The Middle (TV series)
|Created by||Eileen Heisler
|Narrated by||Patricia Heaton|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||103 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||DeAnn Heline
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Blackie and Blondie Productions
Warner Bros. Television
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Picture format||720p 16:9 (HDTV)|
|Original run||September 30, 2009– present|
The Middle is an American sitcom television series, airing on ABC since September 30, 2009. The series features Frances "Frankie" Heck (Patricia Heaton), a working-class, Midwestern woman and her husband Mike (Neil Flynn), who reside in the small fictional town of Orson, Indiana. They are the parents of three children, Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher), and Brick (Atticus Shaffer). The show is created by former How I Met Your Mother executive producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline.
The series features a middle income family of five, the Hecks, in the fictional town of Orson in southwest Indiana. It is narrated by Frankie Heck, the wife and mother, an expressive under-performing salesperson at a used-car dealership and later a dental student. Her stoic husband Mike manages a local quarry and serves as a stabilizing influence in the family. They have three children: oldest son Axl, an under-motivated and cynical teenager, who does well in sports but not in academics; daughter Sue (the middle child), an enthusiastic young teen, but chronically unsuccessful and socially awkward; and son Brick (the youngest), an intelligent but introverted compulsive reader with behavioral problems and ongoing quirks.
Cast and characters
- Patricia Heaton as Frances "Frankie" Heck (née Spence), wife of Mike and mother of Axel, Sue, and Brick. Frankie is the central character in the show, as it is her voice that is heard narrating at some point in every episode. She is a devoted wife and mother and sees family as the most important thing in her life. Her motto, "You do for family," guides her daily routine, despite the frustrations she encounters with her husband and three kids, as well as her older ailing aunts who depend on her). She worked as a saleswoman at Ehlert Motors, a job she took after losing her position as a dentist's receptionist when the office closed down, only to lose her job at Ehlert Motors early in Season 4. She recently completed dental hygienist school, and got a job near the end of Season 4. As of the end of Season 1, we know that Frankie attended college but did not finish. Heaton wore a wig for Seasons 1-4; for Season 5, her real hair has been featured.
- Neil Flynn as Michael "Mike" Heck Jr., Frankie's husband, known for his straightforward manner and emotional stability. Mike works at the local limestone quarry as the manager, and despite his no-nonsense approach to work and family, he is a devoted and understanding husband and father who always seems to come through for Frankie and the kids. From what has been said in the show so far, we know Mike pursued Frankie when they were younger and that at first she did not like him and even lied about what her name was to avoid him. Despite a short period where they broke up while dating, they have been together since their first date. It has been said on several occasions that Mike's favorite film is Reservoir Dogs and he only asked Frankie out on a second date because she lied and said she also liked the film. Mike's reclusive, unaffectionate father, "Big Mike" (John Cullum), and Mike's well-meaning, but unreliable and unsuccessful brother Rusty (Norm Macdonald), both live in Orson. In the middle of season 2, the two move in together, as "Big Mike" recovers from a broken hip and Rusty needs a roof as he has been living in a tent since his house burned down.
- Charlie McDermott as Axl Redford Heck, teenage son of Frankie and Mike, who can't be bothered to put on more than Boxer shorts most of the time at home. He is the stereotypical elder brother: sarcastic, lazy, and selfish to his siblings. However, he has shown flashes of kindness to his family occasionally and is good at heart, which he shows when he deliberately loses a basketball game in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend, Morgan. He is a trial for Frankie, who wishes he would be more open with her, as he was apparently a very loving "momma's boy" when he was a child, something Frankie seems to want to re-capture. It is revealed in Season 3 that Axl is two years older than Sue as he starts his junior year at high school while Sue starts her freshman year. Mike has said that Axl is his favorite child. He has gone to prom twice with Weird Ashley, an outcast at his school, both times accidentally inviting her. Axl gets another girlfriend in Season 4 named Cassidy, who tutors him after Sue runs over his foot and breaks it while learning to drive. Axl and Cassidy later break up in "Hallelujah Hoedown". He is a running back on his high school football team and gets recruited by a Division II college in Indiana. It is presumed that he is named after Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose.
- Eden Sher as Sue Sue Heck, socially awkward teen middle daughter of Frankie and Mike whose genuine nature, bubbly personality, and persistent optimism tend to make her an object of ridicule, especially by her elder brother. Despite her best efforts, she is usually unrecognized by teachers and other students, and snubbed by her peers. In season one she is not pictured in the year book after taking her picture three times, and then her favorite teacher has no memory of her at all. (She is eventually placed in the yearbook, but in the section reserved for students who died, with the caption reading: "In Loving Memory of Sue Heck, Gone Too Soon.") Her first and middle names are "Sue", as it was mistakenly written down twice on her birth certificate. Like many others her age, she wears braces on her teeth. (According to Mike, Frankie was too soft trying to get Sue to get rid of her pacifier and Sue kept it until she was six.) She is also left-handed, apparently the only southpaw in her immediate family. As of season 4, she is a sophomore in high school. Her braces were briefly removed in season 3, but it was determined that they over-corrected her condition, and she now has to wear braces plus head gear. She is known for trying out for almost everything but never actually getting in, because she's always terrible. In season 2 however, she joins the no-cut cross country team by heroically going around the track five times on crutches because she was hit by a deer the day before. She becomes a "wrestlerette" in season 3 (which turns out to be a group of fellow misfits) and dates a wrestler named Matt for a short time, but Matt's family moves away from Orson. In Season 4, she dates Axl's friend Darrin. Many of her plot lines involve her being overlooked or trying to organize huge parties or events and receiving no help. A 2012 episode (3:18, "Leap Year") reveals she was a leap day baby. (She turned sixteen in a 2013 episode, however, which makes it impossible for her to have been born on a leap day, although this can be explained that she celebrates her birthday at the end of February, as that's when the episode aired.) On a 2013 episode Sue tried to change her name to Sue Lily Heck, but ended up sticking with "Sue Sue", as the clerk said that it was the most unique name she'd ever heard.
- Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck, youngest of Mike and Frankie's children, loves to read and has a habit of repeating words from his previous sentence to himself in a whisper. In season 1 episode 5, it is revealed that he possesses an eidetic memory. He is smarter than most teenagers, having read Of Mice and Men, a book his elder brother is struggling with at the same time. He also loves the "Planet Nowhere" series, and the real-life "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" . He is exceptionally intelligent but easily distracted, leading him to procrastinate on doing his homework assignments and projects. Brick is a known gephyrophobiac, and is fascinated with fonts. Due to his awkwardness, he struggles to make friends. In Season 2 he befriended an equally awkward boy named Arlo, whom Brick himself struggles to deal with. There has been a lot of mention of occupational therapy, but he hasn't actually seen an OT yet. In Season 1, he is in the second grade, and now he is in the sixth grade in Season 5.
- Bob Weaver (Chris Kattan) is Frankie's former coworker at Ehlert Motors, and a person that Mike doesn't like. At one time, he and Mike work the night shift at Little Betty Snacks, a parody of Little Debbie Snacks. Having few close friends or family members, outside of his mother, Bob tends to treat the Hecks as his surrogate family.
- Edie and Ginny Freehold (Jeanette Miller and Frances Bay) are Frankie's elderly aunts who are heavy smokers and drinkers. Aunt Edie used to work in Mike's quarry as the bookkeeper, often showing signs of memory loss. One such occasion is when they went to a funeral for Edie and Ginny's brother, and Aunt Edie thought it was her birthday. Aunt Ginny uses a wheelchair and rarely talks. They have a sickly Basset Hound named Doris. On many occasions, Frankie is forced to care for Doris unexpectedly; on one such occasion, Doris gave birth to puppies. In "The Map", which premiered in early 2012, Aunt Ginny passes away. (The actress portraying her, Frances Bay, had died in real life.) Brick's elderly friend, Grandma Dot, then moves in with Edie to take care of her.
- Brad Bottig (Brock Ciarlelli) is Sue's flamboyant, theater-loving, tap dancing ex-boyfriend, who is on the high school wrestling team. They "dated" during Thanksgiving (Season 1), but shortly broke up when Sue found out Brad is a smoker. Brad and Sue have remained friends despite their breakup.
- Carly (Blaine Saunders) is Sue's best friend. She began in season 1 as a geeky character, wearing glasses and braces. Her braces were removed mid-Season 1, and she became more popular as a result. Sue seems to be jealous, if only subconsciously, and wears makeup which her family finds garish. From Season 2 onwards, Carly has since reverted to a more geeky look.
- Nancy Donahue (Jen Ray) is the Hecks' neighbor and president of the booster club. The Donahues are portrayed as the idyllic family Frankie yearns for herself.
- Sean Donahue (Beau Wirick) is one of Axl's best friends and teammate on the football team. He is helpful, polite, and friendly, which makes him outwardly the opposite of Axl; that said, he always supports everything Axl does. In season 2, Sue developed a crush on Sean, but eventually ends the one-way relationship.
- Darrin (John Gammon) is Axl's other best friend and teammate. Darrin is the most passive and simple of Axl's friends, often landing himself, Sean, and Axl in problematic situations. In season 3, he took Sue to the prom because of her "sunny disposition" and explained to Axl that he (Darrin) just wanted go with someone and dance. In season 4, Darrin takes Sue to a Valentine's Day dance after her date cancels; later, Darrin confides that he wants to continue dating Sue, which angers Axl. However, near the end of season 4, Sue breaks up with him after he accidentally punched her in the face while she was trying break up a fight between him and Axl. In season 5, Sue feels like the breakup was a mistake, and she has renewed interest in Darrin. His last name has never been revealed.
- Paula Norwood (Julie Brown) is another of the Hecks' neighbors. She serves as somewhat of a counterpoint to the idyllic Nancy Donahue in that her life and family is depicted as being similar to Frankie's, having a lot of the same issues.
- Michael "Big Mike" Heck Sr. (John Cullum) is Mike's reclusive, man-of-few-words father. He appears to be an unloving, uncaring parent, but this is primarily because he simply does not want to be a "bother" for either of his sons. He is also a hoarder.
- Rusty Heck (Norm Macdonald) is Mike's unreliable, silly brother. He often makes up excuses why he can't be anywhere or do anything Mike asks him to do. He once took Brick out of school to bowl and to teach him how to drive, even though he was not old enough or ready. It was revealed in the season 3 finale that his real first name is Orville.
- Ms. Rinsky (Doris Roberts) is Brick's third grade teacher, who seems to be the bane of Frankie's life, in a reference to the previous relationship between Heaton and Roberts' characters on Everybody Loves Raymond. Frankie describes her as an "alcoholic Nazi" following a drunken letter of complaint, which she will later have serious cause to regret. Brick likes Mrs. Rinsky because she designates reading time during tests.
- Jack Meenahan (Thomas F. Duffy) is the Heck family's next-door neighbor. He lost his home due to a fire in season 3.
- Reverend Timothy "Tim-Tom" Thomas (Paul Hipp), is a youth minister who Sue deeply admires. He surprised Sue by remembering her name after only having met her once, and always seems to appear just as Sue needs help the most. He is known for frequently playing his acoustic guitar and making almost anything into a song. He played his guitar while Axl played his electric guitar on one occasion when encouraging him to do the right thing.
- Derrick Glossner (David Chandler), Wade Glossner (Parker Bolek), and Little Glossner (Gibson Bobby Sjobeck) make up the dreaded Glossner boys who are the neighborhood bullies, who used to terrorize Sue and Brick. Their mother is Rita Glossner (Brooke Shields); there is no father figure, as their father was kicked out of their house by their mother. The third Glossner boy's first name has never been revealed. In season 1, their furocious dog was loose causing Sue and Carly to get in a "fight" with the boys which was a really a dance routine to the song "Kung Fu Fighting."
- Zack (Andrew J. Fishman) is Brick's friend from the socially challenged class. He has a tendency to behave like a cat.
- Pete (Peter Breitmayer) is Ehlert Motors' best salesman and star employee, and he is not afraid to tell everyone about it. Pete often brags about his success at Frankie's and Bob's expense, putting them down about how little they contribute to the business whilst attempting to impress Mr. Ehlert. It is likely he was named after the actor, Peter Breitmaver.
- Morgan (Alexa Vega) is Axl's ex-girlfriend in Season 1, whom Frankie took an instant liking to due to her straight A's and talent in multiple areas. However, after she breaks Axl's heart time and time again, Frankie eventually explodes with anger and throws a beanbag at Morgan during a birthday party.
- Don Ehlert (Brian Doyle-Murray) is the self-absorbed owner of the car dealership where Frankie used to work, and where Bob presumably still works. Frankie and Bob constantly worried he was going to fire them. Ehlert's wife left him when he chose work over her, and Frankie was first sympathetic but later turned angry. He often drinks at work. Elhert, like Mike, likes sports. One time, Elhert told Frankie she was going to a seminar, when she was really driving him to his colonoscopy.
- Matt (Moisés Arias), a boy on the wrestling team at Sue and Axl's school who likes Sue; he becomes Sue's first real boyfriend but eventually ends the relationship after moving away and falling for another girl.
- Ashley Wyman (Katlin Mastandrea) is Axl's weird classmate (hence her nickname is "Weird Ashley") who has twice been his accidental date to prom. She is also on Sue's wrestlerette team. She has a keen interest in wizards, although she has never heard of Harry Potter. At their third prom together, Ashley is not Axl's date but dances with him when he's announced as prom king, as Axl and his date Cassidy had broken up only a few moments before the announcement. Axl is known to have a hatred on her as he still regrets sending a text message about going to a prom with her.
- Ruth (Grace Bannon) is a member of Sue's wrestlerette team, depicted as an extreme religious conservative, often referencing "the rapture". Unlike the other wrestlerettes, Ruth wears an ankle-length skirt.
- Courtney and Debbie (Brittany Ross and Natalie Lander) are cheerleaders in Axl and Sue's high school who date Axl as one. They stopped dating Axl when he kissed Courtney inappropriately, which caused both girls to slap him.
- Mrs. Tompkins (Krista Braun) is Brick's social skills mentor and guidance counselor.
- Dr. Fulton (Dave Foley) is the school therapist that works with Mrs. Tompkins. He is an odd character who helps Brick bond with his peers and try to fit in more at school.
- Arlo - is a friend Brick meets during the second season. He has an obsession with keeping everything on a schedule and takes frequent and lengthy bathroom breaks in the episode "Mother's Day II" when he is accompanying the Hecks to Brown County. He does not show up in the third or fourth season, although in 'Year of the Hecks', he is mentioned.
- Mr. Wilkerson (Chord Overstreet) is Brick's fourth grade teacher in the beginning of season 3. He doesn't insist that Brick needs to participate in physical education which aggravates Mike, who wants his socially awkward son to go to gym class. Mr. Wilkerson is a young teacher who aflikes to keep in touch with parents through video chatting or social networking. He throws the answer ball to someone when they want to contribute their thoughts.
- Dr. Ted Goodman (Jack McBrayer) is the dentist who hires Frankie as a hygenist in season 4.
- Cassidy Finch (Galadriel Stineman) is Axl's girlfriend in season 4. She met Axl when he was trying to boost his grades and needed a tutor. They didn't get along very well in their first session, but then Axl kissed her and soon found out she had a boyfriend. She later broke up with her old boyfriend to be with Axl. Late in season 4, Cassidy's ex-boyfriend returns, putting tension between Axl and Cassidy for a while before they come back together. They break up in the episode "Hallelujah Hoedown", after Cassidy reveals she is going away in two weeks for an internship program and that they will be in different colleges anyway come September.
- Mrs. Armwood(Jane Kaczmarek) Is Frankie's Dental teacher in season 4.
- Mrs. Nethercott(Betty White) is Brick's school librarian. She can be mean, as she got mad for Brick failing to return one library book. She calls the books "her babies".
- Mrs. Marsh (Whoopi Goldberg) is Sue's school guidance counselor.
- Kenny is Axl's fat roommate who does nothing but play World of Warcraft
Development and production
The series was originally developed in the 2006–07 development cycle and was to star Ricki Lake as Frankie. Atticus Shaffer was the only actor to retain his role when the show was re-developed. The series was created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline and the pilot was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
The series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes after airing just two episodes. On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson announced that he was renewing The Middle for a second season. The third season premiered with a one-hour episode on September 21, 2011. On May 10, 2012, ABC renewed the show for a fourth season, which premiered with a one-hour special on September 26, 2012. The show was renewed for a fifth season on May 10, 2013.
The show has received positive reviews from critics. It holds a score of 71 on the review aggregator website Metacritic as of April 1, 2011. Critics praise the show's realistic look at the middle class, its good timing, writing, and acting, with Robert Bianco of USA Today saying, "...This series seems to more assuredly offer a first-class version of what so many viewers say they want: a humorous, heartfelt, realistic look at middle-class, middle-America family life." The praise has been, so far, consistent, with Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker saying that, in season two, The Middle continues to be "...a rock-solid show, the saga of a family struggling to keep their heads above the choppy economic waters..." In the 2009–2010 season, The Middle ranked number six on Metacritic's "Best Reviewed New Network Show" list. Airing behind the quickly cancelled Hank during its first season, ratings were not impressive at first. At the beginning of the 2010/2011 season, ABC moved the show to 8:00pm and ratings increased substantially, with the show usually ranking second in its time slot to CBS's Survivor.
Awards and nominations
In 2011, The Middle received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The 1st Critics' Choice Television Awards nominated the series for Best Comedy Series, Patricia Heaton for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and Eden Sher for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
|Year||Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Outcome|
|2010||Young Artist Award||Best Recurring Young Actor 14 and Over||Brock Ciarlelli||Nominated|
|Best Recurring Young Actress||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||30 Minute Category||Episode: "The Block Party"||Nominated|
|2011||Gracie Award||Outstanding Comedy Series||Won|
|1st Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Comedy Series||Patricia Heaton||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|Young Artist Award||Best Guest Starring Young Actor Ten and Under||Parker Contreras||Won|
|Best Recurring Young Actor||Brock Ciarlelli||Won|
|Best Guest Starring Young Actress 11–15||Kelly Heyer||Nominated|
|Best Recurring Young Actress 17–21||Blaine Saunders||Nominated|
|Outstanding Young Ensemble in a TV Series||Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, and Charlie McDermott||Nominated|
|2012||2nd Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|1st PAAFTJ Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Comedy Series||Patricia Heaton (Episode: "Thanksgiving III")||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Eden Sher (Episode: "The Test")||Nominated|
|Best Production Design in a Comedy Series||Episode: "The Map"||Nominated|
|Young Artist Award||Best Recurring Young Actor 17–21||Brock Ciarlelli||Won|
|Best Guest Starring Young Actress 17–21||Katlin Mastandrea||Nominated|
|Best Guest Starring Young Actress Ten and Under||Marlowe Peyton||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)||Episode: "The Play"||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||30 Minute Category||Episode: "The Map"||Nominated|
|2013||Young Artist Award||Best Recurring Young Actor 17-21||Brock Ciarelli||Won|
|Best Recurring Young Actress 17-21||Katlin Mastandrea||Nominated|
|3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy||Eden Sher||Won|
|2013 Teen Choice Awards||Choice TV Female Scene Stealer||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|TV Guide Award||Favorite Comedy Series||Nominated|
|2nd PAAFTJ Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||Pending|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||Charlie McDermott||Pending|
|Best Artistic/Visual Achievement in a Comedy Series||Episode: "Hallelujah Hoedown"||Pending|
|EWwy Awards||Best Actor in a Comedy Series||Neil Flynn||Nominated|
|Season||Timeslot (ET)||# Ep.||Premiered||Ended||TV Season||Rank||Viewers
|18-49 rating||Date||Finale Viewers
The season 3 episode "Halloween II" was the most watched episode so far, viewed by 10.16 million viewers.
2009: ABC charges $100,000 per 30-second spot 2010: ABC charges $120,000 per 30-second spot 2011: ABC charges $130,000 per 30-second spot 2012: ABC charges $133,000 per 30-second spot 2013: ABC charges $135,050 per 30-second spot  & 
|The Complete First Season|
|Set details||Special features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|August 31, 2010||September 12, 2011||January 13, 2011|
|The Complete Second Season|
|Set details||Special features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|September 20, 2011||November 5, 2012||October 6, 2011|
|The Complete Third Season|
|Set details||Special features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|October 8, 2013|
|The Complete Fourth Season|
|Set details||Special features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|February 25, 2014|
The Middle premiered in the US on September 30, 2009 on ABC. In Australia the show premiered on December 7, 2009 on Nine Network. The New Zealand premiere was on May 8, 2010 on TV2. In the UK it premiered on August 29, 2010 on Sky1 and in Ireland on April 16, 2010 on TV3.
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- Wednesday Final Ratings: ‘Idol’, ‘Modern Family’, & ‘SVU’ Adjusted Up, ‘Apt 23′ Adjusted Down - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers
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