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DVD Review: The Middleman – The Complete Series

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The Middleman was a series that was on ABC Family for the summer of 2008 with 12 of the 13 episodes being produced and aired. But first it was a comic created by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine published by Viper Comics in three volumes from 2005-2007. The series finds Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) joining a secret organization led by “The Middleman” (Matt Keeslar) who saves the world from evil so you don’t have to. As Morales describes the show, it’s a cross between Men in Black and Get Smart, which is very accurate, since the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and covers topics such as killer fish, vampire cows, alternate realities, and more.

Wendy is street smart, sarcastic, and doubtful when she first meets the Middleman, and is played very well by Morales. She’s also the perfect counterpoint to Keeslar’s Middleman, who is as straight-laced as they come, rarely swears (instead he uses nonsensical words), drinks four glasses of milk a day (with milk also kept in a hip flask), and unwinds by watching Randolph Scott Westerns. Basically he’s a throwback to the 1950s and is perfectly captured by Keeslar. The show is very faithful to the source material, with slight tweaks here and there, like Wendy’s costume covering more skin than what the comic had.

The set is broken up into four discs. There are four episodes on the first three discs and there are four commentaries, including the pilot and final episode. Participants include Grillo-Marxuach, Keeslar, Morales, and other cast and crew members. They talk about what it was like making the series, tricks to get around budget restraints like shooting certain scenes in black and white since it’s much cheaper than filming in color, and more. They had a lot of fun making the show and talking about it, and it comes across in these commentaries.

But the final disc is what fans of the show will be interested in as it’s loaded with extras. There are "Web Featurettes" that were originally available online and cover a tour of the set, going from comic to show and more. “Javi-Casts” were weekly podcasts with the shows creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach where he answers questions from the fans and gives insight to the show. There’s a funny gag reel which contains your typical flubs and mistakes. “Audition Footage” has the audition tapes for series stars Natalie Morales, Brit Morgan, Jake Smollett, and Mary Pat Gleason; it's interesting to see the auditions that got them their parts in the show. “The Opening Titles” is a montage of all three opening sequences used throughout the series' run.

“The Wilhelm Scream” is a famous sound effect used in many films including all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones flicks. Producers on The Middleman slipped the effect into all 12 episodes and this featurette has a montage of all the times it’s used in the series. There’s a cast read of the final episode “The Complete Palindrome Reversal Palindrome Table Read” including an alternate ending. “The Middle Manager” are five online promos filmed for the show. “PSAs” are public service announcements that pertain to the show and cover vampire cows, probes, getting your DNA stolen, and more.

The show was fun, quirky, and faithful to the source material, and it’s a shame the series didn’t find an audience and was canceled. But the DVD set is loaded with extras that make this set worth picking. There will also be a comic for the unproduced 13th episode coming in September, and if you were one of the lucky people who were at the San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, there was an opportunity to hear the cast do a reading of the script.

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