DVD Review: THE MIDDLEMAN

Shout! Factory
MSRP: $34.99
DVD release date: July 28, 2009
Stars: Matt Keeslar, Natalie Morales, Brit Morgan, Mary Pat Gleason, Jake Smollett

Temping as a receptionist at A.N.D. Laboratories, 22-year-old art school grad Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) is witness when a mutant experiment is reined in by the mysterious Middleman (Matt Keeslar). Impressed with Wendy’s presence of mind under fire, the Middleman recruits her to his cause, telling her that comic-book dilemmas really exist and it’s his job to keep them out of the public eye.

Constantly referencing TV and movies’ rich tradition of science fiction, spy fiction, and slapstick comedy, The Middleman also offered fresh banter, not only pairing sarcastic Wendy and the classically forthright Middleman, but also pitting Wendy against the Middleman’s unfeeling android assistant stuck in the form of a cranky schoolmarm, Ida (Mary Pat Gleason). Wendy struggles to balance her paranormal crime-fighting career and everyday life rooming with her best friend, “confrontational spoken-word performance artist” Lacey Thornfield (Brit Morgan).

Creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Charmed, Boomtown, Jake 2.0, Lost, Medium) envisioned The Middleman as a broadcast network series, but when it wasn’t picked up, he adapted it for comic books, which caught the eye of ABC Family. The show’s mix of contemporary and traditional was, to me, what made it special, but the same mix didn’t seem a good fit for ABC Family’s brand. First aired on Monday, June 16, 2008 at 8PM, with its second episode it moved to the odd Monday 10PM timeslot. I willingly followed and caught the series’ entire three-month run. I grew up admiring wholesome heroes but had to admit when they no longer seemed to fit the times. The Middleman and its underlying positive message have helped restore my sense of wonder. Thank you to everyone involved and to Shout! Factory for “getting it.”

The DVD set includes all twelve filmed episodes in widescreen on three discs, four commentaries with the writers, cast, and crew, and a fourth disc of extensive bonus material including almost all the content originally posted to ABC Family’s Middleman Web site, casting sessions, alternate scenes, and a gag reel.

–Gerald So