Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Middleman, "The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation": There is no Dub-Dub, only Zuul

Spoilers for "The Middleman" coming up just as soon as I cleanse my zombie palate...

"Middleman" may not be an ideal fit with ABC Family, but give the producers credit for trying, with an episode that was as much an homage to "Greek" as it was to "Ghostbusters." If I didn't already know that next week featured a Kevin Sorbo guest appearance, I would start wondering if we were due for a "Secret Life of an American Teenager"-style episode where Lacey gets pregnant and Barbara Thornfield MD/PhD scolds her for it.

What I particularly liked about this one was the abrupt switch midway through from sorority spoof to body swapping story. I don't know that there was enough mileage in either joke to last a whole episode, and so we goofed on the former for a half an hour and then let Matt Keeslar brat it up for the rest of the show. The one joke with (hairy) legs, about the cross-dressing, psychic frat pledge who's also a perfect mimic, ran through the whole episode, but they didn't go overboard with the other stuff.

(The body swap/possession angle also allowed them to do a Wendy vs. Middleman fight scene that plausibly didn't feature much Sensei Ping-endorsed badassery, which I'm sure would have been expensive and time-consuming for a show that's obviously and lovingly done on the cheap.)

I also liked the Wendy/Lacey/Tyler love triangle, and not just because it featured a callback to the Stump the Band joke from the Art Crawl episode. At first, I assumed Wendy was backing off because she was following Middle-orders to not let Tyler get his memory back. The idea that this was Wendy's way of apologizing for putting the kibosh on Lacey's thing with Sexy Boss Man made more emotional sense, and allowed for Wendy to finally get something good going in her non-professional life.

What did everybody else think?

27 comments:

R.A. Porter said...

My affection for this show is as deep as TheWife's hatred. Makes for rough Mondays.

I thought Matt Keeslar did a really good job of playing Chrissy Seaver. He loosened his gait and shoulders, animated his face, freed his hands up, and really let her come through in his movements. I wish he hadn't tarted his voice quite as much, but overall I thought he was great.

a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a said...

I'm in the bag for this show. Keeslar is great (outstanding change of pace last night), Natalie Morales does a great job of pitching Wendy just right, and Mary Pat Gleason rules. Over everything.

My daughter (12) made a great comment midway through "TEPI": "If the writing and acting weren't so good, you would notice how cheap this show is."

Since this will probably be its only season, I'll get in line for the DVDs.

Nicole said...

I think this was my favourite episode so far. I liked Tyler so am glad that he came back, and I loved the DubDub and MM fight scene that consisted mostly of girly slaps and dirty kicks.

Why couldn't this air on regular ABC? I'm sure that it would find an audience, especially in the summer months.

Mase said...

Have to echo Nicole that it was my favorite episode, probably, to date. Perfect combination of everything (sincerity, wittiness, not-so-subtle-pop-culture-references ["Reitman University"], quippiness ["profound sense of giddiness"], and throw-back-shout-outs [the every-ep-line about plan being genious in its simplicity]). Just pure, pure fun.

Plus, like r.a.porter, my love is inversely proportional to thewife's hatred (esp. when I constantly sing "Middleman!", or shout "ArtCrawl!" putting arm and fist to air).

So sad the show has less than 5% shot of returning.

Tracey said...

Has everybody seen the latest item on Middleman creator Javi's blog? See:
http://chaodai.livejournal.com/93691.html

Anonymous said...

"Muscle memory, bitch!"

Nicole said...

Although the sorority stuff could have been referencing "Greek", I also think that it was a more direct reference to Animal House, a movie produced by Ivan Reitman, especially since there seemed to be a John Belushi toga guy in the background, and not a "Cappie".

Karen said...

This was actually my favorite episode so far. I think Morales has gotten comfy enough in Dub-Dub's character to loosen up a little--she was wound pretty tight in the early episodes--and Matt Keeslar was comedy gold. They got in some fairly raunchy jokes for an ABC Family show--there was one about penetration that cracked me up--but it retains its essential innocence.

Excellent Ghostbusters references, along with one truly stellar Star Wars reference, when Dubbie makes the same observation about the sorority party that Obi-Wan Kenobi makes about the Mos Eisley spaceport. She doesn't quite carry off the Alec Guinness impression, but that's besides the point.

I thought the triangle was resolved most satisfactorily, and am glad Tyler found the right Booty Chest waitress. But poor Lacey--checked now on two fronts by her best friend!

pgillan said...

Although the sorority stuff could have been referencing "Greek", I also think that it was a more direct reference to Animal House,

And also, the cross-dressing, psychic frat pledge was wearing the "College" sweatshirt John Belushi wore in that movie. I think I still have that poster, somewhere. I love that poster.

Myles said...

I think my favourite pop culture reference was "Ray Parker Jr. Lane," but when you add up the multitude of them it's kind of hard to pick just one.

Really sharp little episode - this show knows exactly how to balance its procedural investigations with Wendy's personal life, and this was a fine example.

Plus, more than Greek, this has Veronica Mars written all over it; it is very similar to the early 3rd Season Sorority bust, straight to the vehement defense of the once reprehensible Greek system by our infiltrator. And while VM was uneven in its final season, I felt that episode was a fine example.

kwigibo said...

I'm still laughing at the penetration joke.

OHHH!!!

Antid Oto said...

I'm really going to miss this show.

Speaker said...

I've been trying to get together a round-table discussion of people who cover the show to discuss how to save it on a podcast or SOMETHING and failing miserably...

Would you be interested in something like that?

If so - I'll continue to bug other people. :)

-Andy "Speaker" Floyd

speaker at geekgasm dot com

LoopyChew said...

While the entire episode had me cracking up (this and The Sino-Mexican Revelation are up for best episode of the series so far), the one moment of stellar gold for me how after Wendy crotch-kicked the possessed!Middleman, one of the possessed alpha females winched and grabbed his/her crotch in sympathy.

joy said...

I have to say that when I saw the pilot, I was completely put off. But I persevered, mainly because of your blogpost reviews on it, Alan.

And, I've not been disappointed. Last night was my favorite episode yet.

So, thanks!

barefootjim said...

I loved the fact that the first thing that Sexy Boss Man did when he got ghostified was go find the psychic so we didn't have half an episode of mistaken identity scenes (which I hate).

Also, it wasn't just the penetration joke, but the acknowledgement of the penetration joke as dirty which just about killed me.

Tracey said...

Is Omega Theta Nu a reference? Because it sounds very familiar to me, but I can't place it and I can't find it online. Of course, it took me years to get Delta Tau Chi.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Of course, it took me years to get Delta Tau Chi.

And now I'm going to lose all my nerd cred by asking you to elaborate.

Alan Sepinwall said...

BTW, my "Greek" reference was more of a rhetorical device to refer to the show's ongoing struggles to find an audience on a channel that's not the ideal place for it. The "College" sweater was, of course, a giveaway for the Animal House homage. (Plus, Ivan Reitman was a producer on Animal House in addition to directing Ghostbusters.)

a said...

barefootjim,
So right! The "penetration" joke by itself was just this side of juvenile, but Wendy's "I'm here all week, try the veal!" response and the Middleman's clueless, then somewhat embarrassed look took it up a notch.

Tracey said...

"And now I'm going to lose all my nerd cred by asking you to elaborate."

Woo hoo! I am not the last person in the universe to get it!!! hee hee. (sorry, Alan!)

Delta is the Greek equivalent of "D", Tau is "T" and Chi is "X". DTX. DeToX.

Juanita said...

I thought the reference was to Delta House in Animal House. The first one, that is. Don't know what the other one was.

Kenrick said...

Caught this show for the first time with this episode. And I'm glad I did, as I had quite a good time watching it. Loved all the
Ghostbusters references and I thought Matt Keesler was particularly hilarious. Now I'll have to go back and watch the previous episodes.
Reading the comments, I'll try not to be too disappointed if they're all not as good as this one.

a - your daughter made quite a keen observation. Totally reflects my first impression of the show.

LoopyChew said...

One more comment I need to make: Having re-watched The Sino-Mexican Revelation and noted a few things, like how both their fathers were military, and the scene with Wendy and the doctor outside Tyler's room (in which she poses as his sister) are leading my brain to some frightening possibilities as to... well, I think you guys can draw the conclusion my mind is jumping to, as well as why I feel so squicked right now, and agree/disagree with the possibility.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I love this show. I have to watch it more than once just to get the references. As a "Great Gatsby" lover, I really liked the reference to T.J. Eckleberg in this episode as well as the ones to the Wachowski brothers and Superman ("Great Caesar's Ghost!). But the T. J. Eckleberg one is my favorite. I hope they are planning to put out DVDs soon. I'm in line for them.

dez said...

I think you guys can draw the conclusion my mind is jumping to, as well as why I feel so squicked right now, and agree/disagree with the possibility.


This show seems too sweet to go there. And I certainly hope they don't