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The Middleman episode reviews


Episode 1. "The Pilot Episode Sanction" is a blast from start to finish. It's easily the best pilot I'm seen this Summer so far and I can't wait to see more. It's quirky, funny and full of references to everything I love: sixties TV, comics, movie icons. A young woman (the gorgeous Natalie Morales) becomes sidekick to a mysterious superhero (Matt Keeslar) and helps him defeat a talking gorilla with designs on world domination (by killing mob leaders and leaving bananas at the murder scenes!). Javier Grillo-Marxuach has had a hand in some of the very best TV shows of the past decade and this looks like a worthy addition to the list.

Episode 2. "The Accidental Occidental Conception" This is a funny show. The dialogue is snappy and witty and guaranteed to provoke a laugh or two. A lot of the ideas are audacious, too. It's a creative show. So much so that you are inclined to think: I can't believe they are doing this. It has echoes of the best ideas of Reaper and the pace of Pushing Daisies. So, all things considered I'm pretty happy with The Middleman.

Episode 3. "The Sino-Mexican Revelation" There are two reasons to love this show. First, it's audacious. How else do you describe a show which dares to tell a story where a masked sensei is kidnapped by 100 Mexican Wrestlers (who are later killed in a fight to the death with that same masked sensei)? Everything about this show is creative and exciting. There's nothing quite like this on TV. And I love that.

Second, it works. It really works. It's funny and cool. It could have been a horrible mess, but Matt Keeslar's delivery and Natalie Morales' attitude make it work. Throwing crazy elements into a script is no guarantee of success. You need the right cast to make it work.

(This is the episode where Natalie Morales poses as a scantily-clad waitress. There's no part of that previous sentence that I don't love.)

Episode 4. "The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum" I sit down to watch this show wondering, cheerfully, what stuff it is going to throw at me. So what is it this week? A colony of aliens, living on Earth, where they fit in by looking like victims of too-much plastic surgery, who are being hunted by an big-game hunter, who is a local TV celebrity in the Dr. Phil mold. Nope, not seen anything quite like that before!


Episode 5. "The Flying Fish Zombification" Since I don't like Wendy's roommate very much, I was a tad bored by her storyline in this one. Will her mom show up at her Art Crawl or not? Gee, who cares? Much better was the case-of-the-week: flying fish that turn people into trout-eating zombies. Lots of very funny scenes. My fave? The bit where The Middleman was on the phone (being told about the flying fish for the first time) and we could see Wendy way in the background having a fight to the death with one of the dastardly creatures. That was hilarious in itself but it got funnier as the phone conversation ended and The Middleman was saying how important it was to capture one of the creatures alive while we could see Wendy bashing it to death in the background. Great slapstick comedy in a show where most of the laughs come from the witty dialogue. And Mary Pat Gleason, of course.

Episode 6. "The Boyband Superfan Interrogation" The best episode so far. It had the best story and was the funniest episode. The idea of banished dictators/criminals arriving on Earth and posing as a boyband is hilarious. The idea that the foul-mouthed soldier that comes after them should appear to be a 14-year-old girl named Cindy is even better. I love this show's habit of bleeping out foul language with on-screen graphics as well as beep sounds. It cracks me up every time. But never more so than with Cindy and her constant swearing.

Matt Keeslar did some of his best-ever work in this episode. Not only was all the stuff when he was mourning the loss of Ida great, but I loved his scenes interrogating Cindy. Him and Eden Sher yelling and shouting at one another like it was some dark police thriller. He was pitch perfect every step of the way. A great actor.

Episode 7. "The Cursed Tuba Contingency" What a surprise. Usually I watch this show for the jokes, witty dialogue, pop culture references and elaborate plots. I was totally side-swiped this week by the romance between The Middleman and Lacey. Side-swiped because I found myself totally into it. Right from the start of the episode, when they sat side-by-side in the empty cinema I was smitten with them as a couple. And that's not been the case. Up to now I've not really warmed to the character of Lacey and the crush she had on The Middleman was just a throw-away gag in every episode. Now suddenly it was the main thing in an episode and it really worked for me. Brit Morgan and Matt Keeslar had great chemistry and the storyline was really romantic. Their cinema visits were wonderful. Her staying to see the end of the movie for him, and telling him what happened later during their goodbye dance, were very sweet and romantic. Darn, but it really got to me. And, suddenly, I'm totally rooting for them as a couple. If they don't end up together in the last episode I will feel royally jipped.

Episode 8. "The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation" More goofy fun and sweet romance. The plot revolves around bookish girls taking over the bodies of popular girls at a college and affords series-star Matt Keeslar the chance to play the part of a teenage girl in control of his body. Very funny. But most of this episode is about Wendy's feelings for the guy who is dating her room-mate. He's a guest star from a previous episode and the show is very clever in the way this story unfolds. Very clever indeed. Such a funny, clever show.

Clever? Funny? Hah, a natural to be cancelled too soon.



Episode 9. "The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown" Flawless fun. Wendy's relationship with Tyler is sweet and fun to watch. Her relationship with The Middleman is great, too. His frequent droplets of advise are wonderful and wise. He really is a unique and interesting character. Kevin Sorbo is a great guest star as the Middleman from the 60s and the show wisely finds humour without resorting to cliché gags.

Episode 10. "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation" Where else am I going to see a story about Vampire Puppets? Yes, this show operates in the same general area as Pushing Daisies and Reaper but with considerably more panaché. I love these characters, I love the fast pace of the stories, I love the millions of pop culture references, I love the cast, I love the ongoing romances, I love everything about this.

Best bit? The vampire puppet turned into a bat puppet and flew off (with the poor guy still attached!). I was amazed by that. And by the revelation, at the end, that MM's heart belongs to some other woman. Who? A dead wife, maybe?

Also, what are the three Canadian vampire detective series? Forever Knight, Blood Ties and...? Wendy's a bigger TV geek than me! I love her even more now!

Episode 11. "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol" Part of the fun of watching this show is the text that appears on screen during the episodes. Most shows just use on-screen text to tell you the date, the time or the location. Middleman does that, too. But they also find quirky ways to impart lots of other cool information, too. And jokes, of course. This is another strong episode. And it ends with a great scene where Wendy - sure she is about to die - tells The Middleman that he has been like a father to her. Hard to see that without a small tear in the corner of your eye.

Episode 12. "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome" The show puts it's own spin on the idea of Parallel Worlds in this superb final episode. We get to see 'evil' versions of the regulars and Mark Sheppard returns for a second episode (sadly he is underused). The friendship between Wendy and Lacey gets a lot of screentime this time out and gives the show a solid core. Apparently this show has been garnering critical praise for the writing of it's female characters. No wonder. They are superb and their friendship is as real as anything I have ever seen on TV. Kudos writers/performers!

Our final shot of Wendy finds her (once again) on the phone to her mother. Happy. And it's a lovely way to leave things if we never see her again. (Gosh, I hope we do!)


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