If I’m being completely honest, I get bored watching TV shows very easily. I have a pile of unfinished shows from the past five years. It includes fan favorites like “Breaking Bad,” “Party of Five,” “Grace and Frankie” (I know!), and “Grey’s Anatomy.” I have a problem. However, “The Middle” never bored me. For all nine seasons, I was entertained by the Heck’s struggles. Here’s what makes the show so successful.
My personal favorite character, Sue, is a mess. Her aptitude for failure is fantastic. She has braces, gets them removed, and her teeth shift back and she has to put them back on. She tries out for every club and ends up making her own when she doesn’t make any. Usually, this type of repetition would bore me, but the characters acknowledge how ridiculous it is. Frankie is constantly worried about Sue’s feelings when she inevitably fails something. And Mike just accepts that it is going to happen, knowing that Sue’s positivity will help her bounce back.
The running gag of the “blue bag” was something I looked forward to. Nearly every time the Hecks went on a road trip, Frankie packed a blue bag full of snacks. And every time it was packed, it was left at home, they drove off with it on the top of the car, or ran it over. Eventually, they even lost the blue bag and replaced it with an orange bag, and then a yellow bag. In the finale, they drive off to Denver, and of course, forget the blue bag on the side of the road. It was a great way to wrap up the series before the flash forwards.
The Glossners, the neighbors to the Hecks and the Donahues, were the trashy enemies to the whole neighborhood. First of all, Brooke Shields was a perfect casting for Rita. The Glossners give you everything you could want: completely dead grass in the lawn, garage full of neighborhood toys, six year old in a diaper whose name we never learn, and the ultimate suburban mom feud. There were enough toned down Rita moments to show us that she was a good person, but they were balanced out by the awesome neighborhood brawls. The episode “Hecks vs Glossners: The Final Battle,” was the most dramatic, as Sue ended up kidnapped in the Glossner house with her car. It was a beautifully chaotic episode.
The Donahues are the other side of the spectrum. They are the “perfect” family, with a clean house, the ability to cook, and well-behaved kids. Nancy Donahue gives Frankie perspective on how Rita Glossner sometimes sees her, and how Frankie views the Glossners. Frankie is annoyed by both, but grows to understand them throughout the series. The Donahues also add to Sue’s failures because the Hecks are constantly comparing themselves to them. Of course, we learn every once in a while that the Donahues aren’t perfect. Ron sometimes speaks down to Nancy, and the kids, specifically Sean, go through funky phases just like the Hecks. The Donahues are the family we love to hate.
Axl Heck is gross, egotistical, and the ultimate teenage boy. It’s rare that we see him with a shirt or pants on. Nearly every episode that he spends in the Heck house, he is in his underwear. This was so frequent that when my mom was watching with me, she asked me if he ever has pants on. After a certain amount of episodes, I literally stopped noticing. It’s just a nice touch for his character.
If you have ever watched “The Middle,” I know you were waiting for this one. The absolute best part of the show is Brick. Sue may be my favorite, but Brick’s quirks are comedy gold. His whisper quirk is his most famous, where he repeats a word he or someone else said as a whisper when he wants to hear it again. But there are so many others. During one season, he starts saying “woop” after some of his sentences. Sometimes he combined that with singing “You’re gonna love our pizza,” one he didn’t even notice he was saying. He also whispers “‘I’m lying” whenever he lies. His quirks are spread out nicely so they aren’t too repetitive or annoying. I can’t help but laugh every time he whispers
If you haven’t watched “The Middle” I highly recommend it. It’s available to watch with Hulu Premium, YoutubeTV, Fubo Premium, and on the Freeform channel on live TV all the time. Get watching!