Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Middleman, "The Cursed Tuba Contingency": Randolph Scott!

Spoilers for "The Middleman" coming up just as soon as I enjoy a lobster dinner...

When you do a show as strange and eclectic as "The Middleman," there are going to be episodes where some elements work and others don't. With "The Cursed Tuba Contingency," I really enjoyed the chaste courtship of Middleman and Lacey, which seemed styled less after a Randolph Scott picture (especially a latter-career one like "Ride Lonesome") than to a movie from the '30s, or even the silent movie era. I remain impressed by how Matt Keeslar is able to play this impossibly straight, retro, decent guy without a trace of irony and make him as appealing as he is.

The comedy portions of the episode, on the other hand, didn't quite work. Some jokes felt rushed, like Wendy's cries for help constantly being interrupted by the foghorn, or Wendy dispatching the bad guy before the final commercial break. Others just didn't seem well-conceived, like the villainous Titanic obsessive (played by Jim Piddock from the Christopher Guest movies).

One thing I raised an eyebrow at: there were some complaints in the early episodes that, because the show was on ABC Family, the stories had to be a little too chaste, but there was an extended gag involving Middleman and Dubby listening to one of the thieves have sex. Do you think that joke would have been allowed when the show was still on at 8, or is this yet another sign that ABC Family doesn't care anymore because the show isn't part of their future plans?

(Speaking of which, TV Squad has an account of the show's Comic-Con appearance. Tell your friends to watch, boys and girls!)

Overall, not one of the show's best efforts, but still fun. What did everybody else think?


Sarah said...

I really liked the Middleman's reactions to Lacey and how he seemed so delighted by her. I did feel it was a little contrived that they can't date because of Wendy, but I like that it can continue to be a thwarted romance.

The Tuba idea was funny and I liked the tuba music during the fight scene, but some of jokes did seem a little forced.

Still a wonderfully fun show and I love all the characters. I'm trying to get more people to watch!

Brandon Nowalk said...

Still loving it, although I was hoping for a more western-ish plot based on the beginning.

Regardless, I loved seeing how they wound up reenacting so many scenes from Titanic, right down to the music. And I thought the foghorn/yelling scene was funny, if done before.

Figgsrock2 said...

Yeah, the whole sex sound scene made me think, "Well, this show knows its not getting renewed, so they're going out with as much fun as they can."

And kudos to Kessler for his work in this ep. His scenes with Lacey were very sweet, and showed that this show could go deeper emotional if need be. Alas, it will never get that chance.

Alan, do you think I should buy the eps on iTunes now, or pray that a DVD comes out? I am not optimistic about them releasing it.

R.A. Porter said...

I thought every moment of Lacey and Sexy Bossman made this episode. Some other things did feel rushed, like the single scene with Roxy that ended up going nowhere, but overall I enjoyed myself as much as usual.

Anonymous said...

"Well, this show knows its not getting renewed, so they're going out with as much fun as they can."

This ep was actually filmed before the reduced order and the time change.

ABC Family is a "New kind of family." :)

Anonymous said...

I thought last week's filthy jokes were filthier, particularly the one in the car (paraphrase): "We have to stop that girl from sucking that band through a hole (beat/shot of Wendy smirking) in space".

I'm really going to miss this when it's cancelled.

[And yeah, they just used _Ride Lonesome_ for the title, but they were accurate about plot points (including spoilers!) and did name-check Boetticher and Kennedy, even if they pronounced the former's name wrong. There are better Boetticher/Scott collaborations to choose to emphasize chaste courtship, sure, but I'll take my Randolph Scott references where I can get them.]


Anonymous said...

I was at the Comic-Con panel. There was an ABC Family exec there who insisted they like the show, know how much the fans like it, are aware of the critical acclaim, and therefore have no plans on canceling it.

Though take that with a grain of salt, because it's not like the executive would tell the Comic-Con crowd that they're about to cancel it.

Alan, what do you think are the odds that if it gets canceled by ABC Family, it would get picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel or something else more suitable?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, what do you think are the odds that if it gets canceled by ABC Family, it would get picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel or something else more suitable?

Somewhere between slim and none, unfortunately. The fans of every low-rated skiffy show look to Sci Fi as some kind of panacea, but the execs there don't have much of a track record for picking up other people's discards. (The only Sci Fi show I can think of off the top of my head that didn't originate there is Stargate, and at least there I believe they had been airing the syndicated reruns for a while.)

People have compared Middleman to Eureka -- though, having watched most of the Eureka season premiere on a screener yesterday, I would argue that Middleman is a much better show -- and that therefore they'd make good companions for each other, but it rarely works out that way.

Anonymous said...

I did feel it was a little contrived that they can't date because of Wendy, but I like that it can continue to be a thwarted romance.

wendy's opposed to the match because she subconsciously likes her boss; she only thinks she disapproves because it's inappropriate and complicated.

Alanna said...

Yeah, I floated the SciFi-Eureka thing here last week, but even I knew the chances were almost nonexistent. On the (slim) chance that ABCF decides to renew, I've no idea what they could do to build the viewership, given that many genre fans have never even glanced at that channel. Any ideas, Alan?

As for the episode... I'm intrigued by the pacing, which reminded me of the plastic surgery ep a few weeks ago. Several scenes moved slowly, almost deliberately, which is a change from what I'd expect in a series like this. At first, I thought it was too slow, but now I kind of like that despite the comic book style, it didn't feel so breathless.

The show's sense of continuity also helps. I'm a bit nervous about the attempts to shoehorn Lacey and Noser into the main plots, but last night it worked fairly well because of the callback to Lacey's mother and the budding romance.

Nicole said...

I too thought that there were hints of Wendy liking her boss, especially in the last scene where the camera focuses on her watching them.

Nicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toby O'B said...

For the last couple of episodes I've been looking for the pop culture in-jokes. This week's main theme seemed to be Westerns: Peckinpah Hotel, Boetticher (sic) and Kennedy as aliases, maybe even Rogers (for Roy?)...

Anybody have a clue about the aliases of Harland and Wolfe, though? The aliases usually seem to be in-jokes, but I'm drawing a blank on those.

I'm going to miss Ida if the show is cancelled. Maybe Mary Pat Gleason can do a Munch-like transfer over to 'Eureka'!

R.A. Porter said...

@toby, they split the references between Westerns - Hawks, Peckinpaugh, Boetticher, etc. - and Titanic references. Harland and Wolff built the behemoth.

audie said...

this was my favorite episode by far! at least in terms of emotional content.. i didn't really care for the villain haha. although i did thought he played the part of immortal prick quite well, i loved the fact that he had no remorse for his actions on the Titanic.

i did like how they brought back the fashionista succubus. i hope they bring back other villains and characters, especially that guy that could've taken dubby's place hehe.

i'm not so sure that Dubby likes the Middleman, i felt when she was looking at Lacey and the Middleman dance, she truly did want them to be together and felt terrible that things ended up as they did.

i actually teared up when Lacey realized that they couldn't be together. their scenes were just so perfect. i'm gonna be pissed off if ABC family cancelled such a great show :(

Anonymous said...

On the (slim) chance that ABCF decides to renew, I've no idea what they could do to build the viewership, given that many genre fans have never even glanced at that channel. Any ideas, Alan?

I'm not Alan, but...

I think one of the biggest things they could do to promote the show would be to push the comic. I'm a huge comic geek and make weekly trips to the store for my haul, but I had no idea Middleman even existed until a couple of days before the show's premiere. From a post over at Comics Should Be Good! I see that a complete edition of all the miniseries is coming out soon but I think a more visible presence - and maybe a new series - on the shelves would prompt at least a few more people to check out the show.

Maybe the coverage that the MM session at SDCC got will help a bit with the online crowd. I hope so. This show can occasionally be a little annoying but I have a lot of fun watching it and would be sad to see it go.

Jon88 said...

This show just makes me smile a lot.

Hey, is anybody keeping track of the Wendy/Noser dialogues in the hallway? On behalf of those of us who are older than the target audience, it would be nice to know more about the sources.

afoglia said...

Re: Eureka

I think both Eureka and The Middleman are the same quality, but are different in tone. Eureka's a little more mature and serious, and The Middleman is more wacky. Their style is similar enough they could pair up well together. But then again, I'd think Eureka and Doctor Who would be a good pairing, but Scifi refuses to try that either. Neither of them are that great, but I watch anyway.

PS: Alan, Scifi paid for another two or three seasons of Sliders as well and most importantly MST3K. There were a few others, but mostly they were shows on other sister networks getting burned off.

barefootjim said...

@jon delfin -- this week's Wendy/Noser dialog was from Rush's "Spirit of Radio."

Karen said...

I also disagree that Dubby's look at the end indicates that she's crushing on the Middleman herself. It seemed very clear to me that she could see the depth of Lacey's and MM's feelings for each other, and was a tad uncomfy that her own comfort zone was keeping them from being happy with each other.

I started off as a little iffy with the show--I thought the pacing was wonky and that the actress playing Wendy was kinda one-note--but it's grown on me. And now I will be sorry if it's cancelled.

Anonymous said...

I'm way late, but this was one of my two least favorite shows of the series (Vampiric being the other, which I just loathed.)

I have to say (having seen the series) Lacey just annoys me. I liked her as Wendy's friend, but I had a very hard time believing that she had a mad passion for the Middleman after seeing her go for Tyler...and Pip...and...and...

I also don't care for Lacey because she's just dim and kind of self-centered, and this episode proved it. Come on, 'let's use the axe because true love will guide my hand'! I know this was meant to be funny, but I can't laugh at a female character's stupidity and respect them afterwards.

I did like the idea of the cursed tuba.

Wendy was a far more interesting character in the series, IMO. It was so refreshing to see an intelligent superheroine who was a) not the typical kick-ass pert blonde b) intelligent and witty who c) didn't end up needing rescued every episode.

But there was one thing about the episode which was interesting as far as the character of Wendy goes, and that's that it's the first time she really takes a lethal action. It's funny, but still...she's definitely not a pacifist anymore (not that I ever believed she was.)

I think my biggest complaint about this particular episode, actually, was the whole threat of the 'girl in the refrigerator' as far as Lacey was concerned. I'm so, SO tired of that meme in the comic world!