Pilot is the first episode of The Middle. The episode presents the Heck family.
Frankie is struggling in her career as a car salesman because she has yet to sell one. Meanwhile, Sue wants to become part of the school show choir, and Brick wants Frankie to come into school dressed as a superhero for a presentation.
If you ever find yourself flying over the middle of the country, be sure to look out the window as you pass over Orson, Indiana, home to the world’s largest polyurithane cow. It’s also home to Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) and her family.
As we learn through Frankie’s narration, she and her husband Mike (Neil Flynn) are the heads of a two-job family. Mike manages a bunch of “boneheads” down at the quarry, and Frankie is a salesperson at the town’s last surviving car dealership. Her only ally at work is Bob (Chris Kattan), a true friend who always has her back. They both must deal with the dealership’s obnoxious top salesman Pete and their demanding boss, Mr. Ehlert.
At home, Frankie’s teenage son, Axl (Charlie McDermott), likes to walk around the house in his underwear whenever he’s not hibernating in his room. Sweet daughter Sue (Eden Sher) has been going through a bit of an awkward stage for the past 14 years. And young son Brick (Atticus Shaffer) is very smart and very quirky. Or, as his teacher says, “clinically quirky.” The little guy totally cracks us up as he enjoys whispering to no one in particular.
Frankie is desperately trying to balance her career and family. She multitasks by picking up Brick from school while taking a prospective customer on a test drive. We’re thinking Brick is bucking for dibs on the commission when he hops in back and says the seats come with “optional leather trim and preferred suede inserts.” Love it!
As busy as she is, Frankie always finds time to make dinner for her family. And she always serves it the same way, in a bag filled with wax paper-wrapped fast food. And the Heck family always eats dinner together, usually in front of the TV during Dancing with the Stars. We’re guessing they put down the burgers and fries when it comes time to vote.
Mike gets mad at Axl after he gets suspended from the football team. Apparently, he called his coach a moron. Axl’s defense is that Mike always calls the coach a moron. That’s only because the coach called for a bomb on fourth and one. Mike and Frankie are at a loss as to how to punish Axl. Frankie says, “If only he had like a car or a TV or a cell phone…something good we could take away from him.” No such luck.
As for Sue, she tries out for Show Choir and makes the final cut to her parents’ amazement. The entire family attends the first competition to find Sue is a stagehand, not a performer in the show. Still, she seems very happy, which makes mom and dad proud as they wave to her from the audience. Sue waves back, missing a cue to position a set-piece. This initiates a disastrous (and hilarious) chain reaction in which the entire set is destroyed, and the only person left standing on stage is Sue. You have to admit, the girl’s a showstopper!
Brick constantly tells his mom that she’s his hero, even though she doesn’t always feel like one. As it turns out, Brick meant it literally. He’s doing a book report on Superwoman, and he needs Frankie to come to his class in a superhero costume as a visual aid. Of course, we know Frankie won’t let her son down. She shows up to his class in full Superwoman attire. Unfortunately, it’s on the wrong day. She looks great in a cape, though.
Frankie rushes back to the dealership in her superhero outfit to close a deal with a previous customer, but she’s a little stressed during her sales pitch. The customer is also a mother of three and understands how hard it is for Frankie. They bond as they go out on a test drive-turned-joyride. After possibly hitting something in the road, Frankie hops out to ensure there’s no damage to the car. The driver then takes off, leaving Frankie behind in a cloud of dust. Turns out this unexpected car thief really is a mother of three kids…all of them in jail.
So who can you call when you’re left stranded in the middle of nowhere? Well, your family, of course. “Rough day?” Mike asks as he rolls up in the car to find his superhero wife stuffing her face with a discarded snack cake she found in the road. Frankie can’t help but smile through the chocolate cream residue on her face as her husband and three kids have come to take her home. We’re smiling, too. They even brought her dinner, having made it just like she does, in a bag full of wax paper-wrapped fast food. We’re just wondering if they’ll make it home in time for Dancing with the Stars.