Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TV: Well, If You Like Comic Books ...

Tonight's debut of The Middle Man on ABC Family was entertaining to me. I LIKE comic books. On the other hand, if you aren't a comic-book aficionado, I'm pretty sure you probably went, "Hunh?"

The Middle Man is actually from a comic book, a little indy title penned by Javier Grillo-Marxouch. It's his sideline have-fun project between writing and producing gigs on such shows as Lost, Medium, Charmed, Jake 2.0 and The Pretender. He knows of where he speaks in the TV biz. And, as it turns out, he writes a charming little comic book.

So what went wrong with the transmutation of the black ink-stained pages to the little screen. It's too much of an inside joke. The patter is fast, Lorelei Gilmore-fast. The problem is that it's written in code, the comic book code of loony lingo, salted with the names of two dozen comic book characters and their alter-egos. Ranges from charming to chuckle-worthy funny ... if you know what the hell they are talking about. I did. I smiled a lot. Laughed out loud once. That's a pretty good score.

But my mother? The various folks I work for? My dentist? The lady at the checkout counter during my late-night run for milk and bread? Not a one of them would get this show at all. And that's too bad.

The show itself is more or less timely. It'll be hard not to think about The Middle Man when I finally set peepers on the Get Smart movie later this month. Matt Keeslar's Middle Man has a chunk of Dudley Do-Right and the fecklessness of (and wardrobe) of Wil Wheaton from the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But he's just really a spiffed up Maxwell Smart. And Natalie Morales plays wise beyond her partner, Wendy Watson, as a modern-day Agent 99. I imagine a generation of boys would be growing up thinking of her in the same lusty way I did Barbara Feldon 40 years ago, if the show lasted long enough to develop a cult following.

But I think it will be 13 and out ... even with the gun-toting gorillas in the origin issue errr first episode.

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