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October 13, 2015

Review: 'The Middle' - 'The Yelling'

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 4th 2010 2:45AM
Patricia Heaton, Chris Kattan - 'The Middle'(S01E14) I kind of like the relationship developing between Bob and Mike. When Mike threw him out of the house a few weeks back, I was actually a bit taken aback. Sure, Bob's a bit -- okay, a lot awkward, but he has a good heart and he's a decent guy. And he's good friends with Frankie.

It's made the writing seem a little uneven, as there are times Mike hasn't seemed nearly as bothered by Bob as he was that day. This week, we found out for certain why Mike gets annoyed by Bob. In fact, I'll take it one step further and say that we were right there with him. Good lord, how does Frankie even handle him? Oh, that's right. She's so fixated on her own messed up life, she hardly pays any attention to him. Mike should try that.

Mike's unemployment storyline led to him taking a night-time snack cake delivery job with Bob, meaning the two of them would go from spending as little time as Mike could pull off together to spending their nights in a tiny cab, side by side. And right away, Bob was not only being annoying, but downright dangerous.

I think with this episode, 'The Middle' strayed further into surreality than we're used to seeing. I've always thought of the show as a surprisingly realistic take on middle class families in middle America, but everything about this episode had reality amped up to the proverbial "eleven."

The kids were more caricatures of their respective idiosyncrasies, while Frankie was reduced to little more than the stereotypical frazzled yelling housewife. We know there's more elements to these characters than what we saw this episode, and I know it was to drive the story forward and get their points across, but I felt a little let down by the writing this week. Even the kids explanations at the end were a little too thorough in explaining how their new non-yelling mother had failed them by leaving them to their own devices.

It's harder to say that Bob was reduced to a cartoon version of himself, because he's kind of always been that extreme. Still, when he was screaming and running around with Mike literally tackling him to the ground, not once but twice, even that seemed a bit off. I hope it isn't a sign that the show is heading more toward this hyper-reality to find their humor, but rather that they simply had a slightly off episode.

And it's not even that the episode didn't have plenty of laughs, because it did. I loved when Frankie yelled at Axl that he was the most irresponsible person she'd ever met, and then handed him a baby to take care of. But the same laughs could have been achieved without having to sacrifice that carefully crafted third dimension for our characters.

There were some authentic moments in the episode, though, like the scene with Mike and Frankie in bed when she realized that she'd become a yelling mom, and she didn't want to be that. It was pure Mike when he said, "Well, it's too late now." And the video Frankie made to show them how horrible their behavior was backfired on her so masterfully, that I couldn't help myself laughing by the end of it.

As long as the heart of the show remains strong, it'll be fine. Just keep an eye on that reality check light, please.

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Joe Siegler

"I loved when Sue yelled at Axl that he was the most irresponsible person she'd ever met, and then handed him a baby to take care of."

Sue didn't do that. That was the mother who did that.

February 04 2010 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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