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A Few Words of Appreciation for 'The Middle'

By Michael Griffin, Hollywood Staff

The Hecks are... well... in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to sitcom families. They are definitely not as perfect as the Cosbys but they are far from being as morally repugnant as the Bundys. Sure, they may often be at each other's throats, particularly the teenage siblings Axl and Sue, but you never seem to get the sense that there's any true malice behind their fights. Even when one of them goes too far, there's always something that happens to reel one or both of them back in.

At first, Eden Sher might seem grating Sue, but her dorkiness becomes endearing. Charlie McDermott straddles the line of insufferable late-teen male brat, you know, the one who is totally self-absorbed but has glimmers of the good person he will grow to become.

I've been a huge fan of Neil Flynn since his days as the Janitor on Scrubs. It's nice seeing him play counter to the surly maintenance man, portraying an introvert who is still (mostly) devoted to his family. There are some days he would rather park himself in front of the television and tune everyone else out. Sure, he's still a curmudgeon, but at least Mike Heck won't drive anyone out to the desert and leave him there like the psychotic Janitor did with J.D. Flynn also allows Mike to show genuine moments of insight to filter their way through his irascible persona.

Patricia Heaton has been great as Frankie, a mother who is far from June Cleaver. she has admittedly ignored her kids and husband, though not to the point of where it is harmful. She is just overwhelmed by what life throws sometimes, but what makes me root for her is that she is self-aware and overall, she is a fantastic mother. She's a sublime comedy partner with Flynn.

Last, but not least, is the diminutive Brick, played by Atticus Shaffer. Brick could just be a punchline, just a young, stunted version of Sheldon Cooper, since both characters exhibit the same amount of social awkwardness. Brick has shown that he can peer through his fog of cluelessness and neuroses (I love how he sometimes lowers his head and whispers the last word of a sentence a second time). He comes across as a real person.

The guest stars are just right, with people like Jerry Van Dyke, Norm McDonald, and Kenneth Parcell lending their talents to the show without taking over. They feel like real relatives and bosses, not caricatures. Great casting all around.

I'm glad to sit down during the middle of my week to devote a half hour to watching the Hecks.

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