The Middleman: Sheer Elegance in its AWESOMNESS!
There are few shows as full of concentrated fun and awesomeness as "The Middleman." I grieve that I didn't see this show when it was on TV, and I grieve even more that it only got one season. This show is pure candy for fans of fantasy, sci-fi, spy-fi, and all other kinds of speculative fiction. If the idea of trout-craving zombies, gorilla gangsters, vampire puppets, alien overlords pretending to be a boy band, or cranky and sarcastic robots appeals to you, go out and find this show and WATCH IT NOW!
The story concerns Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), a twenty-something starving artist trying to pay her bills with a series of temp jobs. While working as a receptionist at a lab, she is attacked by a tentacled monstrosity, but saved by a mysterious man in an Eisenhower jacket, the titular Middleman (Matt Keeslar), who is impressed by Wendy's ability to keep calm in the face of something impossible, as well as her sheer gumption in her attempt to fight the monster off. Wendy therefore finds herself offered a job as the Middleman's apprentice, in his job as a freelance superhero, directed by bosses even he doesn't know to save the world from all sorts of off-the-wall villainy.
The characters and the way they interplay is easily the greatest part of the series. Morales and Keeslar are particularly amazing, the former as a snarky audience stand-in who lampshades the glorious ridiculousness of the plots they find themselves in, the latter as a totally dead-pan straightman who is basically the epitome of the impossibly pure Golden Age superhero. I also loved their relationship as it evolved over the course of the series, becoming a sort of adorable big brother/little sister sort of thing, with the two obviously caring a lot about each other.
Other characters who appear on the show include: Lacey (Brit Morgan),Wendy's roommate and BFF, Noser (Jake Smollett), another resident of Wendy and Lacey's building who mostly hangs out in their hallway quoting music lyrics, Ida (Mary Pat Gleason), a sarcastic robot who works with Wendy and the Middleman and looks like a grumpy middle-aged schoolteacher, and Tyler (Brendan Hines), a snarky male foil and love interest for Wendy who's able to match her snark for snark and obscure pop culture reference for obscure pop culture reference. Together they form a great supporting cast, with pretty much every episode they appear in having something awesome or funny for them to do. They are able to bounce off each other in interesting and intriguing ways, and I loved that they were able to really sell the sometimes ridiculous dialogue, so that we the audience are able to suspend disbelief when physics nerds were swapping bodies with sorority girls, alien commandos turn out to look like 14 year old girls, and the evil spirit of Dracula is incarnated in the form of a ventriloquist's dummy exact replica.
Speaking of that dialogue, it fairly crackles and drips with all sorts of amazing. There are pop culture references galore, and it somehow manages to perfectly balance humor, drama, and suspense so if you're not laughing you're holding your breath in anticipation, and if you're not doing that you're swooning over the relationship tension between Wendy and Tyler or the Middleman and Lacey.
Finally, the sheer off-the-wall craziness of the plots is something to be commended. The writers of "The Middleman" were obviously fearless in coming up with plots that somehow pay homage to the classic tropes of various genres of horror, spy stories, fantasy, science fiction, and other such things, while seeming at the same time gloriously new. Once I finished one episode, I found myself irresistibly drawn to watch the next.
It is impossible to capture the amazing fun of this show. Track it down if you can, because it will most definitely be worth it!
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