'The Middleman': Out in 12 or Back for Two?

It's Friday, Aug. 1, and ABC Family's Monday-night superhero comedy-drama "The Middleman" is shooting a scene in the parking lot of the show's soundstages in Culver City, Calif., but you wouldn't know what's being filmed if you only saw star Matt Keeslar.

Instead of being a clean-cut, upright, evil-fighting, enigmatically named Middleman in a white shirt, dark tie and Eisenhower jacket, he's got a mullet, a scruffy goatee, an eyepatch and no sleeves -- revealing an impressive set of biceps (mostly kept under wraps so far).

"Do you think if the Middleman had been nakeder we'd have a higher audience on the show?" says series creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach.

That question may turn out to be academic (but there is "naked Kevin Sorbo in episode nine," Grillo-Marxuach says). Filming has now ended on "The Middleman" after 12 episodes, but whether that's only for now or for all time remains to be seen.

"It is the last episode of our first season," Grillo-Marxuach says. "We were working on a 13th episode, and we came to an arrangement with the network to throw an extra day at this 12th episode and some extra money in exchange for the 13th episode.

"So this episode is a bigger, better 'Middleman' than anything that's come before it."

Grillo-Marxuach refashioned "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome," which airs Monday, Sept. 1, into a season closer for his tale of the crusading Middleman and his apprentice, struggling artist Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales).

In the story, an evil villain called the Palindrome has been communicating psychically with his opposite number, a good Palindrome, in an evil parallel universe.

Feeling he'd be happier there, the evil Palindrome seeks to cross over and drags Wendy with him. She finds herself paired up with a Middleman who's more Snake Plissken than Boy Scout.

It turns out that more than just the Middleman has changed. His dowdy android assistant Ida is now a hot blond working on her tan lines, and Wendy's socially conscious roommate, confrontational spoken-word artist Lacey (Britt Morgan), has had a change of heart -- and diet.

"We find out that Wendy's loft has been transformed into a gentleman's club," Grillo-Marxuach says, "where they serve rabbit stew. So even Lacey has turned into a whole other type of character. She now eats meat. She served rabbit stew to her patrons -- I think it's hasenpfeffer, actually.

"And she gets to wear sexier clothes."

To emphasize his positive, upbeat view of fighting evil, Grillo-Marxuach ends the episode that way, saying "all is right with the world. I thought, really, that's the best note to end the season on. Leave it on a note of optimism.

"The fate of the show is uncertain, and that's really no secret. I thought a conclusive note that states what the show is about was a better way to end the first season and go into the possibility of a second season or perhaps not the possibility of a second season."

On his blog, Grillo-Marxuach subtly hints that fans should send M&M candies to ABC Family to show their love for the show (he never mentions them by name, but there are four pictures full of candy-coated chocolate goodness).

While ABC Family ponders the future of "The Middleman," Grillo-Marxuach has no regrets.

"ABC Family was the only network out there," he says, "that took a look at the script and said, 'We want to make this show exactly the way you want to make it.' Doing 12 episodes that are my vision as opposed to 129 that are compromised and watered down, is priceless.

"The love the show. They want the show to succeed."

According to Grillo-Marxuach, if ABC Family it can't keep "The Middleman," that doesn't mean it has to disappear.

"If ABC Family decides this is not a show that is, right now, as compatible with his brand as it could be," he says, "and if they decide to take it elsewhere, I'm on board.

"They produce the show. They stand to profit from the success of the show. If we have to go to another network, they will be the ones spearheading that.

"My impression is that they're not uninterested in aggressively pursuing a sale to another network."