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Rarely Seen Relatives Pay A Visit On 'The Middle'

April 23rd, 2015 10:28am EDT
'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 21 Recap: 'Two of a Kind'
When rarely seen relatives come to visit – a time of great anticipation (stressful or hopeful) in real life, and the perfect way to establish backstory with guest characters on TV. With Dick van Dyke making his debut as Uncle Dutch, viewers of “The Middle” experienced that real anticipation. In the world of the show, his absence prior to this episode made it easy to demonstrate that he and Tag had been on the outs for years. Not to mention that Dick and Jerry van Dyke are brothers in real life, thus their portrayal as fictional brothers just made sense.

Typically in a long-simmering sit...
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A New Conflict Emerges In 'The Middle'

April 16th, 2015 9:52am EDT
The Middle
Every once in a while, TV shows that are not heavily serialized will have episodes that seem like they came out of nowhere. A new conflict or new characteristic has suddenly emerged in The Middle, without any buildup or foreshadowing in previous episodes, but everyone on the show acts like this has been the new normal for some time. In that vein was “Food Courting,” in which each of the Heck children found themselves navigating a new role. For Axl and Sue, the suddenness of their situations made sense and were solid explorations of the signposts on the path to adulthood. Brick’s new pos...
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Axl And Sue Snipe At Each Other On 'The Middle'

April 9th, 2015 11:09am EDT
'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 19 Recap: 'Siblings And Sombreros
Sometimes when you learn a lesson, it takes a few reinforcements for it to fully take. Sitcoms thrive on regularity, so most of the time character development is either minimal or impermanent. But sometimes, what seems like forgetfulness or retconning is actually the gradual, patient work of becoming a better person. Sue and Axl have had some breakthrough moments this season, but the beginning of “Siblings and Sombreros” saw them sniping at each other as harshly as ever. But by episode’s end, they may just have reached a conclusive point of mutual respect. Sure, they will probably stil...
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Heck Brothers Attempt To Right Some Wrongs On 'The Middle'

April 2nd, 2015 10:33am EDT
The Middle
“No matter how you got there, your brother being nice to you is your brother being nice to you”

“Operation Infiltration” saw two older Heck brothers attempting to right their past wrongs perpetrated against a younger sibling, and even though things did not go exactly how they planned, everything worked out, in however unconventional a fashion. Sue may wish that Axl were nicer to her, but she has never pinned her value on his opinion. Similarly, Rusty has often faced Mike’s disappointment, but he is too odd and focused on doing his own thing to care what anyone else thinks. Mike and his ...
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'The Middle' Recap: College Acceptance Plot Makes For A Tense Episode

March 26th, 2015 9:19am EDT
THe Middle
“Why are you embarrassed that there’s a fun side to you?”

The Hecks go through a lot of hell just about every episode, but there is usually no need to worry that things are not going to work out by the end of the half hour. This is the formula of pretty much every sitcom ever, but “The Middle” has managed to make the stakes feel higher and realer than on most other shows. There actually have been episodes in which some things did not work out, at least not in a traditional sense. Thus, the college acceptance plot of “The Waiting Game” felt tenser than it had any right to.

Sue is not th...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'Flirting With Disaster'

March 5th, 2015 8:40am EST
The Middle
The three disparate plots of “Flirting with Disaster” all shared the theme of taking on new, uncomfortable roles. There were varying levels of difficulty for the adjustments involved, but by the end, everyone was in a better place. “The Middle” has certainly never shied away from heartwarming moments, but they snuck up a little more sneakily than usual in this episode.

Frankie’s flirtation with Finn may have been atypical behavior, but it was not like this side of her was completely unfamiliar. Axl’s friends in Orson have been trained for years not to interact with the rest of the Hecks...
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'The Middle' Recap: "Steaming Pile of Guilt'

February 26th, 2015 11:49am EST
The Middle
The funny thing about how forgetful Frankie and Mike are with Brick (and with everything in general) is how much they expect themselves to not remember. That is just the nature of forgetfulness: you might recognize this trait in yourself, but that might only make you powerless to stop the inevitable. The extent of their neglect of their youngest child has become so thorough that they have a set of tricks for covering their tracks, like delaying his birthday to the following year. But it has gotten to the point that the usefulness of these tricks has been exhausted (they delayed his birth...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'Obviously, Mermaids Are Awesome'

February 19th, 2015 11:03am EST
The Middle - The Answer
Picking up right where “Valentine’s Day VI” left off, “The Answer” found Sue Heck looking for an answer to a crisis that she had never faced before. Normally she finds some way to spin gold out of crap, saying yes to something that seemed awful by making it great by virtue of her optimism. But this time, she had to deal with something that was ostensibly great by bringing it down to something that she could say no to. Saying no is not something she is designed for. But she is also not a quitter, so somehow, some way, this was going to get sorted out.

It would seem appropriate to say th...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'Valentine's Day VI'

February 12th, 2015 12:06pm EST
The Middle
“The Middle” has had a Valentine’s Day episode almost every season. (This episode is “Valentine’s Day VI,” even though there was no “Valentine’s Day V.”) In that time, there have been various combinations of Heck children with and without significant others. But this was the first February 14 in which every Heck was in a healthy, happy relationship. It felt a bit like a conclusion of sorts, almost a bit too much so. With so little conflict – at least, nothing that could not be solved fairly easily – everyone’s situation was nearly too perfect to make a sitcom episode out of. But that ...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'Hecks On A Train'

February 5th, 2015 11:43am EST
'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 12 Recap: 'Hecks On A Train'
“The Middle” has been developing an odd habit recently of introducing and quickly resolving major plot points late in the episode. In “A Quarry Story,” it was Sue’s party that got out of hand. In this episode, it was Frankie getting left behind at one of the train stops and her family not even realizing that she was gone. These moments have been a little jarring, because they could have easily been expanded to fill an entire half hour. Furthermore, Frankie being left behind stuck out on an otherwise low-key episode of a show that is generally low-key.

“Hecks on a Train” was low-key ins...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'A Quarry Story'

January 15th, 2015 12:16pm EST
The Middle
Whoa, that was a lot of plot. Almost every Heck had their own storyline, with only Mike and Sue paired up. While most shows would buckle under the weight of that much narrative, all this chaos bumping up against each other is what “The Middle” is built for. Also, most of the happenings in “A Quarry Story” had fairly easy resolutions, and thus it benefited from all the stuffing.

The crux of the plot was so hard to pin down that the part of this episode that the program description described – Frankie has to work a day at Ehlert Motors in order to collect on an expired check – was not eve...
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'The Middle' Recap: 'Pam Freakin' Staggs'

January 8th, 2015 11:08am EST
The Middle
“The Middle” is usually fairly reliable for putting its own spin on stock sitcom stories. The fact that its characters are so well-defined and well-developed helps in this regard. So it was unsurprisingly immediately clear that this was not going to be the typical example of embarrassment over being caught off guard by the reappearance of an old acquaintance.

Frankie, in her most stained shirt and sweatpants and with trash strewn all over the road, could not have looked worse when Pam Freakin’ Staggs (Kirstie Alley) rolled up. But when she rushed back inside to get her household in orde...
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'The Middle' Recap: What's The Point Of Christmas?

December 11th, 2014 9:28am EST
The Middle
The main thrust of “The Christmas Wall” snapped into place at the very end, with Frankie making peace over how every time you think you’re out of frickin’ Christmas, it sucks you back in. Frankie tried to retire from traditional holiday celebrations the same way hitmen try to get out of the profession. She thought she had already a career’s worth of baking, decorating, and wrapping presents, but she had made too many allies, and they needed her for one last job. But it is never one last job. Once you’re back in the game of Christmas, there’s no getting out – not like you were ever real...
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'The Middle' Recap: World's Greatest Dad

December 4th, 2014 10:58am EST
The Middle
Would Mike Heck be as good a dad as he is – not just a good one, but the world’s greatest – if he didn’t have a daughter like Sue? When people wonder if they are good parents, if they are halfway decent they tend to put the onus squarely on themselves. This surely makes sense, because parents are ostensibly the adults, and when the parent-child relationship begins, the children are helpless. But at a certain point – certainly by the time of college visitation, but probably before that – children have enough of their own agency to bear some responsibility for the health of the relationshi...
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'The Middle' Recap: Thanksgiving For Losers

November 20th, 2014 10:40am EST
The Middle - Thanksgiving VI
This may have been the most depressing episode of the “The Middle” ever. That is no small feat for a show that has made no effort to hide the Heck family’s penny-pinching reality and daily stresses. Usually each episode will end on an at least relatively positive note to leaven that reality. “Thanksgiving VI” was not depressing because it forewent that positive ending. It was there, but it felt more momentary than ever before. The root causes of the doldrums were still taking their toll.

The good news is that despite how thorough all the Hecks’ problems are, they probably are not part...
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'The Middle' Recap: Fruitball Never Ends Well

November 13th, 2014 11:18am EST
The Middle
One aspect of “The Middle” and most great sitcoms that rarely gets enough praise is how well plotted, how well designed they are. The Heck house is notable for its clutter. This gives the writers and set designers a lot of objects to make comedy out of. If a large bowl of cereal and milk is placed onto the dining room table, then chances are later in the episode an important document will be dropped into it. Similarly, if one Heck is stressing over P.E. class and another Heck is stressing over a missing wallet, then the first is going to enlist the help of the other with tinickling just...
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'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 5 Review: The Weirdest Halloween Yet

October 30th, 2014 10:12am EDT
The Middle
As a sixth season sitcom with a comfortable timeslot, “The Middle” could very easily coast along on doing the same thing over and over. But that is not this show’s m.o. It is allergic to change, and its viewers are better off for its commitment to character development. The important things about “The Middle” stay the same: each Halloween episode is simply named “Halloween” and then “Halloween II” and now “Halloween V”; and holiday episodes continue to be its forte. But the specific elements that make each holiday episode so great are new and exciting each time.

Brick displayed a sudde...
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'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 4 Review: Happy 20-Somethingth Anniversary

October 23rd, 2014 10:50am EDT
The Middle
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” These words of wisdom popularized by W.E. Hickson are a constant source of inspiration, or the complete opposite of inspiration, for the Heck family. “The Table” was an emblematic episode demonstrating how much everyone in this family believes that it is never worth trying but they ultimate make do with the beaten-down lot they have in a way that is really all about trying anyway. Except for Sue. Sue never hears the same message about giving up from the universe that her parents hear.

The funny thing about not trying when it comes to Fra...
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'The Middle' Season 6, Episode 3 Review: Camaraderie And Bonhomie

October 9th, 2014 10:01am EDT
The Middle
The characters on “The Middle” have always had clearly defined quirks, but unlike other shows whose characters fit that description, it has not fallen in the pitfall of being allergic to character development. “Major Anxiety” was not hesitant at all in demonstrating this. Brick and Axl both behaved in ways that they never would have at the beginning of this series, but they still were recognizably themselves. Character development cannot be ignored in children, seeing as they grow up and usually change. But that development on a sitcom is not always as natural and satisfying as it was i...
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The Middle Season 6, Episode 2 Review: Savannah's Got a Lot Going On There

October 2nd, 2014 8:30am EDT
The Middle
“The Middle” has never shied away from the money-crunching tactics of living in the lower middle class, so it was inevitable that the Hecks would eventually face the struggle to pay for college. It is the most out-of-control financial concern in this country today, so obviously they wouldn’t be immune. They escaped it with Axl by virtue of a football scholarship at a state school. But Sue is no athlete, nor she is at the top of her class. She is a decent student, but not decent enough to be paid to go to school. So when her ACT score improves significantly on the second try, she rattle...
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'The Middle' Season 6 Premiere Review: #YearOfSue

September 25th, 2014 10:12am EDT
The Middle - Unbraceable You
The program description spoiled the biggest reveal of “Unbraceable You.” Sure, it happened only about a minute into the episode, but knowing the setup of Frankie not missing the start date of school ahead of time takes away the sting of the gag.

The Hecks are not known for their stress-free summers, as past years have been filled with the chaos of forcing a cheap and easy vacation, or summer school, or moving Axl into college. So it was in fact remarkable that they could have their best summer in ages – one in which they had nothing to do, nothing to worry about. So when the other shoe ...
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The 10 Best Guest Stars of 'The Middle'

September 24th, 2014 3:05pm EDT
The Middle
“The Middle” is one of the most charming, underappreciated sitcoms on television today. It has attracted a similarly charming, often unsung cadre of guest stars. With the show heading into its sixth season tonight, here is a look at the best of that cadre.

1. Norm MacDonald - Norm MacDonald is a relatively successful entertainer who strikes me as someone who lives a fairly well-adjusted life. So it is amusing that as Uncle Rusty, he is basically playing himself, even though Rusty is a bit of a drifter. He excels in the sort of small-time scheme-pulling persona that Norm is mischievo...
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Fall TV 2014: A Night By Night Comparison Of What May And May Not Work

May 15th, 2014 2:40pm EDT
Fall TV 2014: A Night By Night Comparison Of What May And May No
Now that all the big networks have revealed what they’ll be showing us this fall, let’s take a look at what may or may not work.

SUNDAY:

ABC is essentially playing it safe, and keeping Sunday Night intact. American Crime will swap for Resurrection at midseason. Resurrection was a buzzy drama that started seeing a ratings decline. Not waiting till midseason is probably a smart move. You don’t want to lose any more audience. It’s not a winning strategy, but ABC just doesn’t want to be in last place.

NBC has football, another super safe move. CBS is shaking things up, banishing Amazing Race...
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Check Out 'The Middle: The Complete Fourth Season,' On DVD Feb. 25

February 24th, 2014 6:35am EST
The Middle
In season four of The Middle, the Hecks once again bring the laughs from the heartland. Frankie (Emmyr winner Patricia Heaton) continues to struggle selling cars at the only dealer left in town, but an unexpected turn of events may force her to reevaluate her career path.

Meanwhile, Mike (Neil Flynn) has made it his mission to ensure sloth-like son Axl gets a football scholarship so he can get into college next year. Sue finds herself not only navigating high school, but also the Indiana roads by finally (she hopes!) getting her driver`s license.

With all the crazy happenings, it`s no w...
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2013 Fall TV Season: What Will Be The Second Cancellation?

October 8th, 2013 6:00pm EDT
Ironside
NBC- The Voice is still doing good numbers on Monday/Tuesday. The Blacklist is winning its timeslot, and was the first show (technically) to be rewarded with a back-nine pickup. Chicago Fire is also doing solid numbers on Tuesday. Revolution needs to regain some audience members if it wants a second season. With the success of The Blacklist, and Chicago Fire doing OK, Revolution is looking to be one of NBC’s weaker points right now. I can’t see it not running the full second season, but it might not get a third. Also, Ironside is definitely going to get cancelled. The premiere was so low, a...
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2013 Fall TV Preview: The Returning Shows On ABC

September 3rd, 2013 11:46am EDT
Modern Family
Welcome to Week 2 of the 2013 Fall TV Preview. ABC kicks things off for the third year in a row. I wrote about the critics disdain for ABC president Paul Lee last week, but they acknowledge ABC's success with its veteran shows. Revenge and Once Upon A Time enter season three this month. Grey's Anatomy is entering its tenth season. Castle's on season six. The Neighbors and Nashville got a second season. ABC struggles to develop and maintain new shows. I don't know why. How futile is network analysis with the growth of streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix? Network analysis is interesti...
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'Breaking Bad' & 'The Big Bang Theory' Rule Critics' Choice Television Awards - See Photos & Winners

June 11th, 2013 9:09am EDT
Kaley Cuoco
"Breaking Bad" and "The Big Bang Theory" won big at Monday night's Critics' Choice Television Awards, winning Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series, respectively.  "Game Of Thrones" was also crowned best drama, sharing the title with the AMC series.

"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston, who plays drug-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White, won the Best Actor in a Drama Series trophy. Tatiana Maslany won Best Actress in a Drama for her role in BBC's sci-fi hit "Orphan Black."

"Big Bang Theory" star Kaley Cuoco (pictured above) won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, sharing the accolade...
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A Few Minutes With... John Gammon of ABC's 'The Middle'

September 26th, 2012 11:15am EDT
John Gammon
ABC's The Middle has won over audiences with the Heck family's middle-class, Midwestern slice of life. Surrounding the Hecks in their fictional home of Orson, Indiana are plenty of other folks who are allegedly average yet just a bit quirky. I recently caught up with John Gammon, who plays Axl Heck's teammate and friend Darrin, to ask him about what he'd like to see for his recurring role and what else may be in his future.

"I like the show so much that whatever I'm doing, if they give me a call, I'm going to drop it," said Gammon, who told me he doesn't yet know how many episode...
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2012 Television Premiere Dates

September 8th, 2012 9:45am EDT
The Voice
It's that time of year again. Television fans have appointments with their couches as the fall season kicks off this month with tons of returning favorites and new shows. DVRs will be working overtime as viewers record their must-see-TV programs and talk about them later at the watercooler.

Check out the premiere dates of the new season (brand new shows are indicated with italics and by *). All times are eastern unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, September 10
The Voice 8 p.m. NBC

Tuesday, September 11
Go On 9 p.m. NBC *
The New Normal 9:30 p.m. NBC *
Parenthood 10 p.m. NBC

Wednesday, ...
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Whoopi Goldberg To Guest Star On 'The Middle'

March 5th, 2012 2:39pm EST
Whoopi Goldberg
Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg has landed a guest spot on hit TV comedy The Middle after cornering star Patricia Heaton to ask for a role.

Goldberg recently interviewed Heaton on hit talk show The View, on which she is a co-host, and she took advantage of the opportunity to campaign for a cameo on one of her favorite programs.

Heaton took the request to the show's producers - and they created a character especially for Goldberg.

The Ghost actress took a break from The View to film The Middle last week, and she's delighted to have scored the job.

Explaining her absence on the daytime t...
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