fake identities like “Officer Russell and Officer Van Cleef” (reminiscent of Supernatural’s M.O. here), is destined to tickle one of my many fancies. But if you’re looking for deep Lost-y philosophy, super-serious tension, or Morales to wear that Emma Peal catsuit (as seen in the promo materials and title sequence) throughout most eps, you’ll be left wanting. The cast has a sweet and solid chemistry and I’m a genuine fan of Keeslar’s gee whiz (“By the shores of Tripoli!”) Dirk Squarejaw demeanor. They avoided the “sexual tension between the two partners” cliché and instead nurture more of a father-surrogate/daughter dynamic that’s a welcome change of pace. The Middleman’s not for everyone and not without its kinks, and it wasn’t canceled as prematurely as say, Firefly, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad this show didn’t make it beyond its 12 episode hit-or-miss run. When it works, it’s a hoot and hits the post-pulp pop sweet tooth. I guess I can always pick up the comic collections to visit with these characters again. “Fighting evil so you don’t have to”? After battling mad scientists and aliens and androids and monsters, it’s a shame The Nielsens were The Middleman’s biggest threat in the end.

“Mr. Shoggoth, there’s a ‘Mr. Del Toro’ here to see you… He says it’s urgent. Something about an ‘eerie adaptation demanded by an unseemly horde of Sewer Chewers’…”
The Package DVD set includes the entire series all contained on the first 3 discs. I didn’t realize I had just watched the series finale until I popped in disc 4 and was greeted by only special features, which there are quite a lot of. Pleasantly surprising, considering the series just kind of came and went. In addition to the typical BTS material and occasional commentaries, there is a table reading (although not of the unfilmed 13th episode which was read publicly at the 2009 SDCC), Q&A webcasts with the property’s creators, and everything in between. This DVD set is as locked and loaded with bonus features as a Middleman episode is with geeky references and clever chyrons. If you’re a fan of the show specifically or just the subgenre/tone (remember UPN’s SU2), “Jimmy Crack Corn!” this is a packed package and not a reprehensible purchase in the least.


Are catsuit’s the required Middleman attire? Nope. Hope you like the “Hitler’s smoking jacket” look.



7.5 out of 10
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