Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Middleman: Threat or menace?

So late Monday, I start hearing rumblings that ABC Family has canceled "The Middleman" due to low ratings, and that the cast and crew were told late that day that the 13th and final episode of season one wouldn't be filmed. I was out on set visits all day Tuesday, but put in a call to someone at ABC Family, who promptly called me back the next morning to say that, yes, production had been trimmed from 13 to 12 episodes, but that, no, the show wasn't canceled, ABC Family was thrilled with the show, was bringing it to Comic-Con this weekend, etc., etc., etc. And when I got home from all my set visits, I saw a post from creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach on his blog in which he concurred that the show wasn't dead yet, and that trimming the episode order was a concession to the show's lousy ratings. (Put it this way: when ABC Family came to press tour last week, "Middleman" was just about the only show on the network that the execs didn't mention at any point.) Sayeth Grillo-Marxuach:
and about those ratings? well...while improving incrementally, they have not been stellar, so we - and by "we," i mean the network and myself - have made the decision to make and air a twelve episode first season of "the middleman."

it is a decision that allows us to conclude our first season on a great creative note, and to pool our resources to make our season finale the best and biggest it can be.

in short: we are doing everything we can to delive "the middleman" to whatever the future holds for us: and a crucial part of that future hinges on your continued support.

so, the bottom line - the middleman ain't dead.
I've braced myself for the probability that this very smart, very funny, very weird, very memorable show will be a one-summer-only treat, but you never know.

Feel free to discuss this week's episode here if you want. I had it on while I was packing for my return fight but was understandably distracted.


afoglia said...

You didn't miss much Alan; I thought it was the weakest one yet. I never felt that Ida was in any jeopardy. Somehow the reset button would be pressed.

Antid Oto said...

Well, it's really, really good and smart. So of course it'll be canceled.


Anonymous said...

Well, crap.

The problem is I think that the show doesn't fit the channel. I know I saw some promos for it that seemed clever and appealing, but once I saw it was on ABC family, I assumed it was aimed towards preteens. Despite how appealing the main character and the general concept was, I didn't give it a chance until you started pimping it.

While it's clean enough for kids (mostly), the sensibility it's aiming for seems pretty adult. I'm not sure what channel it should be on, but I don't think ABC family is it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding this week's episode: it's another case of giving away the plot in the preview. Or in this case, in the TV Guide blurb. The blurb (and the previews) said that Varsity Fan Club (the boy band du jour) played a group of alien dictators. That's a plot point that wasn't revealed until about 35 minutes into the episode.

I suppose they were trying to get that valuable teen audience by featuring a boy band, but it didn't seem like they did enough with the boy band to make the cameo worthwhile. And Middleman's fondness for boy bands felt uncomfortably like Spock's bonding with the hippies in that dreadful Way to Eden episode: pandering to the di.

I confess, I was occupied with other things at the time it was airing and only half paying attention. I'll have to watch it again, but I'm a little outside the demographic that would want to watch an episode featuring a boy band.

For those who want to help Middleman: I would recommend you watch it on their website ( Watch early and watch often. Watch the previews, watch the behind the scenes, watch everything you can find. Because if you're not a Nielsen family, that's the best way to show them that you're watching Middleman!

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I love this show. Unfortunately, I missed last week's episode, but I'm going to try to see it online. I'm not into boy bands much, but I loved some of the references in the dialogue: "She's my sister. She's my daughter." and "Let's get Howard out of that hole." or something like that. How can you not love a reference to Howard the Duck? And "Chinatown" of course. I hope they'll put it on DVD, and I will definitely check out the website.

barefootjim said...

I'll agree with Anthony about Ida, but point out that worrying about the main characters being in danger isn't really what it's about.

I think that it's more about the witty reactions to that danger, as well as the sly commentary on things like monster movies and boy bands.

Which is why I don't really understand the "I'm not really into boy bands" comments (which really seemed to leave out the "anymore"), because I don't think the episode -- which was, admittedly one of the weaker ones this season -- needed you to love them, but to have enough knowledge about them to appreciate the satire.

Anonymous said...

ABC Family is showing their support of the show by removing all but one episode from their on-line viewer. Is this that thing where they think it will make people watch it on TV? Isn't their (general) audience kids, who are even more likely to watch stuff on a computer than me (a nerdy sci-fi lover)?

In this case it seems especially odd because I've watched it online and on TV and the TV ep didn't seem to have more commercials. Well, maybe a few, but not many. I wonder if this is because they couldn't sell the time, or network policy (do kid channels have fewer commercials?). Anyway, my point being that making me watch it on TV isn't going to make me watch that many more commercials so why not let me watch it online?

Toby O'B said...

The Ida situation reminded me of an episode of 'Deep Space Nine' in which O'Brien was killed off but replaced by his duplicate from a different point in his time-line.

What I've been enjoying is the themes of in-jokes for each episode. One week it's "Back To The Future", last week it's the music of The Zombies, and this week it's "Raiders Of The Lost Ark". (Aliases: Rene and Marion, Brody and Forrestal, Ravenwood and Jones, and the college involved was Henry Jones University.)

Alanna said...

I'm not one to scream about the network when a beloved show fails, but in this case I think the network was part of the problem (if through no fault of their own.)

I'd never watched anything on ABCFamily until quite a few friends recommended The Middleman. I downloaded the first two episodes and fell in love, then set a TiVo pass for episode three onward. I'll bet that MANY fans who'd love this show don't even know what ABCFamily is, much less pay attention to their schedule. The Middleman was always going to be a word-of-mouth series.

In a way, this is a catch-22. ABCFamily allowed Grillo-Marxuach to put it on the air, and I believe him when he says they've always been very supportive. Another channel might not have taken the risk... but it's just not a good fit for that one. I think The Middleman would've done much better on SciFi, where it would reach a far more compatible audience -- heck, I'm not a Eureka fan, but pairing those two shows for a summer run would've been a great move (especially since SciFi has so few successful shows these days.)

It's just a shame, all around. I know the chances of another channel picking it up are slim-to-none, but I'm holding out a tiny bit of hope.

Anonymous said...

@teev re online episodes: Yeah, I noticed that! That's awful! Some of them are available as bittorrents, but I was encouraging friends to get caught up via the online content, so ABCFamily would see that people were watching it. I'm going to email them about this...

Lis Riba said...

How do the ratings track online viewers?

We don't have cable TV, but I've become a devoted viewer via the streaming video on the website.

Anonymous said...

@lis: the Nielsens don't track it, but the station has webstats of how many people have watched the videos, and I'm sure they notice the interest. Unfortunately, the interest level in Middleman is... ahem... considerably lower than Kyle XY, for example. About 5500 views for the Boy Band episode; compare to 150,000 for episodes of Kyle XY, Greek and others (admittedly, those videos have been up longer). It does, however rate higher than the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes cartoon. Yes, they do have that online. I loved that when it first came out in the early 1990s...