I don’t know whether it’s the warm weather itself that draws me to lighter television fare in the summer months, or that I’m just conditioned by a lifetime of television viewing habits to look for nothing edgier than Golden Girls reruns when the sun burns hot and high overhead. Either way, The Middleman, a new series debuting tonight on ABC Family, fits the bill perfectly.
This superhero comedy–based on Lost writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s comic books–falls somewhere between Get Smart and Men in Black in tone, with a healthy dose of TV Bacon fav The Tick thrown in for good measure. In the pilot (currently available for free on iTunes), twentysomething temp Wendy Watson (played with sardonic perfection by Natalie Morales) is recruited to a life of crime fighting (or, as she dubs it, “the paramilitary version of Amway”) by a straitlaced superhero called the Middleman (Matt Keeslar).
You won’t see much here that you’ve haven’t seen before. Nevertheless, the two make a deliciously fun duo as Wendy fires off sarcastic quips and pop culture references with Gilmore Girls-esque speed and the Middleman punctuates his anachronistic personal style with exclamations like “jiminy!” and “dagnabbit!” It also doesn’t hurt the show’s likability quotient that Wendy is essentially every geekboy’s fantasy: a Shaft-quoting, xBox-playing, comic book literate hottie with cool, arty glasses. Hell, I think I’ve got a crush on her.
The show’s not quite G-rated (the pilot features jokes about swear words, all of which are artfully bleeped, and references to Wendy being a beard) but the violence is cartoony (a bad guy who’s just suffered a righteous face-pounding displays no upsetting blood or bruises) and the tone light-hearted enough that the little ones won’t be at any risk of any nightmares. Adult viewers will appreciate the wry wit and obscure references, while the kiddos will enjoy the off-the-wall weapons the Middleman and Co. use to fend off the goofy villains they encounter.
Best of all, there’s almost no chance of this show ever taking itself too seriously. In fact, it’s so lightweight that you might even accuse it of being fluff. And maybe it is, but it’s fluff like the meringue topping on a lemon icebox pie–just the thing on a lazy summer evening.