The Middle – The Complete First Season DVD Review And Giveaway

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.

Own it on DVD today!

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.”


RU?

Written by

Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet’s film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

  • AHB

    I avoided this show because the previews suggested it would borrow much from another quirky family sitcom with the word “Middle” in it. On the one hand, Malcolm is a good model for any writer, producer, or director. But rip offs/send ups usually fail because they copy the original only superficially and don’t add enough that’s fresh to that original. Well … a friend suggested I watch, and I was hooked. It’s not nearly the caliber of Malcolm for quirkiness, nor the caliber of All in the Family for social commentary, nor the caliber of a dozen other family sitcoms for warmth. Yet, it somehow brings quirkiness, commentary and warmth into a single package that’s watchable, enjoyable, even endearing. That may be because the acting is so good, adults and kids alike. Mom and Dad are familiar and proven actors. And I daresay all three kids will be around, acting long after The Middle wraps up, perhaps succeeding, as Charlie McDermott has begun to do, in the more laudable world of Independent film making.

    • areyouscreening

      I agree completely, and appreciate the great comment.

    • Malcolm > The Middle

      I also thought it was going to be a rip-off of Malcolm In The Middle judging by early promos that I first saw in the summer of 09. However, it took all the things you mentioned (including the quirkiness of Malcolm) and made one unique show out of it. It’s not a rip-off at all. Unfortunately, The Middle has changed a lot this second season. It’s not quirky anymore, it’s rarely funny, the only commentary present is Frankie’s narratives which spoon-feed the audience and provide zero analysis, and it’s become very saccharine and corny. It’s like the writers are on crack this year and are making the stupidest “jokes” they can find (Sue and her cross-country sweatshirt is just obnoxious, IMO). What a shame because The Middle was one of my favorite shows last year.

    • Malcolm > The Middle

      I also thought it was going to be a rip-off of Malcolm In The Middle judging by early promos that I first saw in the summer of 09. However, it took all the things you mentioned (including the quirkiness of Malcolm) and made one unique show out of it. It’s not a rip-off at all. Unfortunately, The Middle has changed a lot this second season. It’s not quirky anymore, it’s rarely funny, the only commentary present is Frankie’s narratives which spoon-feed the audience and provide zero analysis, and it’s become very saccharine and corny. It’s like the writers are on crack this year and are making the stupidest “jokes” they can find (Sue and her cross-country sweatshirt is just obnoxious, IMO). What a shame because The Middle was one of my favorite shows last year.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen this yet but it looks cute

  • Emily N.

    I didn’t watch this show at first either but started to hear good things about it on my twitter feed so I checked out some episodes on hulu and became hooked for the rest of the season.

  • Stephanie

    Seriously one of my favorite shows. I relate to it a little too much 🙂

  • I passively enjoyed this show and was using it as background noise when doing other things when abc put it online. The second they pulled it offline I stopped watching.

  • Neil S

    A fair-to-middling of the road effort – but given the other shows that try to pass of as comedies, this is still well above average for the genre. Neil Flynn and Charlie McDermott are standouts but Patricia Heaton is strangely unappealing in the lead.

    • areyouscreening

      I can see that actually, because it took me a while to warm up to her here, and I never was that much of a fan of her other show.

      Appreciate the comments.

  • I love the show, fun to watch! The kids are great actors I’m excited to see what will become of them in the future.
    luckysluna(at)yahoo(dot)com

  • It starts out slow but could be the next home improvment.

  • Daniel M

    i seem to have missed this series, this’ll give me a chance to catch up!

  • Kris

    Would love to win this one. Good for a laugh or many.

  • I felt like this could have been a great show, but it was hampered a bit by the narration, which I felt was a little over-full of exposition and got in the way of the show’s terrific dialogue.

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