The Middleman: The Pilot Episode Sanction (series premiere)
(S01E01) "I think Jughead's a real hoot." - Wendy Watson
From the beginning, I can tell this show is going to be pretty campy. That always tends to make me nervous. There are very few shows that can do camp and still be truly entertaining. I consider Batman to be one of those shows, although I know there are many who disagree. The corny looking mutant, the cheap special effects, the conversation about dating; all these things point straight towards camptown, but it's only the first three minutes.
Generally, I am not a fan of shows with quickly spoken dialog. It reminds me of how great Bruce and Cybill did it on Moonlighting. However, when it's done right, it not only sets a tone for the show but also gives the characters more freedom to have fun with the script. In the case of Middleman, I think it really works. Matt Keeslar and Natalie Morales have a nice rapport and their serious tone is a nice juxtaposition to the outrageous situations. One more point for the show.
One of my pet peeves in sci-fi or fantasy shows is when one of the characters can't believe what they're seeing. It's really annoying when twenty minutes of the show is taken up by one character trying to convince the other that what they're seeing is actually happening. On this show, it wasn't even an issue. Not only did Wendy not question what she was being shown, she didn't really seem to care. That was kind of neat.
I really liked the explanation of the title and how there really is no explanation for who's in charge, but it was the homage to The Avengers that got me hooked. A montage that includes, fencing, kicking and doing the swim is the perfect recipe for a good, campy show.
It's as if the producers heard me saying, "The only thing this show is missing is Mary Lynn Rajskub." I really like the fact that most of the actors on this show are so unknown, even a pseudo-celebrity like Mary Lynn can stand out.
Another aspect of the show that I appreciate is the respect it pays to the graphic novel (aka comic book). Not only does the show use comics as the blueprint for how their world works (evil scientists and monsters trying to take over the world) but they also give plenty of shout outs (Wally West, Gorilla Grodd, Jughead). I love a show that knows how to reference pop culture without overdoing it.
There's a real simplicity to this show that makes it a perfect fit for for ABC Family. It's plenty wacky and funny enough for youngsters but the references are clearly aimed at their parents. I'll have to watch an episode with my daughters first but The Middleman may be the first show on ABC Family that the three of us can actually enjoy together.
I'm not going to say that the show was brilliant or anything but I will admit that it was much better than I expected. There's plenty of room for improvement but the first episode had more than enough to get me to tune in again.