The Middleman: The Complete Series

The Middleman: The Complete Series
It's rather strange that television shows aren't judged as "successful" until they've been on for so many years that their ideas have been run into the ground and everybody is sick of them (i.e., The X-Files). So, the fact that The Middleman only made it through one season shouldn't necessarily condemn it because it left behind 12 very entertaining episodes that don't overstay their welcome. The Middleman, based on the comic of the same name, tells the tale of Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) and her recruitment by the Middleman (Matt Keesler), a straight-shooting, all-American special agent who deals with otherworldly evil threats. Think Men In Black meets Get Smart and that's a pretty good starting point. Add a wacky roommate and a sarcastic robot sidekick and the result is one of those overlooked shows that nobody noticed until it was too late. Every episode finds the duo investigating some strange phenomenon and wisecracking their way through to the inevitable climax where they save the day. Along the way there are the usual clashes of personality between the sarcastic, streetwise Watson and the by-the-book Middleman, and it does begin to get a little formulaic, although in smaller doses it's easy to forgive its reliance on the same old tricks. At times, it appears that The Middleman wasn't the best match for the ABC Family channel where it aired. While Keeslar's character is very wholesome, others (including Morales) aren't quite so shy about letting some profanity slip. That would be fine on most other cable networks but on ABC Family not only is the likes of "goddamned" beeped but the speaker's mouth is also obscured by a large black rectangle to stop lip readers working out the vulgarity of choice. It would have been nice if this was removed for the DVD but it hasn't been. The biggest issue with the show is while its tongue is very firmly in its cheek it is far too cool for its own good. And while that might not seem like a huge problem it is because it knows it's cool. It thankfully stops short of every character turning and winking at the camera every ten minutes but even if always entertaining sometimes the show tried way too hard to score points with inside jokes and nods to other sci-fi shows. There is an incredible amount of extras for a series that only lasted 12 episodes. In addition to commentary tracks for four episodes there is also a complete table read with the cast for the final episode, which is fascinating and something other shows should consider including. The inclusion of the weekly video podcasts shows a great deal of attention was spent to make this the kind of set fans would adore, and it seems like every other piece of promotional material for the show fills up an entire DVD set aside for extras. Add to that the ubiquitous alternate scenes and gag reel, some auditions and the explanation of a couple of inside jokes that appear in every episode and this is one of the most generous collection of bonus materials ever for such a short-lived show. (Shout! Factory)