in Television

“The Middleman” Pilot Review


“It’s bad apples like you that put Mr. Hoover in a dress.”

I don’t believe I had a TV in the summer of 2008, the year The Middleman briefly graced humanity with its presence. Despite that, since I was always so culturally plugged in (I am in no way being sarcastic), I still knew of its existence.

It was a superficial knowledge, though. One of those things where you know something exists, you’ve seen the billboards and ads, but you don’t actually know anything about it. In my case, this knowledge was accompanied by a vague feeling that it was a show I would have been into, which would eventually manifest itself into a nightly tossing and turning with me muttering, “Must… watch… Middleman…” in my sleep.

Okay, so that last part didn’t actually happen, but if it had, it would have gone right in line with the type of humor presented on the one season wonder.

Finally, after five years of forgetting about this show’s existence until I saw a Tumblr post about it a few days ago, I sat down and watched the pilot.

The Middleman tells the story of Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), an office temp masquerading as an artist. One day, on the job, she’s attacked by a mad science experiment gone wrong and The Middleman (Matt Keesler) shows up to save the day.

Wendy manages to save herself first, though, which impresses The Middleman so much that he offers her a job as his sidekick.

Turns out, he works for some mysterious entity that protects the world from all sorts of evils, supernatural, extraterrestrial, and some other “-terrestrial” words that I had never heard before (most likely to do with alternate dimensions?).

Wendy, having been blamed for the crazy lab experiment gone wrong, is fired, so she takes up with the mysterious, milk-drinking, government-sanctioned superhero and begins a life of adventure.

The life of adventure is one of the main reasons why this pilot (and the show in general, I’m sure) works so well.

I don’t want to give too much away, but one of the highlights of this first episode is the bad guy, a mind-controlled gorilla that spouts various gangster movie quotes as he runs his own underground operation – in literal shadow, since no one can know he’s not exactly human.

It’s important to know that’s the kind of stuff the viewer will be dealing with on a daily basis. The pilot basically says, “Hey, here’s a show where just about anything can happen, so go ahead and run with the elastic premise. We’re not coming back down to Earth anytime soon.”

And boy, does it utilize that elasticity, because just about everything that could possibly be faced in this comic book-like universe is confronted. You’ve got everything from ghosts and succubi to mad scientists and aliens.

Of course, this awesome world would mean nothing without good characters. Those exist in the forms of Wendy and the Middleman, along with a slew of supporting characters.

Wendy is an obvious movie/comic book/video game nerd, who has some sort of quippy comment spilling out of her mouth every 2.5 seconds. The Middleman is an all-American 1950’s ex-marine-turned-milkman type with an intense aversion to cursing.

The side characters, which include Wendy’s political activist roommate, an Android librarian working at Middleman Headquarters, and a guitar-playing stoner at Wendy’s apartment, are all pretty one-note at this point. But they’re entertaining, nonetheless.

Although the atmosphere and the characters are all great, I do have one small complaint about the show, which is the level it takes its feel-good aspect to.

You almost instantly get the feeling that nothing bad is ever really going to happen. Sure, some faceless victim of the week may bite it, but you know the heroes will all come out of the episode’s events unscathed.

It’s fairly obvious from the get-go that while the character will have small personal problems to deal with (such as Wendy’s money troubles and her issues with her immature roommate) but you can tell these things will always be resolved with a neat little bow instead of being dealt with in a serious way.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just slightly disappointing that a show with such a vivid world will be holding itself back from week to week in the name of staying ever so slightly on the wrong side of cutesy.

Of course, I could be totally wrong about this last bit. For all I know, the show gets incredibly dark and intense five episodes in, and this argument will go completely out the window. (I sure hope not; dark and intense seems a little too much for this show.)

What it comes down to is this: While I like the show’s world and the two main characters, I feel like the show is downplaying the emotion a little too much. However, I’m going to keep watching to see if that changes – and even if it doesn’t, I definitely won’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.