Review: The Middle - Christmas
by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 10th 2009 2:17AM
(S01E10) I really hope ABC comes up with a good solid lead for Wednesday nights. I use CBS's The New Adventures of Old Christine to lead into ABC's excellent block of three comedies, but they really should have a show of their own. So far we've had a few specials and even repeats of Modern Family, since the demise of Hank. Maybe a better idea is to let The Middle lead off the night and slip a new comedy into its old slot. It's certainly strong enough creatively.
Just like The Big Bang Theory was a breakout hit waiting to happen, I think The Middle is being overshadowed by Modern Family. Maybe a shake-up is just what it needs. Don't get me wrong, MF is fully deserving of all the praise, just not at the expense of this wonderful little gem tucked right before it.
It was odd that, for the second major holiday in a row, the episode was about Mike stepping up to make the season happen.
This time, he did so to allow Frankie her chance, after fifteen years, to sing the solo at the midnight service at their church. Mike stubbornly refused to admit Christmas was hard, and actually did an admirable job of tackling all the things that make the holiday season work. I actually laughed out loud when it was revealed that he'd forgotten to label the gifts, because inevitably that would happen at our house every year.
Sometimes they weren't labeled at all, sometimes they were mislabeled and my mother would have to redirect my gift to my brother after I opened it. The best, though, was a year when we had a litter of kittens in the house, and they proceeded to pull all the tags off of the gifts so they could tear them into shreds. By the time we woke up, they were all up in the tree to escape our wrath.
I think that right there is one of the reasons I like The Middle so much. As I've said, I'm a Midwesterner, and in so many ways this show really does seem to get us. The fact that almost every week it brings back moments like that Christmas for me, reaffirms it. This family is just so real and beautifully flawed I feel like I must have known them. Or been them.
There was a tragedy this week, though. Sue's relationship ended. When she was telling Frankie and Mike about it, I was cringing right along with them expecting a much different revelation than two boys hiding out to sneak a smoke. I am so impressed with the abilities of Eden Sher and Atticus Shaffer in this show. Without them, those archetypes would probably fall into parody, but Sher just sells the oblivious innocence of Sue with utter conviction.
Shaffer could have easily turned Brick into that typical "weird" little kid we've seen a million times, but he infuses something special in there. Highlights this week were him lying under the Christmas tree, and sucking all the joy out of Santa at the mall. The climax of the episode, though, with Mike waking up the kids to throw themselves together for Frankie's moment, was priceless. Those are the memories that Holidays are made of, like the family's appearance at the back of the church in their "best" attire.
It may never work out the way you want, but it still works out just the way it should.