Wednesday, May 23, 2018

THE MIDDLE series finale

Last night was the final episode of THE MIDDLE. It was very bittersweet saying goodbye to the best sitcom on current TV that was never afforded the respect it deserved. And for the life of me I don’t know why. It was often as good or better than MODERN FAMILY but never received any Emmy love. Everyone’s making a big deal about ROSEANNE speaking for working American families – well hell, THE MIDDLE has been doing that for nine years.

Today it’s less about quality and more about the zeitgeist. What shows are hot? Or worse, perceived as hot even though they’re not? How many ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY articles have there been for THE MINDY PROJECT? Or shows on networks no one can get?

Meanwhile, THE MIDDLE offered consistently high quality entertainment and humor and was beloved by millions of people – just not the RIGHT millions for any recognition.

The truth is THE MIDDLE was more deserving of the Best Comedy Emmy than a number of winners over its nine year run. Eden Sher should have nine Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmys. NINE.

The finale was lovely, very much within the style of the show (I always love Heck family car trips), satisfying, and (SPOILER ALERT) I love they had used a cellphone Family Plan to be a metaphor for their family. “Minutes” are precious.

Congratulations to Eileen Heisler & DeAnn Heline, their terrific writing staff (pictured above with me), and cast and crew.

I suspect time will be very kind to THE MIDDLE. People will be watching and enjoying this series long after the more edgy and ironic shows fade from view. Maybe ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY will even do a reunion article. Nah, they’ll do four TRANSPARENT reunions instead.

Cheers to THE MIDDLE.

51 comments :

tavm said...

Because of a flood that caused me to lose my recording devices and my work hours, I hadn't seen "The Middle" in a few years but when I could then, I marveled at the writing, acting, and how real the situations were on the show. And so watching it all wrap up last night, and being written by the show's creators, it has never lost it's footing of presenting a low income, ever dysfunctional but always loving family at their best and worst, usually at the same time. And the way the three offspring ended up was a nice way to truly end the show. So while it's the very last time we'll see the Hecks in new eps, their old ones should be enough for future viewers to discover and be enthralled by as we all were back in the day...

Jim S said...

I very much enjoyed the show. What I particularly liked was how they were often the architect of their own problems. The mom had all these plans, but was too lazy to actually follow through on them. If she actually applied herself, life would be so much better. I'm like that.

Axle skated through life, but had moments of panic when his veil of denial was pierced. Mike was gruff and a loner, but realized that his daughter (his favorite child) was growing up and going to leave him and he did not like that. He complained about his closed off father, but was very much like him.

I loved it when the grandparents, played by the late, great Jerry Van Dyke and Marsha Mason, slammed Axle for wasting a scholarship opportunity. He went to them for sympathy and instead got a dose of reality.

All in all, an entertaining show. They even call soda pop like us Midwesterners.

Anonymous said...

How do your hands reach across the entire front row onto the shoulders of the ladies at either end?

McAlvie said...

Very true, Ken. Middle has been a very good old-school sitcom. But these days everything is about "trends" and micro markets, so a show that embodied the best of 80s sitcoms without needing time machine, a show that was actually on for nine years without needing to be censored or moved to HBO, well that wasn't going to get respect. Especially since it had appeal across generations. You know, a REAL 80s style tv show.

And you are right that it more closely resembled blue collar America than Roseanne ever did. I come from rural Midwest blue collar roots, so I know what I'm talking about.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ken, it never got the love from the entertainment world. HECK, We didn't start watching the Middle until well into it's first season.
We just didn't know it was on!
THE best single-camera comedy for the last 9 years.

Obviously, Pattie Heaton and Neil Flynn are comedic perfection, but the kids were so well cast... and then there's the cast of thousands... The Neighbors, the coworkers, the Orsen townsfolk.

THE best single-camera comedy for the last 9 years.

Terrence Moss said...

The Emmys no longer know what they're doing. It was one of the best finales ever because it did exactly what it needed to do -- provide closure while also hinting (or in this case provide glimpses into) about the character's futures.

Brian Fies said...

Eden Sher was terrific, perfectly capturing a gangly, awkward, gold-hearted girl you know will grow into an amazing woman even if she never knows it herself. I raised two of them, and Sue Sue Heck consistently left me with heartache and a grin. I also can't think of a sitcom that made better use of its peripheral characters: Reverend Tim Tom, Weird Ashley, the guys at the quarry, various neighbors and relatives--all given chances to shine and even develop over the seasons. Good running gags that rewarded loyal viewers. "The Middle" (and Sher) deserved better than they got.

OrangeTom said...

Never knew you were a fan of the show, Ken. That is great to hear.

I discovered The Middle three or four years ago and have been hooked ever since. Writing has remained consistently amazing and the acting superb. As you noted, Eden Sher deserves multiple Emmys. A great physical comedienne. Always loved watching her and Charlie McDermott work together. And I wish Neil Flynn got more recognition. In some ways, his character was my favorite part of the show.

Probably in the top three of my top all-time sitcoms beside Frasier and the UK Coupling.

Tom said...

Agreed on everything you wrote, Ken. For newcomers to "The Middle," I would submit this scene as a summary of the entire show, doing what it did best:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf2KyDepkZc

Rory Wohl said...

Never could get into "The Middle" because I find Patricia Heaton grating. I'm not knocking her as an actress; I appreciate her craft and understand why she appeals to many other people. She's just not my cup o' tea.

suesea7 said...

Haven't seen the finale yet, as I was caught in airplane travel hell, but I do love The Middle. Sue and her best friend Brad are my favorite characters, along with Brick. And the Reverend Tim Tom...and the Glossners...and...

Sue in Seattle

Unknown said...

I submit that in 30 years, people will still be watching and laughing at this show.

Ii places up there with Cheers, Newhart and WKRP, just funny and enjoyable.

It never got respect because it was not edgy or "clever" in the ironic way that is supposedly so important to the networks.

We did not start watching it until 2016 (we don't really watch much TV), but since Hallmark and Freeform play it so often, it is easy to see all the episodes in short time.

Steven said...

My mom was a fan of The Middle from the beginning, thus I watched it off and on over the years. I think it's a great example of something you've talked before on this blog Ken. Sometimes it takes a show a few seasons to find its comedic footing.

I didn't think the first season episodes were that funny. I thought if the show survived it would stick around simply because it was a mildly amusing show the whole family could watch, a la the Last Man Standing. However the writing starting in the third season or so really improved and never dropped.


One thing that always bugged me about the show is that the actors playing the Heck kids were all significantly older than the characters they played on screen. They were all perfect in their respective roles, but for some reason the age disparity took me out of the show a little bit.

Dan Reese said...

Love The Middle and agree with everything you said.
Do you think Sue & Sean could carry a spinoff?

Janet Ybarra said...

@Rory Wohl, I have to agree with you. I found her character unnecessarily mean to Ray Romano's character on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and that just left a bad taste in my mouth I suppose.

blinky said...

Man you got it right about the zeitgeist. It is the same with movies. GET OUT was at best an extended Key and Peale sketch and it almost won best picture.

Tom said...

I'm a big fan of The Middle but I think part of its problem is distribution. Hulu has only the last five episodes, neither Netflix nor Amazon has prior series.

I'm sad about it ending but optimistic it'll finally become streamable as part of its migration into syndication packages.

Astroboy said...

A favorite show I've watched from episode one. I've been in awe of Eden Sher's talent these last nine years. Sue Sue Heck has been, by far, my most TV character for years. The last few years I've come to appreciate Charlie McDermott's acting, he seems to have really grown in the part. Mind you I was ALWAYS very impressed how confident this young man was in the part because for so many of the years of the show he every seemed to wear nothing but boxer shorts and never ever seemed self conscious about it. I know I couldn't have done it! Will really miss the show. Last thing, I loved the final site gag of a plane passing over the 'middle' of the country as it flew, I'm sure, from one coast to the other. Kudos to all involved in the show.

Paul Duca said...

And we won't see a revival/reboot because Heaton will never use her personal conservatism for ostentatious public manipulation.

Will Harris said...

I loved it. In fact, I wrote a recap of it for the AV Club wherein I expressed that love.

https://tv.avclub.com/this-is-the-way-the-middle-ends-not-with-a-bang-but-a-1826205448

cshel said...

I agree 100%. I love THE MIDDLE. It's always been one of my favorite shows. It deserved a lot more love and recognition, especially Eden, Patricia, and the writers. Start the series reruns - and plans for the reboot now. : )

Anonymous said...

My family has loved the Middle - it was the first non-kid (Disney, Nickelodeon) show we would watch together as a family, and we have enjoyed it right through its run. Agree with all of your points, especially about Eden Sher being criminally overlooked by the Emmy committee. I enjoy watching the reruns on Hallmark and also agree that this show will age very well/be viewed by people for a long time. Kudos to the team that put it together.

(Submitted as anonymous but my name is Eric and I live in NJ, USA - not the middle)

Anonymous said...

Also a huge fan of The Middle.
Enjoyed the finale, but sad the show is gone.

Ken- I knew you were also a fan and this show has been referenced in your blog several times, but that photo...that's you with the writing staff? What was that for and how did it come about? Did you know any of them from before The Middle?

That seemed like a cool moment...hope you can give a detail or two.

Xmastime said...

I lost track of the show a few years ago but totally agree, was really funny with a lot of heart. tragically overlooked (not WINGS-class overlooked, but still). I'm sure I'll binge the whole thing at some point.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Sorry Ken. But I have to play the contrarian. I never liked THE MIDDLE. It just wasn't funny to me. I had seen Neil Flynn perform improv at I.O. And I enjoyed his slightly demented, janitor character on SCRUBS, so I knew he could do comedy. I also loved Patrica Heaton on ...RAYMOND. So, I was expecting big things from this show. They never came. I watched the pilot episode and most of the first season and I don't think I laughed once. I basically stopped watching after that and never went back. THE MIDDLE always struck me as a standard sitcom where "wacky" was the primary emphasis. Maybe it evolved beyond that, but I wouldn't know. I also disagree with many of the respondents who rate T.M. with the all time greats. Ironically, I place it squarely in 'the middle.' i.e. in the fat part of the bell curve, among all the other sitcoms that aren't horrible, but aren't great either. History could prove me wrong, but I doubt it. Maybe I'll check out T.M in syndication, but I don't think I'll change my mind.
M.B.
P.S. Eden Sher was kind of distracting because she looked so much like a young, Mayim Bialik. At first, I thought they were related, but they're not.
P.P.S. You are right about one thing. MODERN FAMILY is highly overrated.

Brian said...

Thats a good show. Clever and funny. Congrats to theshow staff for keeping it going through the years.

Will Harris said...

Hey, Mike:

I would never presume that I could change your mind on the series, but if you ever want to reinvestigate beyond that first season, during which I think just about everyone involved with the show would agree that they were still finding their footing, I put together a list a few years ago that featured my picks for the 10 episodes most representative of the series:

https://tv.avclub.com/what-made-the-middle-one-of-the-best-family-comedies-in-1798238245

Right around the same time, I also asked the cast to pick their favorite episodes:

http://blog.bullz-eye.com/2013/05/21/the-light-from-the-tv-shows-the-cast-of-the-middleand-their-10-favorite-episodes/

As noted, I’m not saying I can change your mind, but if you *want*’your mind changed, then there’s probably at least one episode in the bunch that’s capable of doing it. (My bet would be on “The Map,” but that’s just me.)

Steve B. said...

I always felt this show would have made a ton more money long-term if it had been a multi-cam.

Anonymous said...

The Middle has been a great show and the finale was a terrific wrap up, but I need to know....Did Axl end up with Lexie or Weird Ashley??

PortlandJill

Al in PDX said...

I didn't watch The Middle until it was a few years into its run ... alerted to it by reading this here blog, if I recall. So thanks for that and for the fitting tribute.

Powerhouse Salter said...

Speaking as someone who only started watching THE MIDDLE because it was repeatedly praised in comments on this blog, I think the show forfeited a lot of potential viewers by lacking an intriguing and informative title. Even a cheap pun such as (off the top of my head) MOWTOWN or ORSON WELLS would have conveyed more of the show's premise to potential viewers and awards nominators.

Just my opinion.








Leilani said...

Farewell Heck family. We will miss you.

71dude said...

I loved this series and the finale (adult Axl gets saddled with three versions of himself!). Many thanks to Will Harris for all the great recaps and to Matt Roush (TV Guide) and Robert Bianco (formerly of USA Today) for championing it from the beginning.

If ABC is now looking for working-class sitcoms they still have the great Speechless, which should have followed The Middle from day one. I hope it holds up on Fridays.



















































































































































































































































































































































































Andy Rose said...

@Mike Bloodworth: The show starts to pick up after they got rid of Chris Kattan. (Not necessarily saying those two things are related, it's just a fact.) So if you tune in to a random episode and see Chris Kattan, skip it.

In addition to everything that's already been said, I liked how they kept all of the set gags that built up over the years. When they had to get rid of their dishwasher, that hole stayed in their kitchen for the next two years until they could finally afford a new one. In one mid-series episode, they replaced their broken computer by permanently "borrowing" a school laptop. And sure enough, all the way to the end, that laptop still had a "Property of Orson High School" sticker on it. The awkwardly patched dining room wallpaper, the quilts stored in the oven, Brick's lawn chair... they all remained for years.

Gene Pinder said...

My wife's favorite. I came to appreciate it over time. Terrific writing. Great characters. First-rate acting. One of the best sitcoms in a long time. Kudos to The Middle team!

Anonymous said...

But now we can binge watch

Jeff Maxwell said...

Depressed. I missed the finale episode. Help. Is there anywhere to watch it? Hulu, Zulu, Lulu?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I have to thank you for introducing me to The Middle. It really has what is lacking on most SitComs nowadays: jokes!

quadaunt said...

Watch the very end of the finale again as the answer (and character) is there. 😉 I don't want to type it in this reply as some here have said they haven't yet watched the finale.

M Rock said...

I must admit I never gave it a try beyond the first couple of episodes. I think I was put off by Patricia Heaton in another 'Mom' role relatively quickly after Everybody Loves Raymond and that the family seemed to resemble Malcolm in the Middle. Sounds like I missed out so I'll try and catch up with it later on.

James Jones said...

Has another actor with as much success as Patricia Heaton had a lower profile?

She was the female lead on an all-timer, Everybody Loves Raymond, that went for 210 episodes. Then she was the lead on The Middle, which actually made more episodes!

That's pretty impressive stuff.

Eric Lyden said...

Jeff Maxwell- Th finale is on Hulu. Get a 30 day trial if you don't already have it. I don't know how long it'll be up there though.

Mike Moody said...

I hope you're right as this was a wonderful show and the relationships between the family members are truly timeless. It deserves a long life in reruns. Sadly, I thought the same thing about "Newhart" -- another show relatively ignored, certainly by the Emmys, when it was on -- but Newhart has seemingly disappeared from history. It isn't even fully available to purchase. Here's hoping for a better fate for the Hecks and I can't wait to see what Patricia Heaton does next.

ScarletNumber said...

Patricia Heaton was a sitcom star for 19 out of the last 22 years, one short of her former co-star Kelsey Grammer.

While their Back to You only lasted one year, remnants of it can be seen in Modern Family.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

A month or two back, Norman Lear did a podcast with the creators of THE MIDDLE, who talked, among other things, about ending the show.

wg

Jeff Maxwell said...

Eric -- Thank you!

JM

Jeff Maxwell said...

Eric -- Thank you!

JM

Jabroniville said...

I agree with James Jones- it's very weird that Patricia Heaton has been working for so long and isn't even really a "name". I have a lot of suspicions about it -- her openly-campaigning for conservative causes (I'm liberal myself, but I can see that this would bias many people against her), she was "too old" (she was gorgeous on RAYMOND, but TV is more into 20-somethings), THE MIDDLE was like Ken said a sleeper hit with "the wrong audience", etc.

Part of it may have been how well she played Debra as a snarky, bitchy, "Mean Wife" on RAYMOND, which got more prominent as time went on. Most of the people I know who watched the show found her character pretty rotten by the end, though I was still a fan.

Michael Ryan said...

I have always enjoyed The Middle. Very funny. Someone should tell Modern Family that they jumped the shark a few seasons ago.

Howard Matthews said...

We never watched it because ... from the trailers (Sky in the UK) it looked like it was a rehash/copy of Malcolm in the Middle. Family life, kid-centric stories, same timeslot, etc etc. The title seemed to confirm it.

Glad to hear it was worthwhile - we'll have to give it a go. But ... man, it does feel like someone screwed up the marketing strategy. I mean, MitM was ace, but this looked to me and the wife like a cynical cash-in now the Malcolm kids had grown to old to carry on.

I wonder why they went for that name, rather than something that may have distanced itself just a wee bit...

Victor Catano said...

Sue Heck and Tina Belcher are the best and most three dimensional teenage girls on television. Sad to see Sue go, but they did have a good run.