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August 31, 2015

Review: The Middle - The Neighbor

by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 7th 2010 12:38PM
Brooke Shields, The Middle: The Neighbor(S01E12) It's a good thing The Middle had another episode air tonight, as something went wrong in the writing room when they tried to figure out how to work guest star Brooke Shields into the Hecks' life. Not only was it an abrupt intrusion of what we'd come to understand about the family and their neighborhood, it was a departure from the sense of realism the show had won me over with.

Slightly over the top for comedic effect is one thing, but things were taken to the point of absurdism by the time we were done learning about neighbor Rita Glossner (Shields) and her four hellacious children. It's as if the writers came up with an intriguing concept of what to do with Shields, and then weren't really sure how to write for it.

They particularly dropped the ball with her final moments in the episode. Still, it did introduce us to one of Sue's friends, who I thought was just perfectly suited to her, and their concept of a fight. I don't know if the actual "fight" was funnier, or Sue's attempts to explain to her parents about the music and the choreography she and her friend had developed for it.

The explanation for the Glossner's is that every neighborhood has them. I guess by "them" they mean a family of poor trashy people who terrorize their neighbors and have no control over their children or their pets. Only I don't remember my neighborhood having anyone that bad -- unless my family was the Glossners. Uh-oh.

It seems like the potential was there for it to work, and I'll give Shields credit for making me miss My Name Is Earl with her performance, but it ultimately just kind of fell apart. By the time we'd reached the dramatic end where Frankie stands up to her and the neighborhood starts reclaiming their stolen belongings, they realized they had no exit strategy for Shields' character, so they had her declare that she might be pregnant with a basketball player's baby and on her way out of this crappy neighborhood. What?

The clips of the Glossner kids terrorizing the neighborhood were funny, though, as was Mike's encounter with Rita at her front door. "You gonna put that away." Followed up by Mike's explanations about it to Frankie, including the revelation that Rita's son didn't seem to surprised to see it.

Maybe the problem is that they had a big guest star in the role. If they'd toned down how trashy the family, their home and their yard were, the Glossners could have been a fun recurring element to the show. But with Shields in the part, they're practically destined to vanish completely from the series now. Unless the writers use their departure to introduce a fun new family dynamic into the mix, it's a wasted opportunity to add some drama for the Heck family outside the house.

The Brick and Axl relationship is one of the better ones inside the house. I can completely believe a 16-year old being idolized by his kid brother while mostly being "too busy" or "too cool" or "too grown up" to want to hang out with him. Most younger brothers aren't working their way through Moby-Dick, a second time, but that's a whole different conversation.

Brick masterfully manipulated Axl into becoming the dream big brother after a deal where Axl would teach Brick to kick a ball and Brick would write his paper. It was refreshing that the pair completely got away with it on a family sitcom, and even more appropriate that a third grader would write a C-paper for a high school class. In fact, I'd say it's pretty impressive on Brick's part that he could write a paper that would even do that well.

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I always have to make sure I have used the restroom before this show, The Middle, comes on. I have not laughed this hard since Seinfield! Every cast member is perfect!! Even down to the dog! But they really had me going with the Brooke Shields role! PLease who do I write to too make sure this never gets cancelled?? And the show after, The Modern Family, thank you ABC for putting laughter back in my life!!

January 10 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved this episode! It was so fun to see Brooke Shields in this role. She played it really well; she was able to disguise her beauty with the attitude of a so-called "trailor trash" woman with out of control kids and no husband to be found.

You could see in her that she didn't want to live that way. She probably had dreams earlier in her life that were no longer possible. When Frankie brought the groceries to her (a very nice gesture) I'm thinking it must have been awfully difficult for Ms. Glossner to accept the gift, no matter how much she needed it. I hope they bring the Glossners back; you may have noticed I am fascinated with her.

January 07 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I also thought it was part of Frankie's narrative, which usually centers on her ownself and had to rely on the interpretation of Mike's visit to the floozy. Once they had Brooke Shields in the get-up, they had to stay the course.

January 07 2010 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think one of the best moments was the choreographed fight. It's a shame we didn't get to see the cartwheels.

January 07 2010 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think the writers over-exaggarated the Glossners. We hear the story through Frankie, and like in every story being told things get exaggarated.

January 07 2010 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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