Updated: May 5, 2020 2:08:36 pm
Modern Family recently ended, and as the finale aired, it had many saying that this was the end of an era, the era where family sitcoms still meant something. While there’s no debate about the fact that Modern Family was a hit and popular sitcom, it should be noted that it was the sibling that won the popularity contest, even if it didn’t always deserve it. As Modern Family premiered in 2009, there was another ABC show that made its premiere – The Middle, the sibling that was left ignored.
I call them siblings because both these shows are cut from the same cloth. They are both family sitcoms, and while The Middle was more classical in its approach, Modern Family was unique, fresh and of course, garnered more eyeballs.
What is The Middle all about?
The Middle is about a simple working-class family – parents and three kids, who struggle to put food on the table, deal with each other’s quirks and live in chaos but at the end of the day, it’s love that brings them all together.
Every episode is narrated by Patricia Heaton’s Frankie Heck as she is dealing with one crisis after another. Her husband, Neil Flynn’s Mike Heck, is the chilled-out laid-back dad who steps in when things go out of control. The three kids – Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer) are unique enough to carry entire storylines on their shoulders, and none of them disappoint.
Unlike other American sitcoms, The Middle had its protagonist family living in limited means. They weren’t just talking about being broke. We saw them living hand-to-mouth, barely making their payments. And it’s not like their poverty makes them pitiful in any respect, it only makes them tougher in approaching outlandish goals.
In its episodic storytelling, The Middle is as classical as it can get. Every episode has a mini-conflict that gets resolved by the end. The larger conflicts are carried around for entire seasons, but nothing here is earth-shattering.
What works for The Middle?
The Middle is what you call a feel-good TV show. Quite like Everybody Loves Raymond (which too had Patricia Heaton), there’s no way you can hate it and the more you watch, the more you start adoring its feel.
As far as the characterisation is concerned, The Middle has its lines marked clearly. The characters are warm and loving, with their eccentricities, and are just what you would want to come back to at the end of the day for comfort viewing. The oldest Axl is the good-looking but foolish, the middle one Sue is contagiously optimistic and the youngest Brick is the weird boy who is strange but lovable.
While the show aired, many publications frequently called it ‘an underrated gem,’ and it was quite obvious that the show was not pulling in the audience. The show was also never given the push it deserved mainly because ABC was deeply invested in the more popular family sitcom, Modern Family.
Unlike many other sitcoms that lose steam after the initial seasons, The Middle never lifted its foot off the accelerator. They were consistent from start to finish, for all of their nine seasons. So for a show with such consistent ratings, it’s hard to fathom why The Middle never got the recognition it deserved.
The adorable finale
Watching the Modern Family finale made me realise that no matter how annoying their episodes had become in the last few years, they still managed to close the show in an emotional way. Naturally, it reminded me of The Middle’s finale which was a tearjerker. Family sitcoms have a way of tugging at your heartstrings and making you emotional in a few seconds, and The Middle did that perfectly. While the characters kept exclaiming that it was the end of an era, it truly was the end of the family sitcom era that once housed shows like The Brady Bunch, Full House and Roseanne.
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The Middle is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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