LOST Media Mentions - DarkUFO

Thanks to The ODI for the following.

ABC Family's new series The Middleman has been getting pretty great reviews, including by yours truly. The problem with a show like this one is that it doesn't really have a genre but is a combination of so many. It's like a geeky "Awesome Mix Tape" of genres and ideas that comes hurling at you with equal parts parody and homage. It's certainly unlike just about anything else on TV right now – and makes for a great diversion and diamond in the rough for the famine that is Summer television (a diamond wouldn't be all that useful to famine victims, but we'll deal with mixed metaphors later…)

In order to get a better idea of what The Middleman is, and where it's going – we went to the source. Javier Grillo-Marxuach is the show's creator, and he also created the independent comic book that became the series. Grillo-Marxuach has written for some of television's biggest shows – not the least of which is Lost - another show that breaks rules and mixes genres in a much different way. Talking to Grillo-Marxuach is a bit like watching his show – it's at a breakneck pace, it's often funny, at times confusing and never – for a single moment – dull.

IGN TV: What are you shooting today?

Javier Grillo-Marxuach: Today is the second to last day of an episode called "The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation," which is about a haunted sorority house. Wendy has to go undercover in a sorority house to uncover a sinister plot. They first believe it's ghosts, but it turns out to be some physics geeks who are doing some very interesting things with body-swapping. So that's what we're shooting right now. On Tuesday we start an episode called "The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown," which is about a Middleman from the 1960s to the present day to work with our crew. And that is going to be the Lollapalooza of spy-fi fro the 60s inside jokes. It is the staff of its show exorcising every demon from the 1960s spy-fi that we ever had.

It's going to be a lot of fun. It's a show that has all of the requisite things that have to happen in a 1960s spy-fi thing – martinis, exotic card games, colorful villains, arch nemeses, melting rays…

IGN: Let's talk about your demons for a second. Your spy-fi ones in particular. How did this come about, and where does all this come from? It certainly stretches back to before your time – into the pulp era and old issues of Amazing Stories…

Grillo-Marxuach: Well, there's two things about it. My generation is a pop-culture generation. There was an article in the magazine Fast Company and I was one of the people they profiled along with Damon Lindelof, Ron Moore, Jesse Alexander, Tim Kring and Joss Whedon – and it was all about how geeks were writing all of entertainment right now! We were the pre-internet pop-culture generation. The guys who read Starlog magazine. Frankly, it's all coming from being a sci-fi geek as a kid. I read a lot of comic books, and when you're a comic book reader you have this obsessive desire to discover back story and find out what the references are. Obviously Star Wars wasn't the first science fiction film and it wasn't the first pulp film, but you begin with whatever is popular in your day. Then you start looking for all of those influences and they're delightful.

Also, I grew up in Puerto Rico and the thing about Puerto Rican television was that a lot of the programming when I woke up – and I was a kid who would wake up at 6 and turn the TV on. It was a lot of cheap programming and so they reran a lot of serials. So when I was a kid I used to watch Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon and Commander Cody and all of these serials. Even things like Rin Tin Tin were shown on Puerto Rican television. So really sort of old stuff. And my generation is the last generation to have UHF. I'm 38 and I have a writer here who is 32, and whenever we talk – that's the cut-off for the UHF generation, and when it becomes TV Land.

So the UHF generation grew up with Creature Features, and I would run home and starting at 2pm it would be Ultraman and Johnny Socko…I feel like in a way the geeks of my generation have a knowledge base that goes further back. Because those UHF stations were showing the Man from Uncle and the Girl from Uncle and Secret Agent Man and all of these shows that are very hard to find now. Station groups can now afford to syndicate Seinfeld, and in a way that's sort of a tragedy because it means people aren't looking for inexpensive syndicated programming anymore. So you don't watch Get Smart at 3:30 in the afternoon like I did.

IGN: So all of this is in your blood. There's no single place or influence that you can point to.

Grillo-Marxuach: I think that there's four big ones. Obviously Star Wars. I was seven when it came out and it changed my life, as far as teaching me that I wanted to do this for a living. And Mad Magazine, when I was growing up, every issue was basically a primer on anti-establishment thought. It was also sly and satirical an dealt a lot with popular culture and especially advertising…Then there's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that came out when I was 10. As far as a mash-up of ideas that were popular in science fiction with satire and all of that. And of course there was The Muppet Show, which wasn't just the puppet show. For my generation they were the people doing short attention span sketches and taking popular culture and looking at it in a side-long way.

Middleman is hopefully a show that has its own integrity, and it has its own set of characters that live and breath in that universe. The other aspect of it is that the writers know that we're the 10,000th show to do "we're fighting the monster of the week." And so we have to do those stories saying "Okay, here's everything that came before us, how do we twist it?" I mean, you had the X-Files on for 9 years, 7 seasons of Buffy, 5 seasons of Angel. Smallville is in its 6th season, and there's been The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart and parodies of parodies of parodies. So if we can't look at this show and say – there's no way that we are not going to hit on a premise that in the 700 hours of Star Trek hasn't been done already. How do we make it special? So we're trying to riff on all that has come before us, trying to find the twist and do it knowingly and in a way that is true to our characters so that all of the self-referential-ity isn't at the expense of whether you love Wendy and The Middleman.

IGN: How would you pitch this show to someone who has no idea what it is?

Grillo-Marxuach: Well. Hm. The thing about Middleman is that you can always say it's "this meets that." You can always say it's "Felicity Meets Men in Black" or it's "Juno Meets Doctor Who" or something like that. Or maybe Gone with the Wind meets Wrath of Khan…I don't know! We got one review that said "This is a show for people that watch too much television, by people who've watched too much television," or something like that. It is an homage and a parody of popular culture with characters who are relatable and likeable and loveable.

IGN: Can you give us a hint of what's to come?

Grillo-Marxuach: Yeah! Alternate universes – there's an evil universe episode we're doing. We're doing an episode with the Middleman from the 1960s to fight his arch nemesis. We're doing vampire ventriloquist dummies, because you've gotta. We're doing an episode about a boy band that is actually five intergalactic dictators from outer space who are hiding out on Earth and accruing wealth and power so that they can go back and dominate their galaxy. We're doing zombie fish, because you've gotta do zombie fish. We're doing one about a techno-virus that turns Ida evil, and Middleman and Wendy have to fight one of their own. And Ida is a combat android from outer space disguised as a cranky librarian, so it's Terminator, but with Ida. We're doing Mexican Wrestlers, obviously. The stuff we're doing is just wacked, and it only gets wacked-er as it goes on.

Source: IGN

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