Is 'The Middle' Wednesday night's most underrated show?

I love Modern Family — who doesn’t? I chuckle watching Cougar Town. But I think The Middle is the most underrated of the Wednesday-night sitcoms.

The Patricia Heaton-led show is a rock-solid sitcom, the saga of a family struggling to keep their heads above the choppy economic waters, but it has no time for self-pity, tears, or sappiness. Its title refers to the middle of the country, the middle-class, and the middling hopes and dreams of Heaton’s Heck family.

This week, the half hour was all about Heaton’s Frankie and Neil Flynn’s Mike taking back their lives from their demanding three children. “When did the kids become our bosses?” said the overworked, exhausted Frankie. “We’re always catering to them.”

What followed was a series of scenes that must have gladdened the hearts of millions of parents, and also provided laughs, as Frankie and Neil began letting the kids clean up after themselves and fetch their own materials for school projects, then went on a guilt-free date night (to see a “Little River Band cover band,” a good joke in which the band looked suspiciously like the Little River Band).

The Middle stands in the tradition of Roseanne, using realistic situations and exaggerating them for laughs, but rarely to the point of absurdity. In this, the show goes against the grain of the hippest current network sitcoms, Community and 30 Rock. Don’t get me wrong, I also like those two shows a lot, but it’s also very good to have a show such as The Middle to provide a distinctly sharp tang to prime time. All the performances are skillful, with Heaton and Flynn especially adept at conveying an affection — for each other, for their kids — undimmed by their weariness.

Oh, and P.S.: Gotta admit, every time I watch a few minutes of Better With You — after seeing The Middle or just before Modern Family starts — it gives me a smile. I’ll have to give that one another try — a closer study.

What do you think of The Middle?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (263 total) Add your comment
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  • Melissa

    I agree. As someone from the midwest, I find it a funny and pretty honest potrayal of middle American families. It doesn’t try too hard, it’s just real and it makes me giggle. I like it so much more than I ever thought I would. It’s not an award winning kind of show but I enjoy it and it doesn’t make my brain hurt.

    • Jank

      WRONG, the underrated show is Big Time Rush about hockey players from Minnesota who form the great new band Big Time Rush – it is hilarious!!!

      • me

        i’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but BTR is funny in an un-assuming young person way.

      • Rocque Records

        I LOVE BIG TIME RUSH!!!
        The music is surprisingly good (hear their song with Jordan Sparks), they poke fun at themselves and the hollywood and music business, and its just goofy fun. It is the best family comedy on tv, certainly on Nick where iCarly is not what it used to be and Victorious is fairly bland

    • jw

      YES! Finally! I’ve loved this show since the beginning (beginning).

      • ImStillToni

        Hahahahaha good one, jw!! Did you know I’m on the cross country team? *pointing to my sweatshirt*

      • Moni

        Oh I have watched “The Middle” since the beginning, between that and “Modern Family” my ribs hurt on Wednesday!

      • Carla

        I’m with JW…YES!! I have loved The Middle from the first episode (episode)!! Brick is the greatest kid actor, and the character is adorable-wacky, eccentric, bur not sweet! The Middle and Modern Family are the best on Wednesday. Better with you is…good filler, but average. I never took to Cougar Town.

      • Cricket

        I LOVE the show and all of the characters especially Brick. I’m sorry it isn’t on Hulu anymore because I can’t always catch it. However, I think the whispering thing Brick does is silly but he doesn’t do it as often as he did. Maybe they’re phasing it out.

      • Liz

        I also have loved The Middle right from the start, everyone talks abotu how great the child actors on Modern Family are but Brick is by far the funniest kid on TV right now. I hope they never phase out his whispering, especially when he lies.

      • RICK

        Axel: “For your fyi…”

      • Kathy28

        I heard “beginning ” in the whisper it was intended to be! LOL!

      • LP

        I agree with Tucker, but I think the credit should go to the three kids, especially Sue. I get such a kick out of that character, one of the best on TV right now. So kudos to that actress, she rules.

    • Captain Obvious

      Totally agree: you can tell the folks behind this show have a clue as to what the midwest is really like.
      Last night was one of those sitcom episodes that could be a big teaching moment for parents across the country.

      • RICK

        I think Brick’s whispering is done just about right, not too much. The Middle is in my top 4 of sit-coms; I just don’t know positions: (Middle; 2 1/2 Men; Big Bang; ModFam. My wife loves it as much, our teen kids think we’re crazy.

    • Curly

      I love the Middle and Modern Family. I tried watching Modern Family with my 12 yr old son, but he prefers the Middle. I enjoy having a show that both my son and I like to watch together, so rare these days. The Middle has been overlooked by so many people…Modern Family is great, but somehow the Middle has gotten pushed aside and it deserves better recognition.

      Last night’s episode was such a great reminder to me that I have somehow let my kids rule the house(how did that happen?) Maybe the Middle appeals more to me because I have kids, but sometimes it feels like one of the writers has been spying on our family since so many scenes have come straight from our lives, but w/less funny in them…its nice to see the funny added in.

      I will keep watching both Modern Family and The Middle and hope both remain on t.v. for a few more yrs…I look forward to the mid-week laughs from both shows.

      • downtown diva

        I don’t have children but have loved watching The Middle since I first saw it in season 1. I agree with others who’ve posted that Brick is their favorite character, or at least the favorite among the cast who play the children. I do hope that the way he Brick lowers his head and whispers is on the way out, though. I don’t think it adds any to his appeal.

      • SAB

        I agree that often it seems that things are taken right out of my family. This most recent episode reflected exactly what has been occuring in my family latey. Axl is my teenage daughter in boy-form. Sometimes the things he says are spot-on quotes from her. It gives me a humorous perspective to what we go through. Love it!

    • brandy

      TOTALLY agree. ABC’s Wednesday night block is rock solid. The Middle is a true winner that I hope sticks around with Modern Family for a long time.

    • Strepsi

      The Middle should be an award winning show: EDEN SHER as the daughter SUE HECK for Best Supporting Actress on a Comedy!

      She is brilliant, so over the top but real, and if Jane Lynch or Sophia Vergara can be nominated for breathing life into cartoonish characters, so should she. She makes me HOWL with laughter.

    • yup

      I agree, the show is great. However, there’s something weird with how hard they make it to watch the show. When I tried to get people into the show, the episodes weren’t available online for anyone to see! They make it hard to get other people into it.

  • Fran

    I had to cut back on my tv- but I used to love the show. Favourite character of course is played by Neil Flynn- Scrubs!!!

    • jk

      See I think the Sue character is just brilliant. So weird and wonderful. Love Neil Flynn too, though.

  • vankale

    My third favorite show on right now behind Modern Family and Raising Hope. Way better than 30 Rock and The Office.

    • Cricket

      I love Raising Hope as well. Maw Maw is a hoot and the baby that plays Hope is ADORABLE! That one is still on Hulu thank goodness as well as Modern Family which I like also. I can not stand Cougar Town.

      • wow

        You know, I am probably in the minority, but I could do without Maw Maw. She’s the most one note character in the show. Plimpton deserves an Emmy for this show, she is all they need. Weird cause I love the show and Cloris.

      • Jenny

        I love Raising Hope, and Maw Maw is hilarious to me! I’m going to give The Middle a chance, but the first disc is still listed at “long wait” on netflix.

    • Liz

      I hate HATE 30 Rock and the Office. I never really got either. I love Cougar Town, The Middle and Raising Hope. Community is really fantastic too. Those 4 are really my favorites right now.

  • stella

    the middle is pretty good. but i LOVE better with you, its absolutely hysterical. i watched the pilot when they reruned it o a friday night and i was crying from laughing so hard!

    • Casey

      I admit to watching Better With You just because it was on between Modern Family and Cougar Town, not expecting anything. It made me laugh several times which surprised me. I’ll have to give that one a shot.

      Oh and I agree that The Middle is certainly a gem that deserves some recognition.

      • Me

        I only started because of Debra Jo Rupp. The most underrated actress in TV history.

      • MisterMatt

        Totally Agree! Debra Jo is an awesome character. The Middle is great – the whispering hilarious, especially when Betty White did a cameo and had the same condition. Just good stuff – TV the way I remember from childhood. Well done shows, not trying to be too hip, clever or snarky.

    • Mary

      I agree… I think Better with You is an enjoyable half hour of television. It’s got a cute gimmick and makes me giggle at least a couple times an episode. All the characters are charming and the plotlines are amusing. It’s not reinventing the wheel, and I’m not sure it’s DVR worthy, but I enjoy it whenever I catch it.

  • watley

    FIRST!!!

    • Jenn

      Fail

    • amber

      You may be the first watley to comment, that’s true.

  • Jana

    I love The Middle and it is also one I am fine with my children watching. It is appointment viewing for our family on Wednesday nights.

  • Genie

    Love “The Middle” but Better with you is awful, painfully so.

    • PixxieTrixxie

      I agree Genie – although I also cannot watch Modern Family – I’ve tried but just don’t get it. I guess I really don’t like shows where the men are always made to look like idiots (the father of the main family). The Middle is genius.

      • Why the face?

        To be fair about Phil Dunphy (I assume you’re talking about him as the idiot father)…he’s actually been depicted as a smart guy in some situations. When it comes to things like giving gifts, keeping his wife from going off the deep end, or working at his job, the show indicates that Phil is actually very good at such things. He’s just kind of immature/wants to act immature sometimes, but he’s not really an idiot.

    • caryn

      agree on both points. I used to watch Better With You but when I can sit through 10 minutes or a whole show without cracking a smile, that’s my barometer to stop recording it.

    • J9

      I actually really enjoy Better With You – it is cute! Enjoy the comparison between the couples.

  • G

    The Middle is one of the only shows I watch. I’m surprised no one watches it. It’s just as funny as Modern Family and deserves more credit.

    • Me

      Thats the kicker G, People are watching it. This season 4 episodes have scored over 9 million and only one has been below 8 million (7.9). Thats more than 30 Rock, The Office, and Cougar Town. It is second only to Modern Family on that comedy block in ratings. It’s underrated because it gets absolutely zero press (finally EW) because on the outside it doesn’t look “smart” enough.

  • big carl

    The Middle, MF and Cougar Town are all equally dvr worthy. But c’mon, ABC isn’t bumping either of the first two next month. (And my opinion is that CT has actually been the best sitcom this season.) New year’s resolution: embrace the show and its stupid title (and lose six pounds).

    • rayme

      Big Carl is absolutely right. The ABC Wednesday comedy block is really good. Each show has its own personality but all are enjoyable. Little quibbles — I’ve always found Heaton annoying but less so in this part, Modern Family episodes start out strong but often run out of steam at the end, and worst is that the end of Cougar Town cuts out when the DVR switches to other networks!

  • KR

    I was thinking the same thing while watching The Middle tonight. Everyone does a great job acting, and it has little pop culture references without being over the top, like Frankie wearing the Snuggie, and saying Sue wants Jeggings “whatever they are”. The writing is really on top of its game.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for giving this show some much needed credit! It’s fantastic!

  • T

    I love The Middle! I sometimes forget that it comes on, but the times I catch it, it’s always good. Patricia Heaton is awesome, and that little kid who plays Brick – kid is hilarious. Great show!

  • Anna

    I LOVE this show. It is sooo funny and is absolutely underrated!

  • Nita

    Even my 10 year old twin boys love this show! The Middle doesn’t get the love it deserves. Along with Modern Family, it’s my favorite tv show.

    • Me

      It is the only prime time scripted show my three yr old will watch (and the only one I don’t hesitate letting her). And she doesn’t move until it is over.

  • Bee

    most underrated is definitely better with you. i think it’s a hilarious old-fashioned comedy.

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