Tonight, we bid a tearful farewell to America's favorite flyover country family, the Hecks. The new Roseanne reboot has been receiving accolades for its portrayal of blue collar America. "The Middle" has been doing it for the last 9 years. It didn't receive the critical acclaim or the Emmy nominations that its sister show "Modern Family" (which debuted the same year) did. But it was definitely the favorite of those of us living in "the middle" of the country, doing our best to get by day to day. I'm usually tired of a show by now. Nine years is a good run for a sitcom. By then, the kids are grown, the premise is tired, and I'm ready to delete it out of my DVR. Not this show. I feel as if I'm saying goodbye to friends.
Who doesn't relate to the Hecks? The house is a mess. They eat too much fast food because mom is tired from working all day. The parents fight. The kids bicker. A LOT. The only time they get to visit Disney World, it's on a free 2 day vacation that Sue won in a contest. And they had to drive the whole way. But they love each other and care for one another, because as Frankie always says, "You do for family."
Mike and Frankie don't take romantic trips to exotic locales. He sucks at buying presents. He forgets anniversaries. Frankie has a membership to "Curves," but never finds time to go. They hate their jobs. But they love each other.
"The Middle" is one of the few shows that depicts the struggle real families have in putting kids through college these days. Axl won a football scholarship, but Sue almost had to drop out when she failed to complete her financial aid papers for her sophomore year, and Mike was forced to sell his business so that she could stay in school. Both kids struggled to decide on majors. But Mike Heck didn't give them any of that "major in what you love" crap. He advised them to major in something that would get them good jobs after college so that they didn't struggle like their parents.
This is also the rare TV show that portrays a family attending church services. They even have a running joke about fighting all of those "twice a year" church attendees for a pew on Christmas eve! In this year's Christmas episode, Axl decides he doesn't want to attend services with the family, and Frankie is forced to express just why it is she goes to church anyway. It was a wonderful episode. And we're gonna miss Reverend Tim Tom!
I'm so grateful that ABC gave this show a victory lap this season so that we got to see the old favorites return. Mike had to deal with his aging father's request to be left for dead on the side of the road because he "didn't want to be any trouble." Frankie ws forced to be care giver to her mom, played by the marvelous Marsha Mason. Brooke Shields made one last guest visit playing hilariously against type as the white trash neighbor Rita Glossner. We even got to see a last look at Axl's college roommates and see the touching friendship he and Hutch shared for 4 years.
So thank you to ABC and the cast and crew of "The Middle" for making us laugh and cry for nine glorious seasons. It has been, to quote the title of the finale "A Heck of a Ride."
Oh, and ABC? Just a warning: if Sue doesn't get to ride off into the sunset with Sean Donahue, there will be riots.