The Middle is a semi-sleeper that luckily got a bit of extra push by way of its proximity to Modern Family. Lucky (I’ll say) because I didn’t hold out that much hope for it after the pilot. It smacked of a show that was trying too hard with too little, and the comedic showcase of the struggles of the middle-class is an overused sitcom angle.
Once you’re joining in with the general theme of many of the best and worst shows we’ve already seen, you have to stand out in a hurry, and make your particular spin grab me quick. Not only did the first few episodes of The Middle not manage the feat, it didn’t seem to be trying to… which, it turns out, is its unique spin.
In a sort of meta-display of the show’s “uucchhh… whatever” approach to getting through life the best you can with the cards you’re dealt, there is a noticeable extent to which the show is throwing up its hands at you – “Look, this is what we’ve got. Like it, or don’t.”
It’s an odd mix, especially when entering the show, but once through the somewhat awkward establishment, it’s a theory that works wonderfully. Patricia Heaton, as mother Frankie Heck, delivers a surprisingly real, world-weariness that centers the show, and brings us a recognizable focus that lets us relate to some of the… less real aspects of the show.
While things are driven by the unending comedy available to be mined from the ins and outs of High School, parenting, and struggling to make ends meet, there are a great many moments that leave off trying for laughs, and instead just let the curious frustrations of life do what they will. True or not, you get the feeling from this show that the writing stems more from putting the characters in situations and letting them act how they will, as opposed to coming up with gags and forcing them on the characters.
The show continued to gain momentum as the season progressed, building on the effort to give us honest, if oddball, characters, and before long we had a solid foundation that could really deliver the laughs. The Middle is now squarely in the realm of those shows that serve as evidence that we shouldn’t make any decisions until you’ve let at least 10 episodes play out… well, if there’s any hope at all.
If you let this one slip past, or gave up on it too soon, check it out on DVD. The release isn’t loaded, but it has a decent amount of added value for you, and it’s worth it without the bonuses anyway. You get a few deleted scenes, and an above-average gag reel, plus two featurettes that are better than most TV releases churn out. Raising a Sitcom Family gives the creators a chance to run through the show’s development with you, and you’re going to enjoy this a lot more than you expect. Taking you through a lot of the decisions and ideas, and bolstered with much the normal bonus fare, this is actually a fun experience, and a great addition for fans.
Sue’s Best Shots takes school photos as the starting point excuse for several members of the cast and crew to share their own school photo experiences. Yet another installment of the classic horrors of life we can all relate to, this is another nice feature. It may not add anything, in some sense, to the show content, but I think a lot of people looking for bonuses from their purchase have something like this in mind. A gimmicky effort, but one that lets you spend some time with those involved with the show, and a nice theory on getting more than the normal interview routine.
Check out some more info, and a couple of clips below. Also, check the official website of the release – http://www.thewb.com/shows/the-middle-on-dvd
Season One Guest Stars Include Betty White, Brooke Shields and Amy Sedaris
Welcome to Orson, Indiana, home of the world’s largest polyurethane cow and TV’s funniest new family: the Hecks. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) makes a triumphant return to the family sitcom as Frankie Heck, a harried wife and working mother of three who uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact. Neil Flynn (Scrubs) stars as her sardonic husband Mike, helping Frankie navigate hanging-on-to-middle-class life without a GPS app. The series also stars Charlie McDermott (The Office, Frozen River), Eden Sher (Sons & Daughters, Weeds), Atticus Shaffer (Hancock, The Class) and Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live).
Get in touch with the lively three-disc, 24-episode first season of one of TV’s most refreshing and relatable family comedies which USA Today called a “perfectly timed, down-to-earth comedy. A smart, amusing sitcom that understands the damage cutbacks have done to folks in the middle.”