Matt Keeslar and Natalie Morales by Eike Schroter/ABC Family
I used to love it on those rare occasions when The X-Files would play it totally for laughs. So imagine my delight when I stumbled (still in catch-up mode) upon my first authentically guilty pleasure of the summer TV season: ABC Family's goofy but fun The Middleman, a knowingly cheesy and relentlessly jokey sci-fi caper teaming a straight-arrow hero (Matt Keeslar from Sci Fi's Dune remake) with a snarky bohemian slacker (Natalie Morales) who's miraculously unfazed by the monsters and creatures in her midst. The show premiered Monday (regular time: 8 pm/ET), and the pilot episode- worth watching if only for an inspired send-up of the classic The Avengers credits- repeats Sunday at 10:30 pm/ET (following ABC Family's showing of Disney's Camp Rock).

It's all very comic book- and they refer to comics a lot on this show- which is fitting, given the show's basis in a series of graphic novels written by Lost vet and series creator/executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach. He sets a tone here that is equal parts Batman ('60s version) pop-action camp and rapid-fire Gilmore Girls banter. Taking even a moment of it seriously would be a mistake. And why would you want to?

The Middleman, played by Keeslar with a crisp and deadpan cool, is a mysterious agent for good, cleaning up exotic messes and tackling outrageous evils, all the while uttering corny phrases like "dag diggity" and re-Goshdarn-diculous." This unnamed Gary Cooper clone recruits the incessantly ironic Wendy Watson (Morales) after her latest temp job is interrupted by a lab explosion that unleashes a tentacled blob which she fights off without blinking. When the Middleman arrives on the scene and compliments her grace under pressure, she counters, "Are you hitting on me?" From then on, they're a team- although he wishes she wouldn't curse ("Profanity cheapens the soul and weakens the mind") while she laments his fondness for country music ("Cut out the twang, Gomer").

Cheerfully absurd in its plotting- the pilot deals with genetically engineered super-genius primates, one of whom goes on a mob-killing spree, leaving banana peels behind as a signature- the show is laced with clever quips, pop-culture references and a willingness to stoop for a laugh, no matter if groans are involved. "Get your filthy paws offa me, you darn dirty ape," Wendy says in the pilot's action climax. Really. She says that.

I'm not saying The Middleman is likely to become an X-Files-level obsession, but as a summer diversion, it hits a certain silly sweet spot and goes down awfully easy.

Related:
" Matt Keeslar Q&A: Meet the Middleman