Spoilers for tonight's episode of "The Middleman" coming up just as soon as I find out what else Tipper Gore and the Dalai Lama have agreed about...
First of all, in case you missed them this morning, today's columnn was an ode to "The Middleman"/interview with Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and I paired it with a full transcript of my interview with Javier. In the course of our conversation, we touched on several notable moments in "The Obscolescent Cryogenic Meltdown," notably Middleman 69's line about not being a comical throwback to the Summer of Love (read: Austin Powers clone) and the show finally getting around to putting Wendy in the leather catsuit from the opening titles.
(Speaking of which, it's funny that they even attempted to put Natalie Morales into the Uma Thurman version of the Emma Peel costume, given that Uma's 6' tall and Natalie's quite wee. I imagine it bunched up in lots of places a leather catsuit's not supposed to bunch.)
Let's get the minor griping out of the way first. I found "Meltdown" a bit stronger in the first half, before Middleman '08 fires Middleman '69. The episode's second half had some inspired moments, like that impossible-to-decipher card game (it reminded me of a similar gag from the Atlantic City episode of "How I Met Your Mother," but it's a good enough joke to be worth telling twice) or Dubby complaining about not getting a wetsuit.(*) But overall, I think they used up most of the good culture clash material by the time Guy was forced into retirement, and towards the end, some of the jokes were reaches. (Guy not thinking that Wendy would recognize a "Star Trek" reference didn't fit the tone of any other joke involving the character.)
(*)Or, for that matter, Dubby complaining about the catsuit. Natalie Morales fans, tonight was your night! In other Dubby costuming news, I also like that, when given the chance to pick her own uniform, Wendy doesn't radically overhaul it, but simply swaps out Hitler's smoking jacket in favor of a snazzy vest and starts wearing the tie loose. She's paying homage to Middleman tradition while bringing her own sense of style to it, in the same way that Middleman '08 ditched the Sorbo blazer in favor of the Eisenhower jacket.
That said, I'm impressed that they were able to do this story in a way that really didn't evoke Austin Powers in any way. Guy's innate "Don Draper-ness" (as Javier put it) really did speak to what a cold bastard the Sean Connery Bond was (especially in the first three movies) and was well-played by Kevin Sorbo. Plus, it gave us a disturbingly schoolgirl side of Ida (on roller skates!), but in a way that didn't undermine our favorite robot. (Note that she sides with Middleman '08 in the end.)
Beyond that, I thought the Wendy/Tyler story worked very well throughout. Everything about The Batter of the Bulge Pancake House and their love of gory arcade games was genius, as was Middleman's reaction to seeing the surveillance-cam nookie. ("Story of O! Turn it off!") Even in this silly, fantastical world, Wendy is just enough of a real character to make you like her and root for her to get over her malfunctioning "mutant power," which she does in the end. I understand that Tyler's not a character from the comics, so the next three episodes hold out the distinct and unpredictable possibility that a heroine on a sci-fi/fantasy show might actually have a successful, functional, fulfilling love life for a little while, and that ain't such a bad thing?
What did everybody else think?