The Middle could be 200% better than it is right now if it got rid of the voiceover, which doesn’t provide any extra information about the plot or characters and is neither witty nor whimsical. Patricia Heaton, who stars as Frankie, is not Zach Braff, and despite Neil Flynn playing her husband Mike, The Middle is not Scrubs. We get that Frankie is stressed: she’s not good at her crummy car sales job, she’s not great at being a mom or wife, and she’s not aging well—as a new license photo makes abundantly clear. What’s not clear is why the producers of The Middle think the show will actually speak to middle America. It’s single-camera, Ray Romano’s not in it, and the characters don’t do anything particularly Midwestern except take show choir too seriously. This is not a real show about middle America, most of whom don’t want to watch TV about middle America anyway. The Middle is just a show about a quirky family, and their quirks simply aren’t that interesting. Though a lot is thrown on the little shoulders of Brick (Malcolm in the Middle‘s Atticus Shaffer), who is written as weird but not funny, The Middle appears to be Frankie’s story. If the focus is put on the ensemble instead of her, however, it might be stronger. Frankie’s daughter Sue’s (Eden Sher) perpetual failure at extra-curricular activities, for example, would be far more interesting if we could see how she dealt with them, rather than as a montage of flashbacks through her mother’s eyes. In the meantime, the only character that really makes an impression is Frankie’s hilariously supportive co-worker and friend Bob (Chris Kattan). Anyone who can make a pedophile joke endearing is all right in my book.
- ABC, Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
- Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer
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