2009 Fall Preview: “The Middle”


Network: ABC

Premiere date: Wednesday, September 30 at 8:30 p.m., ET

Cast: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, Chris Kattan

Synopsis (from ABC):

Forget about athletes, movie stars and politicians. Parents are the real heroes–but we think Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), must be some kind of superhero. A loving wife and mother of three, she’s middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age.

Frankie and her husband, Mike (Neil Flynn), have lived in Orson, Indiana, their whole lives. A man of few words (every one a zinger), Mike is a manager at the town quarry and Frankie is the third-best used car salesman (out of the three) at the local dealership. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she’ll go to just about any length. And with kids like these, she had better. There’s Axl (Charlie McDermott), her semi-nudist teenage son conceived while under the influence of Guns N’ Roses; Sue (Eden Sher), the awkward teenage daughter who fails at everything… but with the utmost of gusto; and their seven-year-old son Brick (Atticus Shaffer), whose best friend is his backpack.

Sometimes it seems like everyone is trying to get to the top, or struggling not to hit bottom, but we think Frankie and her family will find a lot of love, and a lot of laughs, somewhere in The Middle.

What We Say:

Heaton as Super Mom

Patricia Heaton as Super Mom

This show seems unfortunately named if it wants to distinguish itself from “Malcolm in the Middle”, it’s closest counter part. That being said, I was a fan of that show, and I have a feeling this one might win me over too. The kids could definitely win this one over, especially the youngest, Brick (Shaffer), who seems like Dewey off his meds. I chuckled more than once at the preview, and I might tune in for the premiere if nothing else. I know who will LOVE this show, and that’s my mom. She was a passionate fan of Heaton’s previous post-Raymond outing, “Back to You”, as well as a fan of basically every family sitcom.

What might set this sitcom apart may be the dry tone of the dialog and the stylized look. The colors seem simultaneously muted and brash, giving it a slightly dazed feeling that seems to parallel Heaton’s narration. Flynn consistently steals the show on “Scrubs”, and his acerbic wit might play well against the typically strong Heaton.

If there’s one thing the show has right, it’s the characterization of the Midwest. I recognized the giant cow, the occupations (my cousin is a quarry manager and 3 of my 4 parents sold cars), and the show choir techs. Nothing I’ve seen so far would be out of place in my home town of Hoopeston, IL (Go Cornjerkers!).

This one is definitely worth a look, and will likely be a hit with the family crowd.

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