The Boyfriend of the Week

September 22, 2008 [comment on this write-up]

Okay, I know this one is a little late -- Matt Keeslar's brilliant (BRILLIANT!!) TV series The Middleman just ended its first season on ABC Family and I really should've gotten this write-up on him posted two or three months ago so that more people would've tuned in. But hey, better late than never, and if they don't end up renewing it for a second season, at least I won't be able to blame YOU guys for it. It'll be all MY fault instead.

AS PER USUAL. Cripes.

Thing is, ABC Fam would be morons to cancel this series. Morons, I tell you! Until The Middleman started up this summer, I had never watched a single thing on their channel. I barely even knew they existed, and I would never have considered for a moment ever tuning in, assuming, as I'm sure many did, that it featured cheesy "family-friendly" fare. In fact, I probably wouldn't have watched The Middleman either had I not read a review of it that described it as a combination of The Avengers and Doctor Who. And even then, I was a bit wary, because as a veteran viewer of FX and HBO, shows that are excessively "clean" just strike me as awkward. If there's no swearing or sexual innuendo of any kind, which I assumed an ABC Family Channel series would avoid, I just get confused as to which country I'm currently in. Iraq? How did I get here?

But, again: the bastard child of The Avengers and Doctor Who? How can you NOT give THAT a try? And after the first episode, I was totally on board, though I confess to a few minor reservations. At first, I felt like the characters were trying just a little too hard to be funny and quirky, which is something that gets on my nerves (it's why I can't watch The Big Bang Theory, by the way, even though everybody else seems to love that show: too much punch-lining and laugh-tracking for my tastes).

But by the third episode, "The Sino-Mexican Revelations," my reservations had been all but forgotten. By episode five, "The Flying Fish Zombification," an episode my Mom and I now reference simply by crying out the word, "Trooooout!", I was madly in love with both the show and its star Matt Keeslar. Everybody had settled into their roles quite nicely, and the hilarity and oddness was spot-on every week.

And wow, is this show anything but "excessively clean." The first time I heard one of the characters use the word "whore," a word that wouldn't even make me blink on any other channel, I had to rewind to make sure I'd heard it right. And though it's still EXCEEDINGLY tame by American TV standards, I'm sure it's not a show the Parents Television Council is a big fan of. This is good.

(And yes, I do feel a bit weird confessing that I found their use of the word "whore" reassuring. But I'm nothing if not a product of my filthy-mouthed generation. You should hear me after I've been watching Deadwood -- I could make my FATHER blush, and he was in the Marines!)

Based on a comic book series by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, The Middleman is a quirky little show about a guy, known only as "The Middleman," whose job it is to fight monsters, aliens, and other evil creatures "so that you don't have to." When he gets a call that a big blob is attacking an office downtown, he heads in to do battle only to discover the blob getting its butt kicked by a temp named Wendy Watson (played brilliantly by the gorgeous AND talented Natalie Morales -- mark my words, we will be seeing a lot more of her if this show gets canceled).

Impressed, The Middleman offers her a job at HIS temp agency (the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency -- I so need a tee-shirt), which Wendy soon learns is a cover for the organization known only as O2STK ("Organization Too Secret To Know" -- I so also need a tee-shirt).

At first, Wendy, known to her friends as "Dub-Dub" or "Dubbie" because of the two W's in her name, is a bit hesitant. But she's a natural fit for the job and her alien-hiney-thrashing skills are undeniable. It's not long before Wendy and The Middleman are working together perfectly. And by "working together," I primarily mean "exchanging delightful banter with lots and lots and LOTS of hilarious pop-culture and literature references that even I don't catch all of."

Sweet mother of Preston Tucker, this show totally rocks!

But that original review -- the one that compared it to The Avengers et al. -- omitted one very key and VERY definite other influence, and it's one that ought to make those of you who missed it extremely eager to catch up as soon as possible. Because, friends, there is NO WAY the makers of this series haven't seen Due South. The Middleman is practically Constable Benton Fraser all over again ('cept he's 'Merican, of course). There was one episode in which he even said the phrase, "Thank you kindly," which made me do a double-take and then swoon so hard I fell off the couch. He's sweet, smart, and exceedingly polite. He even sort of looks like the Constable, which tells you just about everything you need to know in regards to whether or not I find him ridiculously hunkazoidal. (Answer: hell to the HECK-YEAH!)

How in the eyeglasses of T.J. Eckleburg could anyone NOT love this show? The Middleman is quirky, hilarious, brilliant, weird, and extraordinarily fun. Unfortunately, this means I'm 99% sure it won't get picked up for a second season. Will the TV Cancellation Curse o' Meg strike again? I'm waiting for word, and also holding out hope that if ABC Family dumps it, the Sci-Fi channel will pick it up. [Visit http://middlefan.com to join their campaign to save The Middleman!]

In the meantime, if you missed the series, you can find the entire first season on iTunes. Be the best twenty bucks you've spent since you bought that used copy of MacGyver Season Three, I assure you. (Though, man, I love that "Ghost Ship" episode in MacGyver Season Three, don't you? Good old fashioned cheesy fun. It's my opinion that no TV series is complete without an episode about Bigfoot. Hear that, Middleman? Bring out the Sasquatch!)

Now, let's say you've seen The Middleman, or you don't think it's your thing, and/but you want to know more about Matt Keeslar. What else could you watch? My original answer to this question was going to involve at least five of his movies, but I ran into a couple of snags.

First, I watched Keeslar's film Live From Baghdad. Two hours later, as the final credits rolled, it occurred to me I never actually SAW Matt Keeslar. Even though this film is in his IMDb list. Maybe he was cleverly disguised as Helena Bonham Carter? Or Josh from The Blair Witch Project (yep, that was Josh from The Blair Witch Project, by the way)? Anyway, I may have missed him while I was dozing off in the middle -- this film is about a bunch of CNN reporters during the first Gulf War and though it THINKS it's The Killing Fields, I know The Killing Fields and this, sir, is NOT The Killing Fields. (The film that IS The Killing Fields, by the way, a film coincidentally titled The Killing Fields, is fabulous and stars ex-Boyfriend Sam Waterston -- rent it.)

After the Live from Baghdad debacle, I next rented Texas Rangers. It sat around on my coffee table for five days, but I never got around to watching it because, well, Dylan McDermott? And Dawson Leary? In a Western? I'm just not sure I can go there (even though I'm half-way sure I already have -- the plot sounded awfully familiar. . .).

So, instead of my original five, I will give you the following three.

Scream 3 (2000). When I first saw The Middleman, I spent most of the pilot episode thinking, "Damn, that guy is so familiar. Who IS that guy?" and then it hit me. That guy is the guy who played Dewey in Stab 3!

Only fans of the Scream horror-satire series are going to know what I just meant by that, so allow me to explain. In the movie Scream 3, a bunch of actors play a bunch of actors who are making a movie called Stab 3, which is about the original murders from Scream 1. Matt plays the guy who plays Dewey in Stab 3 -- Dewey, the cop character from Screams 1-3 who is played by David Arquette. You follow? I thought not. He gets killed, by the way. The guy playing Dewey, I mean. Not David Arquette's Dewey -- Matt Keeslar's Dewey.

What? Oh nevermind. . .

I love the Scream movies and watch them frequently, so you may think it's odd I didn't immediately recognize Keesler as the Dewey wannabe. I'll tell you how that happened, though. In a word: mustache. And in a phrase: tight pants. Awfully distracting, both. Though for two totally different reasons.

Rose Red (2002). Good lord, this is a bad movie (miniseries, actually). When will Stephen King be stopped? I mean, after he got hit by that van, didn't he announce he was retiring from writing fiction? WHY HASN'T HE RETIRED FROM WRITING FICTION, THEN? In any case, I've actually seen this miniseries TWICE, which just goes to show you how dumb I am. I saw it the first time many years ago, but I had to rerent it recently because I couldn't remember which character Matt played. Oh, the agony a failing brain can bring. . .

The movie is about a haunted mansion (in Seattle, no less!) that a group of paranormal investigators have decided to explore and study. Matt plays the boyfriend of the main investigator, and also is the last living relative of the family who originally built the mansion. Blah blah blah, nothing to see here, move along, blah blah blah.

Psycho Beach Party (2000). You know what's funny about this movie? I know the assistant director's mother (hi, Ellen D.!)! You know what else is funny about this movie?

THIS MOVIE!

Oh man, people, this movie is absolutely hilarious. It's a spoof of 60's beach/surfing movies (you know, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, etc.?), only with a dose of slasher-flick thrown into the mix. Keeslar actually has a fairly small role in this (though it ends up being an extremely significant role, I should add), playing a Swedish guy, Lars, who is renting a room in the house where the main character, a bouncy girl nicknamed Chicklet lives. Chicklet has decided she wants to be a surfer and hang out with the guys, but when they reject her, she has a tendency to turn into Ann Bowden, an alternate persona who takes no crap from men. Lucky for her, the great Kanaka, a surf legend, has fallen hard for Ann Bowden, and he takes Chicklet under his wing and starts teaching her the ropes (hilarious thing #6543: Kanaka, played by Thomas Gibson of Criminal Minds, speaks only in surf rhymes). Unlucky for her, someone has started killing off residents of their small beach town, and it's not long before Chicklet begins to fear one of her alternate personas is to blame.

It sounds weird, I know. I know it, I really do. In fact, I almost didn't watch it myself. But once I started it up, it had me laughing out loud so often I was afraid my face might freeze that way. Definitely one I will be getting on DVD so I can watch it whenever I need a good guffaw. (By the way, it also stars Nicholas Brendon, who, coincidentally, was also on Criminal Minds last season.)

So, there you have it. Four things to watch Matt Keeslar in, three of which are awesome and one of which should be avoided like the plague. Not a bad ratio, all things considered. If you have any favorite Keeslar movies that I missed (not counting Texas Rangers!) be sure to let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the Cancellation Curse o' Meg has not struck again. The world can always use more weird TV, especially when it comes to shows that feature lines like, "It's bad apples like you who put Mr. Hoover in a dress."

I'm as serious as a German film festival, people -- The Middleman is awesome.

MacGyver Factor Score: 99.254%. Points off for making me watch Rose Red again. So uncool, man!

Points back, though, for once saying this: If we don't find an antidote, her heart's gonna explode like a sausage casing full of weasels!

Oh my god, I think I'm in love.

[comment on this write-up]


Boyfriend-Related Links

Matt's IMDb page
Matt Keeslar fan page
Official ABC Family Middleman site
Hilarious clip of The Middleman's bizarre exclamations
A list of quotes from the series (including more exclamations)
Middlefan.com -- save The Middleman!


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