Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ABC Fall Pilot Review: The Middle - Premieres September 30; TV Land Goes Brady Crazy This Week

The Middle

The Middle - Wednesdays 8:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 8:30PM ET/PT

Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton stars in this warm and witty single-camera comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations.

Frankie Heck is a superhero. Well, no, not an actual superhero - not unless you count getting her kids out the door for school every morning as a superfeat. Middle-aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country, this harried wife and working mother of three uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact. Frankie has a job selling cars at the town's only surviving car dealer; her husband, Mike, is a manager at the local quarry.

In between juggling shifts and picking up fast food dinners eaten in front of the TV, Frankie and Mike raise their kids with love and solid Midwestern practicality. Axl is the oldest, a teenage jock who eats the family out of house and home and walks around in his underwear. Then there's Sue, their extraordinarily ordinary pre-teen daughter who fails at everything she tries with great gusto. Brick, the youngest son, is an odd kid whose best friend is his backpack. Together, they're putting THE MIDDLE on the map.

Cast Details:

* Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck
* Neil Flynn as Mike Heck
* Charlie McDermott as Axl Heck
* Eden Shur as Sue Heck
* Atticus Shafer as Brick Heck
* Chris Kattan as Bob

Patricia Heaton (Frankie Heck) is perhaps best known for her role as Debra Barone on the award-winning series Everybody Loves Raymond. She won two Emmy Awards for the role and was nominated seven times. In addition to her Emmy wins, Heaton is also the recipient of the Best Comedy Actress Award from the Viewers for Quality Television, a SAG Award and three SAG nominations in the Best Actress category for her work on Raymond. Heaton most recently starred opposite Kelsey Grammer in the Fox comedy series Back to You. She also starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Front of the Class. Other television credits include a recurring role on ABC's popular series thirtysomething and prominent roles in the series Room for Two, Someone Like Me and Women of the House, as well as the television films A Town Without Christmas and Miracle in the Woods. Heaton produced and starred in the TNT/FourBoys Films production, The Engagement Ring, She also starred in the TNT/Neil Simon production of The Goodbye Girl and ABC's The Path to 9/11. Her feature film credits include Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Beethoven, New Age and Space Jam.

Neil Flynn (Mike Heck) just finished his eighth season as Sacred Heart Hospital's menacing janitor in the ABC comedy series Scrubs. Flynn can be seen interrogating Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, directed by Steven Spielberg, and is also well known for playing Lindsay Lohan's dad in the hit comedy Mean Girls. His other feature appearances include Hoot, Home Alone 3, The Fugitive, Chain Reaction, Rookie of the Year, Baby's Day Out and Major League. Equally adept at comedy and drama, Flynn has performed a variety of roles on television series, ranging from Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show and That 70's Show to C.S.I., Boston Public and NYPD Blue. Other T.V. appearances include Arli$$, Ellen, Family Law and Smallville.

Charlie McDermott (Axl Heck) is a quickly rising star who will make his presence felt on both the large and small screen in 2009. On the big screen he has two new films in production: He'll join Chevy Chase, John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson in United Artist's Hot Tub Time Machine, an absurdist comedy slated to open in February 2010; he will also star alongside Laura Linney and writer/director Leland Orser in Morning, opening later this year. McDermott began his career with M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. Additional film credits include The Sex Drive, opposite Seth Green and James Marsden. Television credits include The Office, as the disinterested student who ignores Michael Scott (Steve Carell), ABC's Private Practice, Parks and Recreation, and Medium.

Eden Sher (Sue Heck) is best known for her work on the ABC comedy Sons & Daughters. She has also starred in Starz Party Down, ABC Family's The Middleman, Disney's Sonny With A Chance and Showtime's Weeds.

Atticus Shaffer (Brick Heck) was discovered by his manager in 2006 and soon landed a guest starring role in the series The Class. That role led him to the role of Brick in the original ABC pilot, The Middle. Several episodics followed, such as My Name is Earl, Days of Our Lives, Carpoolers, Out of Jimmy's Head and Human Giant. Perhaps best known for the bus stop scene he shared with Will Smith in Hancock, Atticus' other roles in feature films include The Unborn, An American Carol, Leaving Barstow and Opposite Day.

Chris Kattan (Bob) is best known for his many characters on Saturday Night Live, which he joined in March 1996, completing his seventh and final season in 2003. With numerous upcoming projects, he was recently seen in the Independent Film Channel's three-part miniseries, Bollywood Hero, in which he played himself in an otherwise fictional comedy. Other big-screen credits include Universal's Undercover Brother, Disney's Corky Romano" the script of which was based on a character Kattan developed, and A Night at the Roxbury, written by Kattan and Will Ferrell and produced by Lorne Michaels and Amy Heckerling. Kattan was also seen opposite Brendan Fraser and Bridget Fonda in Monkey Bone, and in The House on Haunted Hill, opposite Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Ali Larter and Taye Diggs and produced by Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis.


Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs September 30)
Frankie is struggling in her career as a car salesperson because she has failed to actually sell a car. Sue has auditioned for show choir and, to everyone's shock, makes the team, but fails to mention that she's part of the stage crew. To top things off, Brick wants Frankie to come to his class presentation dressed as a superhero. Just when Frankie thinks she's got a car sold and her kids under control, she does show up to Brick's class dressed as a superhero -- but he's given her the wrong day -- and the car she thought she had sold is stolen right in front of her. Work and home have taken over Frankie's life... to the point that she barely recognizes herself and has even taken to coloring her hair with a magic marker. Her youth has faded and the day-to-day grind has worn her down, but it's family and the struggles they face together that keep Frankie and the rest of the Hecks one big happy mess.
Guest starring are Brian Doyle-Murray as Mr. Ehlert, Amy Farrington as Gail, Patricia Belcher as Mrs. Rettig, Jeanete Miller as Aunt Edie, Francis Bay as Aunt Ginny, Peter Breitmayer as Pete, Andy Kreiss as choir director, Ping Wu as Mr. Yamamoto, Mike Randleman as flight attendant and Robert Clendenin as P.A.
"Pilot" was written by DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler, and directed by Julie Ann Robinson.


Analysis:

ABC has had this pilot in development for a few years, so they have really believed in it and got to a point where they made it the best they could. Previously when it was in development, Ricki Lake was the star...now we have Patricia Heaton as the star and she shines in this role! This sitcom is about an average family living in "the middle" of the country in Indiana. If you liked Malcolm in the Middle, you are sure to like this. While that series was focused mainly on Malcolm, this series is all about Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton). But that is not to say this isn't an ensemble, because the family is a key part of the show.

The pilot is excellent. Mike and Frankie Heck have three children Axl, Sue and Brick. They are all so unique and funny in their own ways. I think everyone in the entire country will love the youngest child, Brick. He is unbelievably funny! Even his name is pretty funny! Seriously, Frankie, Axl, and Brick...strange names, but funny! Frankie is a car salesman and of course a mom, where she has to juggle so many tasks. Brick has even called his mom a superhero for his class. What happens with that is actually very hysterical. Frankie also can't sell any cars and when you think she is about to, something very out of the blue happens that you'll never see coming. And at the dealership, Frankie's co-worker Bob (Chris Kattan) is there, but he hasn't really gotten any substance yet. He has now been made a series regular, where on this pilot he was just a guest star. We have two very fun men here in Neil Flynn as Mike Heck and Chris Kattan as Bob the car salesman. Just a wonderful cast and a hilarious family!

You've see some hilarious scenes in promos, such as Brick unknowingly tapping her teacher's breast when trying to get her attention, and the hilarious scenes just keep on coming on this show! Another scene that is hysterical is when Frankie is telling Brick to lick his frozen pancake because it will last longer! Everything in this pilot clicks very well and ABC now I think has 3 very good comedies on Wednesday nights, with only Hank (The Middle's lead-in) being the exception so far.


Conclusion:

This could quietly become one of the top comedies on the air right now. Modern Family is probably the best family comedy, but this should not be overlooked either. If you like sitcoms like Roseanne and Malcolm in the Middle, you'll love this one because it is a mix of both. I am from the Northeast, so I don't know if families are really like that in "the middle" of the country, but Heaton has said in interviews that she was born in Ohio (close to Indiana) and her family was so much like this. I'm sure people in the middle of the country will even like this show more since they can relate to this. In these tough times, we sure need a show like this! I never really liked Everybody Loves Raymond, but Patricia Heaton shines in this role...she plays it real and is funny. Neil Flynn was always hilarious on Scrubs and just seeing the janitor from Scrubs as a father is hysterical itself! I think the real show stealer in this is Atticus Shaffer as the young Brick. He pulls his pants down in public to go to the bathroom, he touches his teacher's breasts (not on purpose), and repeats stuff under his breath. He is like Dewey from Malcolm, but so much funnier!

The ratings should be pretty good for this show. This hour is pretty weak and the show is millions better than CBS's competing Gary Unmarried. Tune in tonight at 8:30pm for this new hilarious comedy on ABC Comedy Wednesday! You'll be saying "this is a winner" and like Brick, you'll say it under your breath, too!

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by pavanbadal on 09/30/09

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 23 on our message board.

Related Links:


  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Middle Photo Gallery

    Preview:






  • TV Land has made a slight change for the remainder of the week starting tonight. The Brady Bunch will air Wed-Fri this week ONLY in the 7pm hour instead of the usual back-to-back The Beverly Hillbillies. That is interesting as it seems last week's Brady Bunch anniversary must have did decent for them in the ratings. However, it just seems so strange they have Brady Bunch followed by Married...with Children! Talk about two totally different shows! I'm not sure what TV Land is doing, but their scheduling has been pretty weird the last year or two.
    TV Land has also quietly returned Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the weekdays at 9am hour, replacing Good Times, which now shifts to 10-11am, followed by Sanford & Son from 11am-12pm. Previously three episodes each of these two sitcoms were airing from 9am-10:30am and 10:30am-12pm.
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