Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The Middle": Not Quite Your Typical TV Family

One of the TV series that has apparently been given a third chance at life by ABC's Powers That Be is a little gem of a show called "The Middle."

I have to admit, I almost passed over this little show entirely. Apparently this is its second season, and I just recently started watching it... but lately it's been on my list of things to make sure are DVR'd.

Why? Well, it's laugh-out-loud funny. And it stubbornly refuses to portray television's perfect family, always complete with flawless good looks and decorator-magazine homes.

Not that Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn and their three TV kids are ugly. They're just REAL.

The situations that Mike and Frankie Heck and their children find themselves in are so genuine, strike such a chord, and hit so close to home that at times it's almost painful--but not painful enough to keep you from guffawing.

Heaton and Flynn are perfect as a Midwestern couple just trying (desperately, at times) to get by and raise their children to be decent people.

Their teen-aged son Axl (Charlie McDermott) is cute enough, but lazy and often disrespectful. His outrage at his parents' strictures is comical--but you get the feeling that he will turn out to be a perfectly good guy.

A recent episode saw him having to follow through with a prom date with a weird girl that he had accidentally invited (by text message, of course. And we can kind of forgive him, because she was one of a plethora of "Ashleys" at his school--who wouldn't get confused?).

Axl did the right thing, even though we as the audience could clearly see that he was going to have a terrible night. (I do wish Axl wouldn't use the Lord's name in vain so often.)

Eden Sher as junior-high daughter Sue Heck is nothing short of delightful. Her unbridled enthusiasm and undaunted cheerfulness and determination help her navigate through the often painful pitfalls that we all know comprise the middle-school experience.

Sue is far from being precociously gorgeous and/or sexy. She's like most junior high students, like I was (if you ever had the unfortunate chance to see my junior high yearbook)--socially awkward and not very pretty. Nevertheless, she's adorable.

And Brick. Brick is one of the best things about the show. In real life, Atticus Shaffer has a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, type IV , which causes him to have extremely fragile bones.

This hasn't stopped Atticus from having a great acting career as a 12-year-old playing a character 3 years younger than himself. Brick is very intelligent, very quirky, and very funny. I love his habit of whispering to himself the last word of a sentence he has just uttered.

The Hecks' home in Orson, Indiana, isn't perfect either. The home decor seems to represent some of the more regrettable colors and choices of midwestern living, and it's not always (in fact, rarely) perfectly clean and uncluttered.

If you like to laugh...and maybe you're a little fed up with perfect TV families...you might want to check out "The Middle."

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