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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this tongue-in-cheek adventure show is based on a series of graphic novels. It takes pains to bring that comic-book atmosphere to the screen, so expect lots of over-the-top situations, plenty of strange characters, action sequences played for laughs instead of thrills, frequent pop culture references, and a hero whose main strength seems to be his ability to accept the unbelievable without batting an eye. Aside from the cartoony violence (which includes weapon use) and a bit of innuendo (there's some speculation about the sexuality of one character's boyfriend), there's not much for parents to worry about here -- unless being required to suspend your disbelief much more than usual is an issue.
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What's the story?
As an office temp, Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) has many useful skills. She's a speedy typist and great with a multi-line phone system. But perhaps her best talent is simply that she's good under pressure, able to fend off a gloppy, multi-tentacled creature when someone's DNA experiment at her latest job assignment goes very, very bad. Wendy's ability to keep her head when faced with the unbelievable and amazing (from talking animals to surly robots) catches the attention of THE MIDDLEMAN (Matt Keeslar), a mysterious hero who recruits her to become his sidekick. Their mission: to quickly and quietly resolve situations that the regular cops can't handle and usually refuse to believe.
Is it any good?
This action show intentionally skirts the line between quirky and silly, setting up one crazy situation after another. If it feels a lot like a comic book, that's no coincidence -- executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach created the Middleman character in a series of popular graphic novels. On the spectrum of action heroes, this show falls much closer to the wacky tone of Men in Black (also based on a comic book) than the thrills of Superman; it goes more for laughs than excitement.
The Middleman seems self-consciously aware of its position in the pop-culture pantheon; the character is deliberately trying to be a very different kind of hero, and the show often quotes well-known lines from well-known films likeThe Godfather and Independence Day. These references go by quickly, as if the writers are challenging the viewers to spot them. The people who can are probably the ones who will enjoy this show the most.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about comic book heroes. The Middleman isn't your average super hero -- do you think that makes his character less interesting than heroes who fall closer to the Superman/Spider-man/Batman model? Do you think there's room for more than one kind of hero in comic books or on screen? Why are so many comics made into movies or TV shows? There are many kinds of comics -- do some work better than others on the screen? Why?