The Middle (aka the middle.) is an American sitcom television series, airing on ABC since September 30, 2009. }</ref> The series features Frances "Frankie" Heck (Patricia Heaton), a working-class, Midwestern woman and her husband Mike Heck (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 series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes after airing just two episodes.
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. It was nominated for one 2012 Emmy Award, for Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic).
The series features a middle-class family of five (the Hecks) living in flyover country in middle America in a mid-sized city in the American midwest state of 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.
See page List of The Middle episodes.
- Patricia Heaton as Frances "Frankie" Heck (née Spence), wife and mother of three kids. Frankie is the central character in the show and provides the voice-over narration. 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 three kids and her older, ailing relatives who depend on her for their needs. She worked as a saleswoman at Ehlert Motors, a job she took after losing her position at a dentist's office that closed down, only to lose her job at Ehlert Motors early in Season 4. As of the end of season one, we know that Frankie attended college but did not finish. She is currently in dental school. Her mother, Pat (Marsha Mason), and father, Tag (Jerry Van Dyke), constantly bicker with each other. She also has a sister named Janet (Molly Shannon). Frankie's voice is heard in the background narrating at some point in every episode.
- Neil Flynn as Michael "Mike" Heck, Frankie's husband, known for his straightforward manner and emotional stability. Mike works at the 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, athletic 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 first. Mike has said that Axl is his favorite child. Axl gets another girlfriend in Season 4 named Cassidy when she tutors him after he breaks his ankle.
- Eden Sher as Sue Heck, socially awkward early-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 3, she is a freshman in high school. Her braces were briefly removed in season 3, but it was determined they over-corrected her condition, and she now has to wear braces plus head gear. She is known for trying out for different things but never actually gets in. In season 2 however, she joins the no-cut cross country team by heroicly going around the track 5 times on crutches because she was hit by a deer the day before. She dates a wrestler named Matt for a short time in season 3, but Matt's family moves away from Orson. Many of her plot lines involve her being left out of groups or trying to organize huge parties or events and receiving no help. She was a leap day baby.
- 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 one episode, 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. 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, Season 2 in the third grade, Season 3 in the fourth grade, and now he is in the fifth grade in Season 4.
- Bob Weaver (Chris Kattan) is Frankie's former coworker at Ehlert Motors, and Mike dislikes him. 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.
- Aunt Edie Spence (née Freehold) and Aunt 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, while 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, Frances Bay, portraying her 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 but shortly broke up when Sue found out Brad is a smoker. Frankie and Mike both suspect Brad is gay, but Brad and Sue are oblivious. Brad and Sue have been friends since Season 1.
- 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 back 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. 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 the Valentine Days Dance after her date cancels; later Darrin confides that being with Sue is where he wants to be. 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.
- "Big Mike" Heck (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.
- 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 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 VII), Wade Glossner (Parker Bolek), and the littlest 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. 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.
- Morgan (Alexa Vega) is Axl's ex-girlfriend, 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 sexist, racist, crass, sleazy, 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.
- 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 the weird (hence her nickname is "Weird Ashley") classmate who has twice been Axl's 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.
- 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.
In May 2010, Whoopi Goldberg guest-starred as Jane Marsh (Sue's guidance counselor) in "The Guidance Counselor" episode.
- Arlo - Brick's friend he meets in the second season of the middle. 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.
- Mr.Wilkerson (Chord Overstreet) is Brick's fourth grade teacher in the beginning of season 4. 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 likes 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 currently 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. They have completely different personalities, but I guess in their case: opposites attract!
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. On October 8, 2009, the show was picked up for a full season. On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson announced that he was renewing The Middle for a second season. After airing its third season, The Middle was renewed for a fourth season, along with other Wednesday comedies like Modern Family and Suburgatory.
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 series received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Comedy. 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||Recurring Young Actor 14 and Over||Brock Ciarlelli||Nominated|
|Recurring Young Actress||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||30 Minute Category||Alex Reid (writer)For The Block Party||Nominated|
|2011||Gracie Award||Outstanding Comedy||The Middle||Won|
|1st Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||The Middle||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Comedy Series||Patricia Heaton||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|Young Artist Award||Guest Starring Young Actor Ten and Under||Parker Contreras||Won|
|Recurring Young Actor||Brock Ciarlelli||Won|
|Guest Starring Young Actress 11–15||Kelly Heyer||Nominated|
|Recurring Young Actress 17–21||Blaine Saunders||Nominated|
|Outstanding Young Ensemble in a TV Series||Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer and Charlie McDermott||Nominated|
|2012||Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Comedy Supporting Actress||Eden Sher||Nominated|
|PAAFTJ Television Awards||Best Comedy Series||The Middle||Nominated|
|Best Lead 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||Randy Ser for “The Map”||Nominated|
|Young Artist Award||Recurring Young Actor 17–21||Brock Ciarlelli||Won|
|Guest Starring Young Actress 17–21||Katlin Mastandrea||Nominated|
|Guest Starring Young Actress Ten and Under||Marlowe Peyton||Nominated|
|Emmy Awards||Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)||Episode: The Play||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||30 Minute Category||Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (writers)For The Map||Nominated|
The season 3 episode "Halloween II" was the most watched episode so far, viewed by 10.16 million viewers.
On March 6, 2012, it was announced that ABC Family obtained the rights to The Middle, and will begin airing the series in the fall of 2013. Hallmark Channel also acquired The Middle for syndication to begin airing in March 2014.
|The Complete First Season|
|Set details||Special features|
- Raising a Sitcom Family
- Sue's Best Shots
- Unaired scenes
- Gag reel
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|August 31, 2010||September 12, 2011||October 5, 2011|
|The Complete Second Season|
|Set details||Special features|
- 24 episodes
- 3-disc set
- 1.78:1 aspect ratio
- English (Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles)
- Português subtitles
- Français subtitles
- Español subtitles
- Chinese subtitles
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|September 27, 2011||November 5, 2012||August 29, 2012|
|Country / Region||Network(s)||Series premiere|
| Argentina||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Australia||Nine Network / GO!||December 7, 2009|
| Austria||ORF eins||January 2, 2013|
| Belgium||Vier||October, 2012|
| Bosnia and Herzegovina||HBO Adria||September, 2010|
| Bulgaria||BTV (Bulgaria)||2012|
| Brazil||Warner Channel||July 14, 2010|
|SBT||October 20, 2012|
| Canada||City||September 30, 2009|
| Colombia||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Costa Rica||Warner Channel||July 12, 2010|
| Cuba||Multivisión||May 24, 2012|
| Denmark||TV3+||May 24, 2010|
| Dominican Republic||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Ecuador||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Estonia||Kanal 2||January 2, 2012|
| Finland||MTV3 / Sub||2012|
| France||Comédie+||September 3, 2010|
| Germany||ZDFneo||March 1, 2012|
| Guatemala||Warner Channel||July 12, 2010|
| Hungary||HBO Comedy||September 1, 2010|
| Iceland||Stöð 2||August 10, 2010|
| India||Zee Cafe||March 21, 2011|
| Ireland||TV3 / 3e / Sky1||April 16, 2010|
| Israel||HOT3||August 1, 2010|
| Italy||Joi / Italia 1||January 17, 2010|
| Japan||Warner Channel||July 12, 2010|
| Mexico||Warner Channel / Canal 5||July 19, 2010|
| Netherlands||Comedy Central||January 3, 2011|
| New Zealand||TV2||May 8, 2010|
| Panama||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Paraguay||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Peru||Warner Channel||July 10, 2010|
| Poland||HBO Comedy / Comedy Central Poland||September 6, 2010|
| Portugal||Fox Life / RTP regional channels / RTP2||April 13, 2011|
| Romania||HBO Comedy||December, 2010|
| Russia||ТНТ||April 8, 2011|
| South Africa||M-Net||April 1, 2010|
| Sweden||Kanal 5||October 5, 2010|
| Thailand||True Visions||September 20, 2010|
| Trinidad and Tobago||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Ukraine||K1||June 2011|
| United Kingdom||Sky1||August 29, 2010|
| United States||ABC (original network)||September 30, 2009|
| Uruguay||Warner Channel||July 19, 2010|
| Venezuela||Warner Channel||July 12, 2010|
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