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October 24, 2014

The Middleman: The Sino-Mexican Revolution

by Jason Hughes, posted Jul 1st 2008 1:48AM
Natalie Morales(S01E03) "Slutty But Sweet," the business mantra of restaurant The Booty Chest

Even the previews for The Middle Man capture that cheese-tastic tone that made the '60s Batman an instant classic. Like Paul, I also enjoy the frenetic pace of the dialogue and the bright colors that sprinkle the show. I've selected the picture over there to explore the costume difference Paul mentioned, wherein Natalie Morales' Wendy Watson dresses pretty hot when off-duty, and then when working wears a suit that truly doesn't work on a woman, as mentioned last episode.

Why can't she put on that Avengers' Emma Peel catsuit she's wearing in the opening credits. She looks really damned hot there. The show itself seems to speak to a mix of that and Get Smart! though The Middle Man is more Agent 99 to Wendy's Maxwell Smart. Even the little goofy things like giving us the time from different time zones each scene change, and not necessarily a time zone that we're in. But in each case it's relevant to the plotline. We get Shanghai time when we're in a Chinese restaurant for example. It's these little touches of quirky humor that make the show such a unique success.

One thing I noticed was that there was a drop-off in the goofiness from the pilot to last week's episode. It was as if they realized they needed some character depth if they were going to sustain the series for very long. But in a way the show itself actually suffered a bit for it. The almost constant barrage of zaniness both within The Middleman world and in her personal world added to the surreality established. Even Watson's interactions with her guitar-playing hall-mate Noser never made any sense, but spoke to their relationship and his quirky personality.

After meeting Sensei Ping, I can completely understand why The Middleman was so reluctant to send Wendy Watson to pick up his old mentor and trainer. If there's one thing she's completely incapable of, it's keeping her mouth shut. Though I will give her props for standing up for herself and laying into the Mexican wrestler mask wearing freak. Of course, then he wound up getting captured by a bunch more Mexican wrestler mask freaks, so I guess that didn't work out so well.

It does appear that Wendy Watson has spent more time screwing things up than actually proving herself useful for the series. I get that most of the conflict and humor come from her shenanigans but you would think that her ongoing incompetence would have her more than benched. She does seem to come through when needed, but then by the next week she's back to messing everything up. So far the formula is predictable, but the charm of the characters and dialogue make it nevertheless fun.

This week, Wendy Watson went undercover at The Booty Chest in a Hooters-esque outfit. So maybe the idea of the show is that because her work uniform is so shapeless and unflattering on her, they've got to work sex appeal in in other ways. Sometimes with her casual outfits, and tonight by having her manually adjust her breasts and then spend several scenes scantily clad with cleavage galore. Maybe that's why the show got shifted this week from the 8 p.m. ET time slot to 10 p.m. ET. That was a lot of skin for ABC Family. And that slogan I opened with: "Slutty but sweet"? Maybe it's just too hard to do true all-ages family fare on TV anymore.

Can the show really pull off a relationship between Lacey and The Middle Man? I enjoy the romantic pining they seem to have for one another. At least, as much as The Middle Man is capable of a real human emotion. The touchy-feely endings are another staple of these type of fluffy action-adventure shows so I guess we have to learn to live with them. I do enjoy the done-in-one aspect of the show. And with the conclusion of this episode, Wendy's training appears to be complete and she is officially a Middle Man in her own right. From here, we're ready to just run with the monster-of-the-week formula. I say bring on the fun!

Other Fun Bits
  • When she was chatting with the Mexican wrestler in The Booty Chest, we got English subtitles when they spoke in Spanish. But when Wendy Watson switched to English, the subtitles followed suit and switched to Spanish.
  • Lacey spends quality time in a yellow teddy to unwind; but it's not . Even more odd she was able to exactly identify the type of aircraft that Wendy was in over the phone.
  • What's Charlie Time? Will we get Hammer Time next? Bat Time?
  • Sensei Ping battled with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots in a combat of honor.
  • The whole explanation on how Wendy was supposed to get from the jet to the island where The Middle Man was being held captive with Sensei Ping was classic. "Haven't you ever seen a Bond movie." And then activating the eject button remotely. I can see I'm going to love Ida.
  • Sensei Ping is used to tense combat situations, as Mark Dacascos who portrays him can also be seen on Iron Chef America as "the Chairman." I guess that makes him the fun guest star of this episode. Who knew the Chairman was so ripped and had such moves!
Can The Middle Man sustain this for a whole season?
Why not, it's too much fun to stop130 (90.9%)
It's going to get repetitive and boring5 (3.5%)
I'm not going to make it a whole season8 (5.6%)

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Anita

I preferred this week's ep to last week. While last week was action-oriented, it lacked the pilot's irony-laden dialogue. However, although this week possessed slower pacing, the dialogue was quick witted. I can see why ABCFAM switched this to the 10:00 hour - the booty chest, the text laden with sexual innuendo and the killing of a 100 men (although cartoony) -says this should at least appear at the 9:00 hour (altho' normal network TV would place this at 8:00) -

Overall good ep and I loved Sensei Ping's early diva attitude paired with the concluding Bruce Lee homage.

July 01 2008 at 11:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
keithnl

Shout out to "Newfoundland Daylight Time" I knew one day having our own time zone would pay off.

July 01 2008 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kurifurisan

If you want to dip into the past for some good Mark Dacascos action stuff, see the movie "Drive". It's a sort of buddy action kind of flick with Kadeem Hardison.

July 01 2008 at 8:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kurifurisan's comment
Dan

I'd have to recommend Only the Strong for some great Dacascos.

July 01 2008 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj green

The fact that she wears the 'suit' is perfect for the show. You know inside she WANTS to wear something Peelish, but the suit is 'dress code' for the job. Which is why it doesn't fit her well. I love this show. It has enough quirky humor to make me laugh, and a plot that is interesting. Although the succubus from last week should be a regular on the show. Loved her.

July 01 2008 at 6:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mj green's comment
LW

She may dress sexier "off duty" but her hair and make up gives her more mature and sexier appearance when hse is in sidekick mode. Another interesting part of the duality of her character(s).

July 01 2008 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BillS

Mark Dacascos has had a long career as a B-movie action star prior to the Iron Chef gig. The only notable movie I can think of that he was in was Le Pacte Des Lupes (Brotherhood of the Wolf), a French language supernatural/martial arts movie that actually got a theatrical release here.

This episode was straight from the comics, just like the pilot, without much deviation at all. Although comic Wendy doesn't speak Spanish... sort of... excerpt here:

http://www.the-isb.com/?p=359

And speaking of, comic Wendy sexes up the Middleman outfit a little by tying off the shirt to expose some midriff, but I think in live action, that might play closer to "slutty but sweet" than Wendy should be.

July 01 2008 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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