Editor: Please welcome guest author Daniel Staten who will take on the dangerous duty of reviewing ABC’s popular sit-com The Middle.
The Middle follows the Heck family. They’re an all-American, middle-class family with everyday common struggles. The show is back for season three on ABC’s Wednesday night comedy lineup. This season’s opener features a cameo by Ray Romano that reunites him with Heck family matriarch Frankie, played by Patricia Heaton.
It’s the first day of school for Axl, Sue and Brick and as Frankie and Mike usher their kids off to class, Frankie begins to reminisce about the family’s summer bonding experience, or as most of us know it, vacation. After seeing neighborhood families travel to the beach, Wisconsin, and conveniently, Walt Disney World, Frankie decides that the Heck family needs a “quick and cheap” vacation to call their own. Mike, in his gruff and earnest way suggests the family go camping. In spite of the kid’s collective groans, they pack up the car and head out.
“Forced Family Fun” is a two-part season premiere. We learn through a series of flashbacks how Frankie and Mike spent their honeymoon and why Frankie says it was the worst night of her life. That’s where we meet Nicky Kohlbrenner, played by Ray Romano. Nicky recognizes Mike and Frankie from high school. Since Nicky was the manager of the 1983 high school basketball team, he was fully aware of Mike’s previous conquests, and suggests the perhaps Mike may have made a better pair with one of his old girlfriends.
“In an alternate universe, you and I could have been very happy,” Nicky confidently proclaims in an effort to tempt Frankie. Oh, the irony. There were several references to Heaton and Romano’s previous roles on Everybody Loves Raymond.
After the clouds of pre-FDA regulation sunscreen and bug spray settle, we find Brick catching his first fish and Sue finally becoming a woman just in time for her first day of high school, which Axl is determined to sabotage.
Frankie anchors the Heck family. It’s her insistence of family fun and her reluctance to see it happening right before her eyes that make her such an appealing character. She packs a blue snack bag full of wine coolers and frozen Snickers bars, only to have it fall off the top of the car as they pull out of the driveway. She forces the family to sit down and play a miss-matched board game that ends in the kids being sent back to their tents. The Middle relies on the everyday family strife for direction and Heaton’s dead-on motherly accuracy make it work.
“Forced Family Fun Part 2” airs next week at 8 PM on ABC.