The Middle is an American sitcom about a lower-middle-class family living in Indiana facing the day-to-day struggles of home life, work, and raising children. The series premiered on September 30, 2009, on the ABC network and concluded on May 22, 2018, after nine seasons and 215 episodes. The series features Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton and Scrubs actor Neil Flynn. The Middle was created by former Roseanne and Murphy Brown writers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline of Blackie and Blondie Productions. The show is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Blackie and Blondie Productions. The Middle has been praised by television critics and earned numerous award nominations.
The series is about the semi-dysfunctional Heck Family. A lower, middle-class family trying to survive in the midwest. It takes place in the fictional small town of Orson, Indiana. We follow along as Frances "Frankie" Heck narrates the lives of herself and her husband Mike and their three children Axl, Sue, and Brick.
- Patricia Heaton as Frances "Frankie" Heck (née Spence)
- Neil Flynn as Michael "Mike" Heck Jr.
- Charlie McDermott as Axl Redford Heck
- Eden Sher as Sue Heck
- Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck
Development and production
The series was originally developed in the 2006–07 development cycle for ABC and was to star Ricki Lake as Frankie. Atticus Shaffer was the only actor to retain his role when the show was re-developed. ABC later ordered a second, cast-contingent pilot order tied to Patricia Heaton being cast in the leading role for the 2008-09 development cycle. The series was created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (who is from Muncie, Indiana), and the pilot was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
The show was originally set to take place in Jasper, Indiana, though the setting was changed to the fictional Orson, Indiana, on the advice of attorneys. However, Orson is based on and presumed to be located near Jasper. The show is filmed in Stage 31 at the Warner Bros. Ranch, with the house's exterior on the ranch's Blondie Street. Set director Julie Fanton shops at traditionally mid-western places, such as Target and Kohl's, so the show appears to have a realistic middle-class look.
The series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes after airing just two episodes. On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson announced that he was renewing The Middle for a second season. The show was renewed for a third season. The third season premiered with a one-hour episode on September 21, 2011. On May 10, 2012, ABC renewed the show for a fourth season, which premiered with a one-hour special on September 26, 2012. The show was renewed for a fifth season on May 10, 2013. On May 9, 2014, ABC confirmed that the series was picked up for a sixth season of 22 episodes and officially ordered an additional two episodes in October of that year, bringing the season six total to 24.
On May 8, 2015, ABC officially picked up the series for a seventh season, renewing the contracts of the main cast at the same time. ABC renewed the series for season eight with a 22-episode order, later expanded to 23 episodes in December 2016.
The series was renewed for a ninth season on January 25, 2017, with filming beginning August 15, 2017. On August 2, 2017, it was announced that the series would end after its ninth season at the request of the series' creators. The one-hour series finale aired on May 22, 2018.
The Middle premiered in the U.S. on September 30, 2009, on ABC. It has aired on City (formerly Citytv) in Canada since the third season. Previously, the show aired on A (now CTV Two) during its first season. In Australia, the show premiered on December 7, 2009, on Nine Network. The New Zealand premiere was on May 8, 2010, on TV2. In India, the show premiered on January 5, 2015, on Romedy Now. In the U.K., it premiered on August 29, 2010, on Sky1. Season 5 premiered on Comedy Central, the U.K., on January 21, 2014, and in Ireland on April 16, 2014, on TV3. It has been adapted in Hindi on Reliance Broadcast Network comedy channel BIG MAGIC as Tedi Medi Family. It is also broadcast on the Neox Channel in Spain and Warner Channel in Latin America and Brazil.
On March 6, 2012, it was announced that ABC Family (now Freeform) obtained the rights to The Middle, which began airing the series on September 9, 2013.
Hallmark Channel also acquired The Middle for syndication, which began airing in March 2014. In addition, the series debuted in local syndication on September 16, 2013. As of September 2017, the show is no longer available for local syndication.
The Middle has received positive reviews from critics, citing its unique and original characters, along with critics praising the show’s consistent standard and its realistic portrayal of lower-middle-class families. It holds a score of 71 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. Critics praise the show’s good timing, writing, and acting, with Robert Bianco of USA Today saying, “...This series seems to more assuredly offer a first-class version of what so many viewers say they want: a humorous, heartfelt, realistic look at middle-class, middle-America family life.” The praise has been, so far, consistent, with Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker saying that, in season two, The Middle continues to be “...a rock-solid show, the saga of a family struggling to keep their heads above the choppy economic waters...”
In the 2009–2010 season, The Middle ranked number six on Metacritic’s “Best Reviewed New Network Show” list. Airing behind the quickly canceled Hank during its first season, ratings were not initially impressive, averaging fewer than 7 million viewers. At the start of the 2010/2011 season, ABC moved the show to the beginning of its prime time block (8:00 pm EDT), and ratings increased substantially, with the show usually ranking second in its time slot to CBS’s Survivor.
In 2016, Bob Sassone of Esquire published an article called “The Middle Is the Best TV Show You’re Not Watching,” where he expresses the dissatisfaction of the series not having received nominations for several awards and not receiving the deserved attention of the critics, saying that “The Middle is the finest American sitcom on TV right now”. After ABC confirmed that the ninth season of The Middle would be the last, Devon Ivie of Vulture published that “The Middle Is One of TV’s Most Underrated Gems” saying that “I’ll miss the midwestern comfort of The Middle tremendously” and gave five reasons why readers should give to the show a chance to charm them.
On May 30, 2018, Variety reported that a spin-off was being eyed following the cancellation of Roseanne. Almost two months later, on July 20, 2018, in an interview with TVLine's Michael Ausiello, Sher revealed that ABC had ordered a pilot for the potential series. It was noted that the potential spin-off would be set a few years after the parent series ended and follow Sue Heck as an adult. The spin-off was officially ordered on August 13, 2018, and will follow "the twentysomething adventures of eternal optimist Sue Heck as she leaves the small town of Orson to navigate the ups and downs of a career and young adulthood in the big city of Chicago".