Sunday, September 14, 2008

Season In Review: The Middleman S1

I mentioned a while back that the "Middleman" pilot left me ambivalent but willing to see more; I ended up sticking around for the whole season, and I'm glad I did. "The Middleman" is a razor-sharp, clever, funny show (so naturally, I'm not expecting a second season).

Keeping in mind that I've never read the comics this show is based on, "The Middleman" seems to be a response to "Heroes" in that the latter is modern superheroics seen through a modern perspective, whereas "The Middleman" is decidedly more old-school: we're talking Bob Kanigher-level craziness like Corleone-inspired gorillas and flying zombie fish and murderous alien dictators moonlighting as a boy band. It'd be on the verge of crossing over into Adam West Land and going completely insane... except that our protagonist-focalizer, Wendy Watson, has a cynical, nonchalant viewpoint. It's basically the 21st century poking fun at the Silver Age without ripping it to shreds in the process. There's an implied acknowledgement that these things are ridiculous, but they're still fun. And there's a wide array of threats ranging from mystical to alien to mad-scientific; the variety spices things up because you're never really sure what'll happen from one episode to the next.

Turns out Matt Keeslar was the right choice to play the Middleman after all; the character requires a certain level of... I don't want to say shallowness, because that's not what I mean despite the fact that it's the opposite of depth, which is what I do mean. Keeslar's never really had the kind of range or gravitas to hold the audience's attention, but the character of the Middleman doesn't need any of that to begin with. Plus, the Mirror Universe Middleman spent most of his time shirtless, in leather pants. Thanks, Javier! Much appreciated.

I really, really hope this show lasts longer - with "Heroes" coming back next week, it'd be nice to have a lighter-hearted counterpart that doesn't descend to Superfriends antics or talk down to its viewers.