Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Middleman, "The Accidental Occidental Conception": Here's mud on your guy

Spoke too soon on "The Middleman," as I was able to finish watching it this morning. Spoilers for episode two coming up just as soon as I pick up some bottled water...

My only real reservation from watching the pilot was whether the show would be able to pull off that half-retro, half-self-aware, all-funny tone on a regular basis. Episode two reassured me on that front; the wheels could still fall off down the road, but this felt very consistent with what we got from the pilot.

In some ways, "The Accidental Occidental Conception" (say that five times fast) was actually an improvement, in that Matt Keeslar and Natalie Morales were given dialogue that was just as goofy but not nearly as long. "I'm as serious as a Hefty bag full of Rottweilers" is a funny line, and one where Keeslar could focus entirely on the delivery and not on his breath control. And on occasion, all it took to make me laugh was the insertion of the right word into an otherwise straight line, like hearing him say "anathema."

Based on my recent complaints about the heroine's family being an annoying distraction on "In Plain Sight," I'm pleased that, so far, Wendy's roommates have been well-integrated into the story. (Middleman's crush on Lacey helps, as it provides an excuse to have Wendy's two worlds cross paths even if there isn't a plot reason for it like there was last night.)

The captions continue to amuse, as does the just-broad-enough acting by the guest stars (I particularly liked the bitchy Underworld desk clerk). Plus, points for having Wendy complain that the bad guy is the latest in a long series of "Terminator 2" rip-offs.

(Speaking of Wendy, my wife watched a bit of the episode with me, and pointed out that Morales comes across a lot like Amanda Peet, and it became one of those things that I suddenly couldn't avoid noticing. In particular, she sounds exactly like Peet did on "Studio 60" -- albeit much funnier.)

One complaint: I know you've gotta at least attempt to service the fanboys, and so the main titles feature Wendy in a cleavage-baring catsuit that she never wears on the show itself, but I preferred the fake opening credit sequence from the pilot, the black and white homage to the Diana Rigg "Avengers," complete with umbrella and SCUBA mask.

What did everybody else think?

17 comments:

R.A. Porter said...

Even better than the pilot. And the pilot had a genetically enhanced gorilla rubbing out crime bosses.

I also like the very small mystery of Wendy's dad, which I've got a few theories on...

Matt said...

Isn't it more Lacey's crush on Middleman?

I'm loving the tone set by the first two episodes. I hope they can keep this level of quality up.

Denis said...

I'm not sure that the Avengers thing was intended for the credits. It just seemed like a mock montage to me.

R.A. Porter said...

@matt, the crush is reciprocal. In the pilot, Wendy had to get MM to cool his jets and tell him no dating her roommate.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm not sure that the Avengers thing was intended for the credits. It just seemed like a mock montage to me.

I get that. I just think it would actually work splendidly as a real credits sequence, one that offers a much better sense of the tone of the show -- though of course it wouldn't offer up all that cleavage.

Anonymous said...

The show sort of reminds me of Special Unit 2 and The Chronicle. Both were shows that were enjoyable enough when I watched them, but that I didn't particularly feel the need to seek out either.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The show sort of reminds me of Special Unit 2 and The Chronicle.

I'd argue that the level of execution is higher here than what I remember of either of those two shows. But I also agree that it's lightweight; if it wasn't airing in summer, I don't know that I'd be giving it that much attention.

Rachel said...

Watched and enjoyed again. This looks to be an amusing summertime diversion.

Was that Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as the fashionista?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, though I can see the resemblance. Actress' name is Elaine Hendrix; my wife recognized her as the woman Dennis Quaid was supposed to marry in the Lohan version of Parent Trap, while I knew her (in a much different wardrobe) as the science teacher from "Joan of Arcadia."

boffo said...

As the mud-monster was reconstituting myself, I said to my wife, "Meanwhile, in Terminator 2." So I appreciated it when Wendy said the same thing.

I think they're so heavily implying that Wendy's father was a Middleman (probably the one who trained Matt Keeslar) that I really hope that turns out not to be the case.

boffo said...

The mudmonster was reconstituting itself, not myself. I should proofread before posting.

dez said...

I'm enjoying this lightweight, fun show. I especially liked the way the heir's parentage was revealed, and how Wendy kept warning Trevor off Lacey without revealing what he was to Lacey.

Vlada said...

A friend of mine said the actress reminded her of Amanda Peet too. I think she looks like Rosario Dawson.

Tracey said...

I thought the pilot showed some promise, but I really liked this second episode!

Like you, I had a problem with the wordy dialog in the first ep. I was watching a recording of it, and had to rewind a couple of times to catch what they were saying! Too much, too fast! I also missed the first five minutes of the first ep (it aired at 10:25; I started recording at 10:29), which was really fatal to understanding it. Even after seeing the whole thing (rebroadcast at 7PM before the second ep), I found the plot to be ... a bit meh. Scientist trying to take over the mafia with genetically enhanced apes? Even by my rather broad notions of plausibility, I found that to be a bit of a strain.

Loved the second episode, though. I think my favorite bit, which literally made me LOL, was when the potion failed to work because Wendy's environmentalist roommate used tap water instead of real Tahitian water.

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned Men in Black, because in many ways the series reminded me of that more than anything else. MIB is more focused on the action, but the underlying concept -- that the unreal is out there, that there are people keeping it under control and covering it up -- is similar. Also, as someone mentioned, reminiscent of The Chronicle. I only hope it will not be so short-lived.

And yeah, the catsuit credits pissed me off, because she never actually dresses anything like that anywhere in the series. But if it gets people to watch and keeps this show alive, it's worth it.

R.A. Porter said...

@vlada, I think she looks like a bit like RosieD as well, but she's got that tight-jaw delivery of Peet. I hear it too, and I think that's what it is.

Braces in her teens, maybe?

Anthony Foglia said...

I agree, this is light summer entertainment. I was distracted, but I was disappointed in the drop in the quality of the cinematography. The pilot was shot wonderfully, uniquely. Every shot was as if ripped from the pages of a comic book (which it was), but this was more conventional. No surprise, with the usual drop in budget and time from a regular episode, but I held out hope.

Anyway, the question is will I have patience for this and "Eureka" when it comes back. Both are light sci-fi shows. "The Middleman" is more of a comedy, but they're very similar. They both even did mock PSAs.

dez said...

Why are they moving it to 10 p.m. starting next week? Now I have to wait to watch it until the next day (durn job).