As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Sadly, one of my favorite shows and one of the longest-running comedies currently on TV, "The Middle," is ending its run after its upcoming ninth season on ABC. This show is an often too-relatable depiction of a dysfunctional middle-class family, the Hecks, who live in Orson, Indiana surrounded by colorful neighborhood characters.
For many years, I relished every episode of delightful chaos that occurred in the Heck household, and I felt like I was growing up with the kids on the show. In an era where TV is increasingly becoming an internet-only experience, the Middle was a staple of network television that I'll sorely miss for several reasons.
1. It didn't glamorize middle-class family life and celebrated a family just trying to get by
This directly contrasted shows like Modern Family, where the families live very comfortably in southern California and money is never an object. In almost every episode, one of the Hecks makes a joke about their low household income and reiterates that they live frugally. Throughout the series, the Hecks' financial penny-pinching charmingly reminded the audience that they truly put the "middle" in "middle class."
2. The kids, unlike on most modern Disney shows, weren't overly obnoxious
Another quality I loved about 'The Middle' is that the kids on the show actually talked like kids, as opposed to spoiled brats who are being spoonfed lines off camera. The kids' dialogue on the show always flowed naturally and never felt forced. This made them much more watchable than kids on other shows who, at age two, talk with lines clearly written for a 10-year old.
3. It depicted the realities of relatable situations like applying to college and fitting in at school
'The Middle' never sugarcoated its depictions of activities that are tedious, awkward, or nerve-wracking. Whether it was an episode about the basement flooding, efforts to back up the computer, or standing up to a school bully, every episode's scenario perfectly balanced comedy with sometimes painful realism.
4. It kept its humor clean and family-friendly for its entire run
This may make me sound like a grandmother, but 'The Middle's' brand of dysfunctional family humor is so refreshing in a world filled with cynical, extremely crass comedy. Yes, it had to keep it clean because it was on a major network at prime time, but within these restrictions, it could have lost its upbeat, down-to-earth sense of humor. And it never did.
5. Each season was a new school year, and the audience grew up in real time with the family
As I am the same age as Sue Heck, the middle child, I was always excited to realize that she and I were starting the same school year at the beginning of a new season. Whether it be freshman year of high school or freshman year of college, I could relate directly to everything that Sue was going through. This yearly growth also applied to the other kids on the show, which meant that their character development always felt organic and natural.
6. The parents actually seemed to care deeply for their kids
Unlike other shows where parents act more like monarchs than parental units to their kids, Mike and Frankie Heck raised their kids with a firm, but genuinely loving hand. 'The Middle' had many touching moments of parents selflessly helping their kids with a sticky social situation or a school project, as well as many tear-jerking heart-to-hearts that I'll sorely miss.
7. Despite this, Mike and Frankie Heck never hesitated to call out their kids on their B.S.
Another reason I loved this show was precisely because the parents, while very caring, didn't act like everything their kids did deserved an award. I loved when Sue, Brick, or Axl would do something without thinking and one of their parents would immediately tell them, in an often hilarious fashion, that they were on the wrong path. Part of growing up is learning from your mistakes, and there's no one better to nicely let you know you've screwed up than your sitcom parents.
8. 'The Middle' was never afraid to depict pure exuberance, and the Hecks never lacked enthusiasm for life
As someone who tries to live as enthusiastically as possible, it always warmed my heart that the Hecks did the same. Many of its funniest moments came from one of the kids or the parents expressing unadulterated joy over a relatively marginal accomplishment, like not having to chaperone a field trip or finally getting the above-ground backyard pool in order.
9. It also had many very quotable moments, from parents and kids alike
I'd need a whole different article just to compile my favorite quotes from 'The Middle' over the years, and though it showcased an "average" American family, its humor was certainly above-average. 'The Middle' found comedy in the things that we all think about saying to others, but usually refrain from out of tact. I'll miss its off-kilter, conversational brand of comedy that often felt like a conversation I could easily imagine having with my own family.
10. Despite friends, teachers, and relationships that came and went, the family was the center of the show's plot for its entire run
In many shows I've admired over the years, the show's original purpose got increasingly muddled as the seasons went on. This never happened for 'The Middle,' who focused on the family dynamics even as Brick grew up and Sue and Axl went off to college. This may have required slightly unrealistic plot devices, but I'm thankful that so many of the newer episodes still focus on the entire family spending time together.
In the midst of many life developments over the past nine years, 'The Middle' has been a delightful constant in my TV-watching life. I'll be truly sorry to see this wonderful, wholesome family comedy go. In the meantime, I'l continue emulating its lively spirit in my own life as I move forward.