The Middle: Season 1
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Patricia Heaton stars as Frankie Heck in this warm and witty single-camera comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations. Frankie Heck is a superhero. Well, no, not an actual superhero - but sometimes it seems to Frankie as though getting her kids out the door for school every morning is a superheroic act. Middle aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country, this harried wife and working mother of three uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact.
The Middle is the most honest--and, for that reason, the funniest--sitcom about middle class family life since Roseanne. Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond) wearily runs a cluttered, chaotic household with her husband Mike (Neil Flynn, Scrubs) and three unruly kids: sullen teen jock Axl (Charlie McDermott), hopeless klutz Sue (Eden Sher), and smart but socially awkward Brick (Atticus Shaffer). The plots revolve around the kind of mild crises that make domestic life so difficult: Frankie and Mike can't find time to be alone together; debts force difficult choices; the kids spend more time watching television than talking to each other. Again and again, Frankie longs to teach her kids good values but realizes she isn't living up to those values herself--and her reluctant efforts to muster virtue within herself can be achingly funny. Frankie is superbly well realized, a perfect match of writing and performer. Heaton portrays her contradictory impulses (virtue vs. convenience, open-heartedness vs. a hunger for just a little time alone) with wonderful subtlety; the wary look in her eyes flickers between sincerity and cynicism.
The supporting cast is every bit as strong. These kids actually look and act like kids, in all their obnoxious, oblivious, naive glory, not like glossy supermodels in training. Flynn pulls his own deft balancing act, making husband Mike blunt and a little insensitive without seeming like a jerk or a caricature. The show is still working out some kinks--Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live) plays a hapless coworker of Frankie's; the character has possibilities and Kattan seems game for anything, but the writers don't quite know what to do with him yet. A host of guest stars--including Brooke Shields as a white trash neighbor and Betty White as an imperious librarian--fit nicely into the show's world, rather than sticking out like stunt casting. The Middle treats middle America with compassion, intelligence, and genuine appreciation. --Bret Fetzer
Sue's Best Shots: Sue's school photos provide the springboard for cast and crew to recall their own school photo experiences
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I was introduced to this show through a lunch conversation with my sister. She was laughing hysterically as she explained the various characters (example, whispering to herself when describing "Brick"). The show sounded interesting and I had always loved Patricia Heaton in Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Series, so I had to find this little advertised show and give it a watch.
It was LOVE at first sight! Even though I hadn't had the background of the show, I saw one or two episodes from season 2 and fell in love with the wonderful cast of characters. Brick, Sue, Frankie, Mike and Axl. A perfect blend of characters, the show is gut-wrenchingly funny.
After seeing 1-2 episodes I quickly ordered the first season on DVD so that I could catch up. This is one of the few shows where "out of the box" the series is funny. The first episode sets the framework up beautifully and does not leave the viewer wanting anything except more episodes. We watch these over and over and are waiting with baited breath for season 2 to hit DVD.
If you want a refreshingly funny comedy that is family friendly, this is it. The characters are clever and funny. I am hoping this series lasts many, many seasons. It's a winner!
The only thing I feel didn't really ring true to reality of being middle class was the fact that they never had money for anything, unless it was fast food (every night) or small things to give their kids instant gratification (such as buying Sue the jeans in the episode "The Jeans".)
Overall, next to Seinfeld, this is my favorite sitcom.