The Middle is ABC’s warm and witty comedy series about raising a family and lowering your expectations. Using the mother’s point of view of Frankie Heck, it sheds light on the lives of a middle-class family in the Midwest. Narrated by Frankie, it follows her and her dysfunctional family with their peculiar idiosyncrasies in an Indiana suburb while attempting to lead a normal, everyday life with her family. But the Heck family is very far removed from “normal.”
A loving wife and mother of three, Frankie is rapidly approaching middle age. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she’ll go to just about any length. Getting her kids out the door for school every morning is a superheroic act for the harried wife and working mother. She uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact. And sometimes it seems like everyone is trying to get to the top, or struggling not to hit bottom, but somehow the Heck family finds a lot of love and a lot of laughs, somewhere in The Middle.
When I first saw one of the episodes of this show, I immediately thought of Malcolm in the Middle (MITM). It had the same dysfunctional family, a yelling, out-of-control mother (plus the fact that I confuse Patricia Heaton with Jane Kaczmarek), semi-clueless dad, the youngest child looks so much like Dewey (who is also smart and a bit quirky), that I first thought it was the same child actor and both shows have the word ‘Middle’ on it. The difference I noticed was that the narrating is done by the mom and there’s a daughter. While MITM had four rambunctious boys, the Heck family is just as chaotic. And like MITM, it’s funny, sharp, witty and about a family, who at the end of the day, love one another. It has nabbed notable actors/actresses like Doris Roberts, Brooke Shields and Betty White as guest stars.
I loved watching MITM and their offbeat family (whose family name was never mentioned out loud during the whole series…unless you were quick enough to read it on the pilot episode) and missed it when it went off air. For me, The Middle fills in the void left by MITM.
The Middle Characters
The Middle follows the Heck family.
- Frankie Heck: the matriarch of the Heck household, is a devoted wife and mother and sees family as the most important thing in her life. She currently works as a salesperson at local car dealership.
- Mike Heck: Frankie’s husband. A man of few words who is known for his blunt honesty and somewhat old-fashioned ways. Mike works at the quarry as the manager and despite his no-nonsense approach to work and family, he is a devoted husband who always seems to come through for Frankie when she needs it most.
- Axl Heck: the eldest son. He is athletic with a penchant for wearing nothing more than boxer shorts most of the time at home. He is the stereotypical older brother: sarcastic, lazy, and mean to his siblings (but sometimes shows flashes of kindness to his family). He is a trial for Frankie, who wishes he would be more open with her.
- Sue Heck: the socially awkward early-teen middle child. She seems to fail at everything she tries out for, but her absurd optimism and determination keep her trying again and again. Sue is often unrecognized by her teachers and peers.
- Brick Heck: the youngest of the brood. A bookworm with a weird habit of repeating words from his previous sentence to himself in a whisper. He is exceptionally intelligent and gifted with an eidetic memory but gets easily distracted, leading him to procrastinate or forget homework assignments and projects. Due to his awkwardness, he struggles to make friends.
- Bob: is Frankie’s best friend at work. He is often depicted as a lonely person. He has a not so subtle way of trying to help out with the Heck’s problems when Frankie confides in him, which tends to rub Mike up the wrong way.
- Don Ehlert: is Frankie’s boss and the owner of the car dealership where she and Bob work. He is a crass, self-absorbed, rather sleazy man.
Season 2 Recap
In Season 2, the Hecks barely survived another school year. The finale is set three days before summer vacation starts. But before Frankie can finally take a break from worrying about her kids’ school activities and requirements, panic ensues when she finds out that Brick needs to write a daily journal in order to move up to the fourth grade and Axl hasn’t fulfilled his required 30 hours of community service. Sue graduates from middle school but, as usual, the stars have not lined up for her when an error could take away her perfect attendance award and she must prove that she never took a sick day from school in order to receive the award at the graduation ceremony.
Season 3 is a whole new year of family trouble, but we’re sure they’ll find a way to handle everything with comedic flair. It starts with the Hecks going on one last vacation before another school year begins. This comes about when Frankie hears about the neighbors’ vacations and she realizes she’s hardly seen the kids all summer. She convinces Mike that they should go on a family bonding trip that is quick to plan and cheap, the answer—camping. The kids protest the last minute trip but they find themselves crammed into the car the next day to begin their “forced family vacation” (as Frankie aptly named it). As usual, things don’t go smoothly. The whole camping trip reminds Frankie of her terrible experience the last time she and Mike went camping during their honeymoon. The premiere episode will also show flashbacks of the honeymoon where viewers will see a familiar face. In this episode, Ray Romano reunites with Patricia Heaton, his TV wife in Everybody Loves Raymond, as he guest stars as Nicky Kohlbrenner, the man from known for ruining Mike and Frankie’s honeymoon.
With the kids are always up to something, this season is sure to be filled with humorous surprises. Sue navigates the perils of high school where she embarrasses big brother Axl. Will she find something she’ll excel at in high school? Axl, on the other hand, finds creative ways to avoid taking his tests. But with the PSATs coming up, Frankie faces the daunting task of trying to make him study. Brick still needs to learn to be more sociable, but he has found a new friend in a librarian.
A major drama will unfold as Frankie finds herself in the middle of a crisis. Will the stress of trying to get her family through each day intact finally get to her? A horrifyingly embarrassing incident becomes the last straw and forces Frankie to re-examine things and pack up to leave for her mom’s. She announces to her family that changes will need to be made but leaves it up to them to figure out.
- Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck
- Neil Flynn as Mike Heck
- Charlie McDermott as Axl Heck
- Eden Sher as Sue Heck
- Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck
- Chris Kattan as Bob
- Brian Doyle-Murray as Don Ehlert
Season 3 Premiere
September 21, 2011 (WEDNESDAYS), 8/7c on ABC
Season 3 Promo
- Chord Overstreet (Glee) guest stars as Ralph Wilkerson, the eccentric fourth grade teacher of Brick whose unconventional educational style irks Frankie and Mike.