Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First Impressions: The Middleman

What an odd show.

Discovering "The Middleman" was something of an accident; the pilot aired a few hours before the fourth-season premiere of "Weeds", which I'd been anticipating for months. Since I'm trying to keep an open mind during the new TV season, and with most of my favorites on hiatus until September, I figured I might as well kill some time waiting for the Botwin family comeback. No expectations, no prior knowledge of either the comics or the works of Javier Grillo-Marxuach in general.

My initial reaction to "The Middleman" was pretty similar to my reaction to "Pushing Daisies" - it's so eccentric, so off-the-wall that at first glance I just don't know what to do with it. The pilot was certainly well-constructed: the dialogue was fast-paced and clever without dissolving into gibberish, the plot managed to cover exposition and a typical "case file" adventure (intelligent apes taking over the mob in the name of world domination), the acting was decent (though... Matt Keeslar? Really? The guy who couldn't muster a variant facial expression during the most heartbreaking scene in "Urbania"?), and it manages to avoid being too on-the-nose with its self-awareness.

Basically, the pilot won me over, at least for the time being. In my opinion, it could go either way here - I certainly believe Grillo-Marxuach and his team can come up with enough entertaining scenarios to keep the weirdness going, and they're sticking to the shorter seasonal format (around 13 episodes or so), but I think a lot will depend on whether a larger storyline will emerge; if I have one criticism of "Pushing Daisies", it's that the episodic format probably would've bored me had the series gone on after nine episodes. But that's something we'll have to re-examine mid-season.