The Middleman – Down But Not Quite Out

There’s good news and bad news for those of us who are fans of The Middleman – but mostly bad.

ABC Family has finally confirmed that the show will not be returning for a second season. It’s not exactly a surprise – since there had been no word from the network about the show, which was critically lauded but attracted disappointing ratings, since it ended back in September last year – but it is still very disappointing that such a smart, literate and plain fun show never made it past episode 11.

On the plus side, fans will get to see – sort of – the final, 12th episode of season one, The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse, which was never produced due to budget limitations. It is being turned into a graphic novel which will be released in July, around the time the show is due to be released on DVD.

This is somewhat fitting, since series creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach (a writer on Lost and Medium) first envisioned The Middleman as a TV show but when he couldn’t interest any networks in the show, he turned it into a comic book, first published in 2005.

Grillo-Marxuach is writing the graphic novel and promises it will tie up at least a few of the loose ends left by the show’s untimely demise. He also, in his Middleblog, points out that the characters in the comic will be drawn to look like the TV versions of the characters, rather than the way the characters looked in the original comics. For a sneak peek at the art, by Armando M. Zanker and posted on the Middleblog, see the end of this post.

Talking about the cancellation, Grillo-Marxuach remained upbeat and said: “Whatever future The Middleman  has will depend entirely on sales of the DVD boxed set. If the DVD sells well, maybe there will be an opening to bring the characters back in some form or another. History has shown that this is a possibility (as in Serenity and Family Guy – you know, hope springs eternal).”

He goes on: “I feel just fine and dandy. The Middleman was always a long shot. When I first wrote the pilot, a lot of people whose opinion I trust thought it was an impossible dream for it to be purchased by a television network, much less see the air as a television series. When the comic book was illustrated (beautifully, i might add) by Les McClaine, a lot of people whose opinion I trust argued that his lush visuals actually proved the impossibility of ever successfully producing the show on a television budget. And when I sold the pilot to ABC Family, a lot of people whose opinion I trust thought that the show would never survive the network development process with its weird, anarchically upbeat worldview intact.

“That we produced 12 quality episodes of the show – all of which I am proud – was the result of an alchemy of time, place and personnel that we may never be able to replicate. The simple fact that this show exists is a minor miracle for which I am eternally grateful. Also, I need to find new people whose opinion I trust.”

 Talking of the DVD, fans are promised to be rewarded for their loyalty with a DVD set bursting with extras and behind-the-scenes goodies.

Full details have yet to be confirmed but Grillo-Marxuach said: “We’re working on it right now. Definitely commentaries from cast and crew. Much of the online content and a lot of other surprises. If you like to delve otaku-like into the arcana of a show such as this one, I promise that we will do all we can to make this dvd set a vast vacuum from which no free time will emerge!”

For those yet to discover this amazing show, it’s a quirky comedy-adventure about young artist Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) who is recruited as a new assistant/apprentice by the Middleman (Matt Keeslar), an old-style, straight-laced, square-jawed, much-hyphenated, all-American hero who is an agent of a mysterious organisation, who is called upon to tackle evil forces and mysterious phenomenon that threaten the human race.

During the course of the series, these include mad scientists, hostile aliens, super-intelligent apes and interlopers from alternate realities.

It all sounds terribly derivative and cliched – but the beauty of the show is the way it takes these sci-fi/comic-book staples and adds a touch of knowing, affectionate irony, sparkling dialogue that is jam-packed with relevant pop-culture references and a sense of joy and fun rarely found on network TV. It will be missed.

 In case you forgot, The Middleman theme tune was my theme tune of the week a few weeks ago.

And here is the sneak peak at the graphic novel art:

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