TV Article

Cut up 'The Middleman'

The new series is a mix of ''The Avengers,'' ''The Tick,'' and ''Reaper''

The Avengers
As in the stylish '60s Brit romp, a pair of bantering (and borderline romantic) secret agents — one male (Matt Keeslar) and one female (Natalie Morales) — are employed by a clandestine agency whose leadership is rarely seen...and perhaps totally beside the point. The series is set in the fanciful ''spy-fi'' milieu, so our heroes can battle both terrorists and mutant monsters.

The Tick
Like the blue boob, the Middleman doesn't just wallow in comic-book conventions. He's an ironic commentary about them — a square-jawed, milk-drinking, swearing-averse superguy who knows he's a square-jawed, milk-drinking, swearing-averse superguy. And like the Tick's sidekick, Arthur, Morales' Wendy is more sensible, is equally fanboyish, and sweats being the weak link.

Reaper
Our hero's hip and hot twentysomething ''chosen one'' partner is just as relatable as The CW's demon hunter: broke, romantically challenged, steeped in pop culture, but not totally shallow. Because as playfully far-fetched as the show is, it needs to be grounded in (extensively market-researched) reality. Toss in slacker friends and a random frumpy old lady and — voilà! — The Middleman.

Originally posted Jun 13, 2008 Published in issue #998 Jun 20, 2008 Order article reprints