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October 30, 2014

Review: The Middle - The Block Party

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 29th 2009 1:10AM
Atticus Shaffer(S01E05) Things are starting to settle into a familiar and comfortable pattern. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking in the presentation or even the subject matter of this episode, but it was still enjoyable. It's the love within the Heck family, even within Axl, that makes this a heartwarming comedy.

It doesn't have the sharp wit and cleverness of its follow-up Modern Family, but it's still leaps and bounds better than its lead-in -- Oh, that's right. ABC went with a re-airing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown instead of Hank. Didn't they air that last night, too. That's okay, Kelsey. It'll be just fine. You'll get that back nine order any day now.

This week, we focused on Brick. The more I see of the little whispering weirdo, the more I like him, and while I hate to keep bringing this up, the more I need the show to address his physical ailment. Commenter 'Jeremy' said he has found evidence pointing to it being osteogenesis imperfecta. This is the same thing Carnivale's Michael J. Anderson has.

While the disease has no impact on Anderson's stellar acting abilities, it does limit him physically. As such, whether Shaffer has the same thing or not, it becomes more awkward when you have him in scenes like this week's basketball sequence. The cameramen have to do clever cutaways and jumps to avoid the fact that we never see Brick run, and hardly ever see him take more than a step or two at a time.

Maybe the actor is shy about it and doesn't want it to be a part of the show, but at some point I think it might have to be. Or at least it would be a healthy and wonderful thing for us to have to deal with. It's still early enough in the series that a diagnosis could come and it could just become a part of his character.

Okay, enough about that. Let's talk about how fun it is watching Brick fail completely to socialize properly. But who wasn't surprised to discover (or we already knew and I forgot) that Brick has perfect recall of everything he's ever read. The kid clearly has an amazing mind, even if it's wired differently from yours and mine.

I also appreciated a little more screen time for Axl. So far he's been a supporting character in everyone else's drama, and this week he finally took center stage. Sort of. Actually, it was kind of lame. It's all lame.

Lame.

The one who wound up being the lamest, though, was Frankie. I'm sure she was embarrassed when she was the only mother to not get an old jersey from her son, but maybe she should take that opportunity to be proud. He was bold enough to make a public gesture to a girl he clearly had no pre-established relationship with. And, he proved at that moment that he's not a follower. These are things to embrace.

In the end, he even proved that he had a heart, giving the jersey to poor, hapless Sue. She can't even retrieve balls well, though I laughed when she darted across the kitchen and snatched up the tomato that dropped out of the refrigerator when Mike opened it.

Speaking of Mike, I'm still adjusting to this new kinder, gentler Neil Flynn. All those years as the Janitor on Scrubs left me mistrusting everything he says and thinking he's either crazy or has an agenda of his own. But this is a completely different character, one who's still a little nutty, but still caring.

There it is again. Like all good TV families, where the Hecks don't have sense, they have heart. And that love keeps it sweet and keeps them united. Which keeps us rooting for them to get through whatever struggles they're facing each week.

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Gary

I like The Middle more every time I see it. The Hecks are from my neighborhood and I hope they stick around for a long time.These writers are fantastic and know right where the edge is..... Keep it up.

Those other shows where everyone takes turns with some cleverly hip reply are lame...they're like 'Revenge of the Valley Boys' or something?? Quit digging at your crotch Hollywood, you're making us sick.

October 30 2009 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tingrin87

Also, Axl is my favorite character on The Middle

October 29 2009 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tingrin87

am i the only one that noticed the term "lame" used in all 3 comedies last night? Axl, the dad in MF, and someone in Cougar town (one of the guys, iirc)

October 29 2009 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick Beaudin

Oh, that's right. ABC went with a re-airing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown instead of Hank.

They need to make that permanent by bringing back "Better Off Ted" in "Hanks" place.

October 29 2009 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cyn

I agree with Nick- I like this show even more than MF. Both shows are great but The Middle is more like our real lives and families. The school psychologist part was so funny. Big words for saying "no friends".
Every parent wants their kids to "shine" and be a star but that doesn't usually happen. And, this show gets that but makes if funny to be "average".
Keep making us laugh.

October 29 2009 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cyn

I agree with Nick- I like this show even more than MF. Both shows are great but The Middle is more like our real lives and families. The school psychologist part was so funny. Big words for saying "no friends".
Every parent wants their kids to "shine" and be a star but that doesn't usually happen. And, this show gets that but makes if funny to be "average".
Keep making us laugh.

October 29 2009 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott

ugh - you've gotta let the atticus shaffer thing go, man. you're starting to sound like bruce and the DEA in the house comments. if they address it, they address it, if not, maybe there's just nothing wrong with him... either way it's never taken me out of the show (i've never really noticed, like the commenter above), but it always takes me out of the review.

(review)

October 29 2009 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LRM

I know you've mentioned it a couple times now, but I haven't really noticed anything odd about the actor that plays Brick.

October 29 2009 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nick

Although I was told by every critic, blog, and hype machine that Modern Family was the new new 'it' sitcom, I actually like 'The Middle' more. Not to say MF isn't good, but it really treads on a lot of 'Arrested Development' territory stylistically. But for me, 'The Middle' is that lovely balance of oddball humor, cringeworthy moments that take me back to my school days, well fleshed out characters and, as an added bonus, real heart. I actually like Patricia Heaton for once, the kids are amazing (Sue kills me), and Neil Flynn's turnabout from Scrubs is great - I didn't even realize it was 'the Janitor' until the second episode.

October 29 2009 at 3:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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