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October 1, 2014

Review: The Middle - Christmas

by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 10th 2009 2:17AM
The Middle: Christmas
(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.

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Nornny

They should move Better Off Ted into Hank's timeslot!! ABC's Tuesday lineup is not doing that show any favors. I would much rather see it on Wednesdays leading into these shows.

December 10 2009 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ar

The scene about decorating the tree was perfect. Every year I am certain that decorating the tree at our house is a family tradition. Yet when we do it my husband plays on his computer and my son helps at first and quickly gets disinterested. I am left mumbling to myself about family togetherness as I finish hanging the ornaments. Frankie throwing tinsel on the tree as she called out about family togetherness really hit home!

December 10 2009 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj

It grows on me. I like the fact that in this show, and Modern Family, people aren't perfect. The kids are normal. The parents make mistakes. But they try. I didn't think I would like the Middle, but I actually do.

December 10 2009 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard

This show is GREAT! I grew up in middle California and I still relate to it! The guy that plays Mike is really good in this program. I did not like him in Scrubs. Everyone is great in this show.

December 10 2009 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Great show!

Great show.

I love Brick!

I love Brick.

December 10 2009 at 8:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment
scott

ha ha ha!

(ha ha ha.)

December 10 2009 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Guess Who

Great show no doubt about it. When people complain that there are not any good "family" shows it's because people don't rally around gems like "The Middle'.

I miss the days when the big three ran two hours of sitcoms every night and a drama the last hour. Network TV is declining with good reason - and the local affiliates are so panicked for viewers in some markets they are running locals snipes, logos and lower thirds which has forced me to watch many shows online now.

December 10 2009 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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