TV Review: 'The Middle' is much-better-than-middlin' comedy

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Imagine "Malcolm in the Middle" told from the mom's point of view. That's ABC's "The Middle" (8:30 tonight, WTAE), a funny, fast-moving celebration of harried family life in middle America.

Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") stars as Frankie Heck, a married working mother of three. Her idea of making dinner: throwing a few bags of fast food on the kitchen table.

"We are a family. We're going to eat dinner as a family," Frankie says before the scene cuts to the whole clan sharing the family room couch, watching "Dancing With the Stars" and talking only during commercial breaks.

Frankie works at the last operating car dealership in fictional Orson, Ind., home to Little Betty Snack Cakes and the world's largest polyurethane cow. Husband Mike (Neil Flynn, "Scrubs") works at a local quarry.

"The Middle"
  • When: 8:30 tonight, ABC
  • Starring: Patricia Heaton

Much of the humor in the pilot comes from their children, especially youngest son Brick (Atticus Shaffer), who is described as "clinically quirky" by his teacher. His best friend is his backpack, and he repeats words in a whisper for no apparent reason.

Oldest son Axl (Charlie McDermott), 15, mumbles and says "whatever" a lot, while 13-year-old Sue (Eden Shur) is a klutz. But the focus in this single-camera comedy is mostly on Frankie as she juggles the many demands on her time. Heaton seems game for a decidedly non-glamourous character, particularly compared to her previous role as a news anchor on "Back to You."

Written by DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler with an appreciation for life outside the nation's largest cities, "The Middle" offers a sense of place that's specific and recognizable.

"Some people call this the middle of nowhere," Frankie says in voiceover narration. "One of those places you fly over on your way from somewhere to somewhere else, but you wouldn't live here."

Perhaps, but "The Middle" is funny enough to merit a weekly visit.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at


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