THE MIDDLEMAN is another in the endless series of television shows that are either too good or too smart for the medium, which fail to find audience and are quickly cancelled. Of course, it didn’t help that THE MIDDLEMAN debuted on ABC Family (a cable station I can barely find), aired with little or no fanfare, and had it not been for the fact that the DVD showed up on my doorstep, I wouldn’t have even known the show had even existed. After popping the DVD into my player and hitting play on the first episode, it took me about a minute to realize that THE MIDDLEMAN was something special. The dialogue is smart, funny, ironic and filled with tons of pop culture references that are actually relevant to anyone who has ever watched or loved a genre movie, television series, comic book, popular song etc…
No surprise here, THE MIDDLEMAN is based upon an independent comic book of the same title, in which its hero fills a niche in "the bureaucracy" by dealing with strange phenomena, mad scientists, extraterrestrial threats and the supernatural, then conveniently sweeping all evidence under the rug. As the first episode opens, aspiring artist and temp agency receptionist Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) is working the front desk at a genetics lab, when an experiment goes horribly wrong. As Wendy attempts to fight off a monstrous creature with a letter opener, in swoops The Middleman (Matt Keeslar) to save the day. Taking note of Wendy’s calmness under pressure, The Middleman recruits her as an apprentice. Each subsequent episode then follows their adventures, as The Middleman and his apprentice deal with the kind of bizarre problems that no one else can. The primary cast of THE MIDDLEMAN also features Mary Pat Gleason, Brit Morgan and Jake Smollett.
THE MIDDLEMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($40) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twelve episodes that were aired during its only season: The Pilot Episode Sanction, The Accidental Occidental Conception, The Sino-Mexican Revelation, The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum, The Flying Fish Zombification, The Boyband Superfan Interrogation, The Cursed Tuba Contingency, The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation, The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown, The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation, The Clotharian Contamination Protocol and The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome.
Shout! Factory has made all the episodes that comprise THE MIDDLEMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES available on DVD in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. THE MIDDLEMAN is a pretty sweet looking series that is well represented on DVD (but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing this show on Blu-ray). The image appears crisp and produces a good level of standard definition detail. Shots with effects look a little softer, but it’s not too bad. Colors are pretty vibrant, plus the flesh tones come across in an attractive fashion. Blacks are accurate, and the whites appear clean. Contrast is strong for a television level production, while the shadow detail is just fine. The episodes generally appear very clean; blemishes are non-existent, while is grain minimal. Digital compression artifacts are not a problem.
All of the episodes that constitute THE MIDDLEMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES come with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. These are snappy television level soundtracks with a decent amount of channel separations for the effects and the music. With the expected concessions to television production audio, one will find that the forward soundstage is dominant. The rear channels do provide some active effects, as well as ambient sounds, and a bit of musical fill. Fidelity is pretty good, with the show’s theme music sounding pretty sweet. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and remains totally understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the DVDs, nor have subtitles been provided.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features, most of which are contained on disc four of the set. Running Audio Commentaries are provided for following four episodes: The Pilot Episode Sanction, The Cursed Tuba Contingency, The Clotharian Contamination Protocol and The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome. Five promotional Webisodes start off disc four- they are as follows: Who Are The Middlemen? (five minutes), The Middleman Set Tour (six minutes), The Tech Of The Middleman (two minutes), From Script To Comic (three minutes) and Varsity Fan Club Meets The Middleman (three minutes). Next are 14 Javi-Casts, which feature the fully-caffeinated creative team enthusiastically talking about the show (nearly one hour twenty minutes of material). The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome Table Read runs nearly an hour and is pretty self-explanetory. A Gag Reel, two Alternate Scenes, Audition Footage of the cast, alternate versions of the Title Sequence, five The Middleman-ager promos, five PSAs and a Music Video for Scream Ur Love 4 Me by Varsity Fan Club close out the supplements.
THE MIDDLEMAN was the right show on the wrong network that came and went before it had a chance to find an audience. I wish enough people would discover this terrific series through its DVD release and magically make it reappear on the airwaves. I know it is way too much to hope, but THE MIDDLEMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES still comes very highly recommended.
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