TV’s The Middleman: The Big Cheese in Summer Fare

Hallelujah! My prayers have been answered and I can begin to set my DVR again. For WEEKS now, we have had nothing scheduled on it but RENO 911!, and a half hour of silliness is not enough to satisfy my inner couch-potato.

But a new, non-reality show(!) has emerged on, of all places, ABC Family, and it is cool and refreshing as watermelon. The Middleman, which airs Mondays on ABC Family at 10 pm, is a spoofy, self-referential superhero show based on the series of graphic novels by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. The Middleman himself (played by Matt Keeslar) is a milk-loving, crime-fighting, clean-mouthed, alien-busting hero who doesn’t know where his assignments or super-cool gadgets come from – he’s just the middleman. In the pilot, he recruits Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), a painter who doesn’t bat an eye when confronted with an alien, to join him in his justicey ways.

The pilot of The Middleman, “The Pilot Episode Sanction,” written by Grillo-Marxuach, contained references to no fewer than 15 classic television shows or movies, including The Jetsons, The Incredibles, Planet of the Apes, The Godfather, and The Avengers. It also had wicked clever dialogue like the following:

Wendy (describing her mom): She’s on me 24-7 to to quit painting, move back to Orlando, meet a good man, eat fried foods, swell up like a tick and start squeezing out calves like Elsie mainlining fertility drugs.

Wendy: Well who do you work for?
The Middleman: I got recruited, the exact same way you did. When the last Middleman hired me, he never said and I never asked. Ida was already there, so were all the weapons and gadgets and things. Sometimes a box comes in with more weapons and gadgets and things. I don’t know where they come from; they just do. Maybe Ida runs the show, maybe it’s the conspiracy. Maybe it’s God. I’m just The Middleman.

This show has much the same vibe as my beloved cartoon series The Tick, with the Middleman throwing off random bits of wisdom disguised in mangled metaphors, such as “Self-knowledge is the gateway to freedom” or “It’s bad apples like you that put Mr. Hoover in a dress.” It’s a hoot. Check it out.

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