Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Yes, THE MIDDLE – a show that gets no love and certainly no press and yet is beginning its fifth season on ABC. It also gets hardly any on air promotion. Here’s a typical ABC promo: “Tonight it’s a new episode of THE MIDDLE followed by the best comedy on television, MODERN FAMILY.” Nice.
Having spent years on WINGS and BECKER I know full well how frustrating it can be to work on a damn good show that gets no respect. THE MIDDLE certainly belongs in that category.
Unlike MODERN FAMILY, it’s not trendy, or sexy, or glamorous, or… “Modern”, but that’s its charm. It’s a middle-class family living in Nowhere, Indiana, trying to make ends meet. Period. Except everyone in it and everything they do is damn funny.
I love the three kids. First of all, they look funny. They’re not particularly precious and adorable. The teenage girl is skinny with braces, the older brother is goofy and gawky, and the younger sibling could go either way between your typical American kid or future serial killer.
The older son’s name is Axl and for five years now every time someone calls his name it sounds like they’re calling him “asshole.”
The parents are equally fun. Patricia Heaton’s Frankie is not above lying and scheming to keep things together. Nor is she above leveling with the kids that things are doomed. Patty plays a more active character than she did on RAYMOND and it’s fun to watch her operate under pressure – which is most of the time.
Neil Flynn as the dad attempts to add sanity to this motley brood and happily rarely succeeds.
Beyond the characters, I greatly appreciate the storytelling. The stories are always well-thought-out, clever, funny, paced well, and service everybody. The season opener saw the family drive oldest-son Asshole… I mean Axel off to college. A 45 minute trip took five hours, complete with mishaps, an inflatable palm tree, funny lines, purse spray, a fax machine, potato chip binging, missing cell phone, missing college scholarship, nice character moments, and half a squirrel (the top half).
Maybe it’s not cool or hip to recommend THE MIDDLE, but when have I ever been cool and hip? Check it out. The best new show you might discover this year is one that is now its in fifth season.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM