The Middle: Season 1

The Middle: Season 1
Last year saw something of a revival of the sitcom on T.V. ― for years, the top shows were of the forensic drama variety and it had been even longer since one night of television was dominated by half-hour comedies. Yet ABC took a chance and filled their Wednesday night schedule with Hank, starring Kelsey Grammar (which lasted five episodes), Cougar Town, with Courtney Cox (which eventually turned into a great ensemble show), Modern Family (which won great critical acclaim and the Best Comedy Emmy) and The Middle. The Middle harkened back to family comedies of old ― just mom, dad and the kids trying to get by. Starring Patricia Heaton, who had been treading water since Everybody Loves Raymond ended, and Neil Flynn (the janitor from Scrubs), it tells the tale of the Heck family. Frankie (Heaton) tries to sell cars, with little success, Mike works at the quarry; and they have three misfit children: eldest son Axl is the typical apathetic, unmotivated teenager, awkward middle child Sue has flunked pretty much every extracurricular activity and eight-year-old outcast Brick is super-smart but has the curious habit of whispering to himself. The family barely get by, yet everything seems to work out for them in convenient half-hour chunks that tend to stay on the warm fuzzy side. It comes across like a mellower version of Malcolm In The Middle, a show that did quirkiness much more satisfyingly. Plus, Brick is definitely heavily influenced by Dewey from Malcolm, even if the rest of the show tries to depict a typical atypical American family. The real problem is that it tries to get by on charm, and that charm gets spread a little thin by the end of the season. The characters aren't as interesting as the writers think, with only Brick providing laughs on a regular basis. Watching Sue fail at everything gets exhausting, Axl is just plain dull and everything is too one-dimensional to make it anything more than a forgettable half-hour sitcom that supplies a few smiles, from time to time. There's a reason that it has been overshadowed by Modern Family, but there's still a place for some unchallenging escapism that provokes the occasional nod of recognition. There are a few extras spread over the three DVDs. Six episodes have deleted scenes, which were taken out for good reason, plus there is also a ten-minute featurette on the creation of the show, a brief interlude on bad school photos and the ubiquitous gag reel, which demonstrates that simply missing lines and cues really isn't all that funny at all. (Warner)