The Middle (TV series)

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The Middle
The Middle logo.png
Genre
Created by
  • Eileen Heisler
  • DeAnn Heline
Starring
Narrated by Patricia Heaton
Composer(s) Joey Newman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 176 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • DeAnn Heline
  • Eileen Heisler
Producer(s)
  • Werner Kalian
  • Vijal Patel
  • Roy Brown
  • Robin Shorr
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 21 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original network ABC
Picture format HDTV 720p
Original release September 30, 2009 (2009-09-30) – present
External links
Website

The Middle is an American sitcom about a middle-class family living in Indiana facing the day-to-day struggles of home life, work and raising children. The show premiered September 30, 2009, on the ABC network and features Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton and Scrubs actor Neil Flynn.[1] The Middle was created by former Roseanne and Murphy Brown writers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline of Blackie and Blondie Productions. The show is distributed by Warner Bros. Television Distribution and Blackie and Blondie Productions. The Middle has been praised by television critics and earned numerous award nominations.

On March 3, 2016, the series was renewed for an eighth season which premiered on October 11, 2016.[2]

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 24 September 30, 2009 (2009-09-30) May 19, 2010 (2010-05-19)
2 24 September 22, 2010 (2010-09-22) May 25, 2011 (2011-05-25)
3 24 September 21, 2011 (2011-09-21) May 23, 2012 (2012-05-23)
4 24 September 26, 2012 (2012-09-26) May 22, 2013 (2013-05-22)
5 24 September 25, 2013 (2013-09-25) May 21, 2014 (2014-05-21)
6 24 September 24, 2014 (2014-09-24) May 13, 2015 (2015-05-13)
7 24 September 23, 2015 (2015-09-23) May 18, 2016 (2016-05-18)
8 TBA October 11, 2016 (2016-10-11) TBA

Cast and characters[edit]

The series features Frances "Frankie" Heck (Patricia Heaton), a middle class, middle-aged, Midwestern[3] 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).[4]

The series is narrated by Frankie, initially an under-performing salesperson at a used-car dealership and later a dental assistant. Her stoic husband Mike manages a local quarry and serves as a stabilizing influence in the family, though Frankie complains about his lack of affection at times. The kids are quite different from one another: oldest son Axl, a popular but under-motivated and cynical teenager, does well in sports but not in academics; daughter Sue is an enthusiastic young teen but chronically unsuccessful and socially awkward; and youngest son Brick is an intelligent but introverted compulsive reader with odd behavioral traits.

Further information: List of The Middle characters

Main[edit]

  • Patricia Heaton as Frances "Frankie" Heck (née Spence), wife of Mike and mother of Axl, Sue, and Brick. Frankie is the central character in the show, as her voice is heard narrating at various points in every episode.
  • Neil Flynn as Michael "Mike" Heck Jr., Frankie's husband, known for his distant yet straightforward manner and emotional stability. Mike works at the local limestone quarry as the manager and has a no-nonsense approach to work and family.
  • Charlie McDermott as Axl Heck, the oldest child of Frankie and Mike. Popular and athletic in school, he is also sarcastic, lazy, narcissistic, and often dominant over his younger siblings. In later seasons, he is shown sometimes giving his siblings affection but tries to hide it. In season 1, Axl was starting his freshman year of high school and proceeded to graduate high school at the end of season 4. He goes to fictional East Indiana State University on a football scholarship and becomes a business major. He is a senior as of the premiere of season 8.
  • Eden Sher as Sue Heck, the socially awkward middle daughter of Frankie and Mike. Her genuine nature, bubbly personality, and persistent sunny optimism tend to make her an object of ridicule, especially by her elder brother. As of season 3, Sue was starting her freshman year of high school and proceeded to graduate from high school at the end of season 6, going to East Indiana State University on a financial aid package (which is rescinded in her second year due to non-renewal). As of season 8, she is presumably a sophomore pursuing a degree in Hospitality and Hotel Management.
  • Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck, youngest of Mike and Frankie's children. He loves to read and is very intelligent, but is also introverted, odd, and often easily distracted. Occasionally, while speaking, he will lower his head and repeat the last word spoken in an audible whisper. As of season 1, Brick was starting second grade and proceeded to become a freshman in high school as of the premiere of season 8.
  • Chris Kattan (seasons 1–3, guest seasons 4 and 5) as Bob, Frankie's co-worker and friend at Ehlert Motors, where Frankie works for the first three seasons. After she gets fired in season 4, Frankie and Bob lose touch.

Recurring[edit]

  • Don Ehlert (Brian Doyle-Murray) (season 1–6) is the owner of Ehlert Motors, where Frankie works for the first three seasons before she gets fired in early season 4. He is a crass, slightly overweight man that seems to be rude to Frankie because she is female, but he likes Mike as the two often talk about sports.
  • Pete Miller (Peter Breitmayer) (seasons 1–4) is Ehlert Motors' best salesman and star employee. He is disliked by Frankie and Bob for his continuous boasting and teacher's-pet relationship with Mr. Ehlert.
  • Edie and Ginny Freehold (Jeanette Miller and Frances Bay) are Frankie's elderly great-aunts who are heavy smokers and drinkers. Throughout the series, it is heavily hinted that none of the Hecks enjoy looking after them. Both characters die off-screen. Ginny dies in season 3 (following Bay's death) and Edie in season 6 (after Miller retired from acting).
  • Brad Bottig (Brock Ciarlelli) is Sue's flamboyant, theater-loving, tap dancing, and slightly camp "boyfriend" in season 1. After she catches him smoking at his house, they split up but remain close friends. In season 7, he comes out as gay to Sue in a passive way but she already knew and is happy for him. They remain close friends even after graduation; meeting up whenever possible and even visiting each other when necessary. They both spent summer 2016 (between season 7-8) working at Dollywood.
  • Carly (Blaine Saunders) (season 1–6) is Sue's best friend in school. The two girls are extremely alike but lose contact after graduation.
  • Sean Donahue (Beau Wirick) is one of Axl's best friends, teammate on the high school football team, and Nancy Donahue's only son. He is outwardly complimentary and polite to the Hecks, but also supports many of Axl's schemes. He takes on a "hippy" persona in season 7, but has reverted back to a clean-cut look in season 8.
  • Nancy Donahue (Jen Ray) is the Hecks' idyllic neighbor of whom the Hecks are shown to be jealous. Frankie is shown trying to imitate Nancy's parenting, but mostly fails.
  • Ron Donahue (Sean O'Bryan) is the Hecks' neighbor, Nancy's husband, and Sean's dad.
  • Darrin McGrew (John Gammon) (seasons 1–6) is Axl's dimwitted other best friend and teammate, and becomes Sue's boyfriend in season 4. They then break up and get together again, then finally decide to split up in season 6. He did not appear after this.
  • Paula Norwood (Julie Brown) is another of the Hecks' neighbors.
  • Bill Norwood (Pat Finn) is Paula's husband and one of the Hecks' neighbors.
  • Michael "Big Mike" Heck Sr. (John Cullum) is Mike's reclusive, man-of-few-words, hoarder father.
  • Orville "Rusty" Heck (Norm Macdonald) is Mike's unreliable, silly yet optimistic, and cheerful brother. He sometimes lives with Big Mike and started a diaper business with Mike Jr.
  • Pat Spence (Marsha Mason) is Frankie's mother. She is keen to help the Hecks in any way she can and spoils the kids, much to Frankie's annoyance.
  • Tag Spence (Jerry Van Dyke) is Frankie's father and Pat's husband. He seems to like Mike a lot and spends a lot of time with him, much to Mike's annoyance.
  • Janet (Molly Shannon) is Frankie's super perfect, perfectionist sister who has so far only appeared in two episodes of the entire series (S3E10 "Thanksgiving III" and S4E18 "The Name") but is referenced to a lot.
  • Reverend Timothy "Tim-Tom" Thomas (Paul Hipp), is a musical charismatic/hip-to-the-kids youth minister at the Hecks' church whom Sue deeply admires for his meaningful and jolly songs about the difficulties of teenage life. He has appeared in at least one episode each season.
  • Rita Glossner (Brooke Shields) is the Hecks' uncouth and troubled neighbor. She is the single mother of three stealing, rude sons but apparently is not aware of their nastiness as she describes them as "good boys."
  • Derrick Glossner (David Chandler), Wade Glossner (Parker Bolek), Diaper Glossner (Gibson Bobby Sjobeck), and an unnamed girl make up the dreaded Glossner children, Rita's rowdy, foul-mouthed, rude, burglarizing offspring.
  • Zack (Andrew J. Fishman) (season 1–3) is Brick's friend from the socially challenged class. He also sometimes acts like a cat, meowing and wearing oven-mitts.
  • Morgan (Alexa Vega) is Axl's girlfriend in season 1.
  • Matt (Moisés Arias) is a boy on the wrestling team at Sue and Axl's school who likes Sue and becomes her first real boyfriend in season 3.
  • Ashley "Weird Ashley" Wyman (Katlin Mastandrea) is Axl's weird classmate who has twice been his accidental date to prom. She is also on Sue's wrestlerette team.
  • Courtney and Debbie (Brittany Ross and Natalie Lander) (season 1–6) are two think-alike cheerleaders in Axl and Sue's high school who date Axl as one. They later work as assistant cheerleading coaches at Orson High after graduating and hint at a mutual hatred of one another.
  • Becky (Jessica Marie Garcia) (season 3–6) is a rough-and-tumble girl in Axl and Sue's high school who is on Sue's wrestlerette team.
  • Ruth (Grace Bannon) (season 3–6) is another of Sue's co-wrestlerettes; she is depicted as extremely religious.
  • Mrs. Tompkins (Krista Braun) is Brick's social skills mentor and guidance counselor.
  • Ms. Rinsky (Doris Roberts) is Brick's third grade teacher in season 2 who has a grudge with Frankie.
  • Dr. Fulton (Dave Foley) is the school therapist that works with Mrs. Tompkins and counsels Brick. He is also portrayed as lonely and lives with a whole lot of cats.
  • Principal Barker (Rachel Dratch) is Brick's middle school principal.
  • Arlo (Nick Shafer) is Brick's odd friend whom he meets during the second season.
  • Dr. Ted Goodwin (Jack McBrayer) is a smiley, optimistic dentist who hires Frankie as a hygienist in season 4.[5] His dental practice is taken over by Smile Superstars in season 7 but he still recurs thereafter.
  • Cassidy Finch (Galadriel Stineman) is Axl's tutor and later girlfriend in season 4.
  • Kenny (Tommy Bechtold) is Axl's college roommate who does nothing but play World of Warcraft. He is very rarely known to talk, and when he does, it always comes as a shock to Axl and Hutch.
  • Charles "Hutch" Hutchinson (Alphonso McAuley) is Axl's football teammate, best friend, and eventual roommate at college.
  • Edwin (Jimmy Bellinger) is Sue's manager at Spudsy's, where she works, starting in season 5.
  • Devin Levin (Gia Mantegna) (season 6–7) is a relative of Frankie's hairdresser who becomes Axl's girlfriend in season 6. They break up in season 7 after mutually agreeing they should see other people during their college years.
  • Cindy (Casey Burke) is a strange classmate of Brick's who becomes his girlfriend in season 6. She is part of Brick's posse (Brick, Cindy, and Troy) in season 7.
  • Chuck (Greg Cipes) is one of Mike's employees.
  • Troy (Jovan Armand) is Brick's large classmate who initially protects him from bullies at school, then later becomes his friend.
  • Holly (Lyndon Smith) is Sue's past bad-mouthed and mean college dorm mate in season 7. She appeared in two episodes.
  • Logan (David Hull) is Sue's love interest beginning in late season 6. They then break up in mid season 7, as he says that he's changing his major to religious studies and wants to become a priest.
  • Lexie (Daniela Bobadilla) is Sue's friend and later college roommate, beginning in season 7.
  • Jeremy (Will Green) is a hardcore environmentalist and anti-capitalist whom Sue initially meets in season 7 when he is chained to a tree on campus. The two later begin dating, but Sue breaks up with Jeremy early in season 8.
  • April (Greer Grammer) is Axl's current girlfriend, introduced in the season 8 premiere.

Development and production[edit]

The series was originally developed in the 2006–07 development cycle and was to star Ricki Lake as Frankie.[4] Atticus Shaffer was the only actor to retain his role when the show was re-developed.[6] The series was created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (who is from Muncie, Indiana)[7] and the pilot was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.

Though based on Jasper, Indiana, Orson is actually a studio lot in Los Angeles. Set director Julie Fanton shops at traditionally mid-western places, such as Target and Kohl's, so the show appears to have a realistic middle-class look.[7]

The series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes after airing just two episodes.[8] On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson announced that he was renewing The Middle for a second season.[9][10] The show was renewed for a third 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,[11] which premiered with a one-hour special on September 26, 2012. The show was renewed for a fifth season on May 10, 2013. ABC confirmed on May 9, 2014 that the series was picked up for a sixth season of 22 episodes,[12] and officially ordered an additional two episodes in October of that year, bringing the season six total to 24.

On May 8, 2015, ABC officially picked up the series for a seventh season, renewing the contracts of the main cast at the same time.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Season Critical response
Rotten Tomatoes Rotten Tomatoes – audience score Metacritic
1 74% (19 reviews)[13] 82% (42 reviews)[13] 70 (25 reviews)[14]
2 N/A 84% (27 reviews)[15] N/A
3 N/A 87% (24 reviews)[16] N/A
4 100% (5 reviews)[17] 76% (27 reviews)[17] N/A
5 N/A 81% (71 reviews)[18] N/A
6 N/A 80% (50 reviews)[19] N/A
7 N/A 80% (8 reviews)[20] N/A

The Middle has received critical acclaim, citing its unique and original characters along with how many families easily relate. It holds a score of 71 on the review aggregator website Metacritic as of April 1, 2011.[21] 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."[22] 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..."[23] In the 2009–2010 season, The Middle ranked number six on Metacritic's "Best Reviewed New Network Show" list.[24] 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.

Ratings[edit]

Season Timeslot (ET) Episodes Premiered Ended TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Date Premiere viewers
(in millions)
18–49 rating Date Finale viewers
(in millions)
18–49 rating
1 Wednesday 8:30 pm 24 September 30, 2009 8.71[25] 2.6[25] May 19, 2010 7.55[26] 2.5[26] 2009–10 65[27] 6.90[27]
2 Wednesday 8:00 pm 24 September 22, 2010 8.81[28] 2.7[28] May 25, 2011 7.33[29] 2.2[29] 2010–11 56[30] 8.11[30]
3 24 September 21, 2011 9.74[31] 3.1[31] May 23, 2012 6.52[32] 2.0[32] 2011–12 64[33] 8.08[33]
4 24 September 26, 2012 9.16[34] 2.9[34] May 22, 2013 7.70[35] 2.0[35] 2012–13 48[36] 8.40[36]
5 24 September 25, 2013 8.94[37] 2.5[37] May 21, 2014 7.85[38] 2.1[38] 2013–14 44[39] 8.24[39]
6 24 September 24, 2014 7.59[40] 2.2[40] May 13, 2015 7.03[41] 1.8[41] 2014–15 53[42] 8.68[42]
7 24 September 23, 2015 8.21[43] 2.1[43] May 18, 2016 6.73[44] 1.6[44] 2015–16 53[45] 8.15[45]
8 Tuesday 8:00 pm October 11, 2016 6.78[46] 1.8[46] 2017 2016–17

The season 3 episode "Halloween II" was the most watched episode so far, viewed by 10.16 million viewers.[47]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 2011, The Middle received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.[48] 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[49] 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[50] Outstanding Comedy Series Won
1st Critics' Choice Television Awards[51] 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[52] Best Guest Starring Young Actor Ten and Under Parker Contreras Won
Mason Cook Nominated
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[53] Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Eden Sher Nominated
1st PAAFTJ Television Awards[54] 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[55] 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[56] Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) Episode: "The Play" Nominated
Humanitas Prize 30 Minute Category Episode: "The Map" Nominated
TV Guide Award Favorite Comedy Series Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Award[57] Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Whoopi Goldberg Nominated
2013 Young Artist Award[58] Best Recurring Young Actor 17–21 Brock Ciarlelli Won
Best Recurring Young Actress 17–21 Katlin Mastandrea Nominated
3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards[59] Best Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Eden Sher Won
2013 Teen Choice Awards[60] Choice TV Female Scene Stealer Eden Sher Nominated
TV Guide Award Favorite Comedy Series Nominated
2nd PAAFTJ Television Awards[61] Best Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Charlie McDermott Nominated
Best Artistic/Visual Achievement in a Comedy Series Episode: "Hallelujah Hoedown" Nominated
EWwy Awards[62] Best Actor in a Comedy Series Neil Flynn Nominated
2014 Young Artist Award[63] Best Recurring Young Actor 17–21 Brock Ciarlelli Nominated
Best Recurring Young Actress 17–21 Katlin Mastandrea Nominated
EWwy Awards[64] Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Eden Sher Won
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards[65] Top TV Series Joey Newman Won
Humanitas Prize[66] 30 Minute Category Episode: "Halloween IV: The Ghost Story" Nominated
2014 Teen Choice Awards[67] Choice TV Scene Stealer: Female Eden Sher Nominated
TV Guide Award Favorite Comedy Series Nominated
2015 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Eden Sher Nominated
Young Artist Award[68] Best Recurring Young Actor 17–21 Brock Ciarlelli Won
Best Guest Starring Young Actress 14–16 Ava Allan Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards[69] Favorite TV Actor Charlie McDermott Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Award[70] Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Dick Van Dyke Nominated
2016 6th Critics' Choice Television Awards[71] Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Eden Sher Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Neil Flynn Nominated

Syndication[edit]

On March 6, 2012, it was announced that ABC Family (now Freeform) obtained the rights to The Middle, which began airing the series on September 9, 2013.[72]

Hallmark Channel also acquired The Middle for syndication, which began airing in March 2014.[73] In addition, the series debuted in local syndication on September 16, 2013.[74]

DVD distribution[edit]

In region 1, Seasons 1–4 have had an official release, with seasons 5 & 6 having only been released as a DVD-R via the Warner Archive Collection. Distribution for Region 4 has now ended, and only Seasons 1–4 are available.


References[edit]

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