Okay, now that I finally have a spare moment, I can do a rec post of The Middleman and all of my ~feelings~ for it.
(I apologize in advance for any typos, because I am typing with two less fingers because of a - non-serious - X-acto knife injury.)
The Middleman shares its premise with a lot of other shows such as Torchwood, Fringe and Warehouse 13: a (secret-ish) organization keeping humanity safe and hopefully blissfully ignorant of supernatural terrors. I would say that The Middleman - with only 12 episodes of a preemptively cancelled single season - blows them all out of the water, and is now among my Top 5 favorite television shows ever.
The basic plot is: The “Middleman” is an individual who keeps the world safe from a myriad of esoteric threats - like zombie piranhas, cursed tuba players and alien dictators masquerading as a boy band. He or she works for an organization so secret that even he/she doesn’t know what is it. Their motto is “fighting evil so you don’t have to.” Like James Bond, the “Middleman” is a title handed down from predecessor to replacement. (For all the vagueness around the organization, the show has a lot of well-developed mythology around it.)
What makes it so awesome? It’s hilarious and clever and totally made for nerds: references are made to everything from Ghostbusters to the punk band The Zombies, while at the same time not making it super-obvious that there are references. If you don’t get them, it’s still totally enjoyable, but getting the references is like the cherry on top of a sundae. And, even though it has completely ridiculous monster/villain-of-the-week plots, it has what I think a lot of other similar shows miss: HEART.
The core of the show is the interactions between the characters (who I will get to in a moment), and the development of those relationships. All of the wackiness and fighting aliens is really peripheral to that (but still totally awesome and enjoyable). What this helps do is, for all of the craziness that goes on, the show stays remarkably grounded, and you end up caring about the characters more than you probably originally thought you would. (And you end up loving EVERYONE by the end of it, and then the show PUNCHES YOU IN THE HEART.)
So! The characters! First up is Wendy “Dubbie” Watson, a Hispanic art school grad and big-time geek who gets recruited by the Middleman after keeping cool when a lab experiment at a temp job goes horribly wrong. Even though the show is called The Middleman, it’s really all Wendy’s story: her growth, her realizing what she wants out of life, her figuring out what makes her happy and how to get that. So, yes. Wacky sci-fi/comic show where the central protagonist is a geeky woman of color and pretty much all of the story serves to develop her character? YES. I can not stress how amazing Wendy is. She isn’t a “strong female character” in the traditional, problematic sense of “strong female character.” She has flaws: she can be inconsiderate, impatient, not willing to tell people what she thinks when she should. But all of these things serve her character development, and throughout the show you can actually see her working out these issues to become a better person and to make a happy, fulfilling life for herself. I think her portrayal on the show is much more realistic than 99% of other shows that feature a 20-something female protagonist, zombie fish notwithstanding.
Next up is her new employer-turned-mentor, the Middleman, a clean-cut, unnamed ex-Navy Seal who never swears, drinks four wholesome glasses of milk each day, is very awkward around women (except for Wendy), and could basically be best buds with Steve Rogers. He immediately sees potential in Wendy and takes her on, training her to be the next Middleman (or “Middlewoman”). He is completely dedicated to his job and serves as an excellent straight man to Wendy’s snark, occasional bewilderment and genre-saviness (though she never becomes cynical). It’s hilarious seeing him react to Wendy dealing with her real life problems like issues with her room mate or boyfriend troubles; he’s been cut off from “normal” life for so long, yet still retains a lot of wisdom and helps out Wendy a lot. They have one of the best mentor-student relationships I’ve seen in fiction. And he’s SO SUPPORTIVE of her - after a few early eps of not being 100% sure of her capabilities for the job (but, again, this is more of Wendy’s character development than anything) - and he’s so proud of her and ugh my heart forever.
Rounding out the main characters is Lacie, Wendy’s room mate and best friend, a fellow artist. Even though Wendy is training under the Middleman and they have an awesome relationship, the central relationship on the show is really between Wendy and Lacie. They are each others’ rocks: even though things don’t always go smoothly between them (such as Lacie initially having trouble accepting Wendy’s new high-demand job), they try hard to work out their problems and know that they are the most important people in the world to each other. AND EVERYBODY ELSE ON THE SHOW ACKNOWLEDGES THIS FACT. Even after Wendy gets a boyfriend, Lacie is still the central person in her life. Lacie also later on gets an extremely adorable crush on the Middleman (who she’s calls “Sexy Bossman” and “Pillow Lips” in lieu of not knowing his real name) that also PUNCHES YOU IN THE HEART.
Other amazing characters: Ida, the Middleman’s snarky android secretary; Tyler, Wendy’s awesomely supportive and equally geeky boyfriend; Noser, a struggling musician who lives in Wendy’s building and is JUST AWESOME; and Manservant Neville, who is of course played by Mark Sheppard, because Mark Sheppard is legally entitled to a role in every single sci-fi/fantasy show per the Mark Sheppard Permanent Employment Act of 2009. Also, there is a fashion company that serves as a halfway house for reformed succubi and and it basically the best thing ever. EVERYONE ON THE SHOW IS AWESOME even the villains-of-the-week you end up loving.
So, check it out! It’s only 12 episodes (the actors apparently did a script-reading at Comicon of the unmade 13th episode, which I need to track down), and the box-set is cheap (or you can find a torrent). It is completely charming and I had the biggest smile on my face when I finished it- though, of course, now I want MORE and am shaking my fist at ABC Family for cancelling this gem.