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American parents, take this, it will make you feel better
on October 20, 2013
If your family lives in a spotless house, never eats junk food or worries about money and always has enough matching chairs for the kitchen table, you might not think this show is hilarious. If you are one of the rest of us,and are (right now) putting off the hunt for that permission slip for your kid's field trip, this is the show for you. If you once bounced a check for a field trip and now need to send cash, that goes double, triple if the principal wrote you a nasty note.
Season five of The Middle has the whole Heck family dealing with son Axl's move to college, starting with the traumatic school drop off and then dealing with the change. While Sue and Brick happily contemplate an Axl free life, Mom (Frankie) swings between tears and guilt, and Dad (Mike) quietly misses his boy. Of course, Axl is hardly out of the house before he's back home lecturing his family about the challenges of college. Brick starts junior high, proving that there is no place in junior high for a bright original bookworm. The Heck's meeting with the vice principal will have parents of ADD kids in stitches. Sue Heck a high school junior now, finds that there are whole corridors where she can now walk, now that Axl is gone. She is still the least likely kid to be popular, but easiest to underestimate.
The Middle is a hilarious show, but it has a serious message. The Heck's don't have a big income but this show is not about class. Lack of time, demands from public schools, kids' problems, getting fired, not having time to cook--these are things that most families struggle with. What is impressive, the show seems to say, is what they do get accomplished. The Heck's do their best. Frankie and Mike take their kids to church, even as they wear out their welcome borrowing the church van. They endure teachers who imply that Brick is broken and they should fix him and other teachers who can't remember that Sue exists. Brick treats even the most clueless bullies with respect. Sue bakes cookies for the kids on the bus who have taunted her and asks the Reverend Tim Tom for advice. Even Axl, at college with a disagreeable roommate is starting to show signs of having been brought up right, as he suggests that he and his roomie clean things up. ("I did something I never do. I tried taking Mom's advice.")
Frankie is sure that her house should be cleaner, her cooking better, her parenting more organized--but I'm not so sure. These kids are going to be fine.