Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Middle

Last week I wound up having to watch the first two seasons of The Middle, a sitcom I previously did not know existed, despite it now being in its fourth season. After watching an episode, I knew why. This show takes the basic setup up for a sitcom by centering on a supposedly average American family and manages to water it down into an unfunny, cliche, and unrealistic mess. It centers on wife and working mother Frankie, her stoic husband Mike, and their three kids Axl (the athletic one), Sue (the awkward one), and Brick (the nerdy one). Though they are supposed to be a middle class family living in a small Midwestern town, they seem to be constantly teetering on the brink of financial ruin, as indicated by them being unable to pay their electricity bill for four months, and live exclusively on fast food with the occasional frozen processed meal to add variety. Frankie is the main character and narrates the show which mostly consists of her complaining about her family and with good reason. Their kids are spoiled rotten, needing constant nagging to accomplish things as simple as picking up their socks to tasks that are obviously their responsibility like doing their schoolwork. They consistently flout their parents' wishes, occasionally showing levels of disrespect that most parents wouldn't put up with but the Hecks excuse or try to justify. Frankie, of course, lost her right to complain since she always comes to her kids rescue so that they never have to face the consequences of their poor choices, the impetus of many of the episode plots.

All this would be forgivable if the show had any wit or originality. The jokes that don't revolve around Frankie complaining often contain baffling lapses in logic. For instance, when Frankie is taking a bath because of her bad back, nine-year-old Brick wanders in and she asks him to turn on the hot water. Brick reminds her that he is not allowed to use the hot water (bringing up some disturbing questions about how he takes showers) but he turns on the hot water anyway. When Frankie asks he to turn it off, he winds up turning it up because apparently hot water faucets are so different than cold water faucets that when given two options of how to turn it off, he repeatedly chooses the wrong one. This and dozens of other ill-conceived jokes make me question whether the writers have so little imagination they couldn't come up with realistic jokes and they simply forgot they weren't writing for the Disney Channel. The whole tone of the show is toothless, lacking the guts to realistically make fun of anything (like Modern Family) and unwilling to alienate anybody by being absurd enough to get away with more ridiculous elements (like Arrested Development). I'm completely at a loss for how this show is still on the air and wouldn't recommend it for anyone, especially when there are shows like Parks and Rec, Modern Family, Community, and The Mindy Project. They may not be perfect but at least they have some guts.

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! Someone fell out of bed on the wrong side today. Don't try to burden THE MIDDLE with messages; we're not talking about HAMLET here. THE MIDDLE is a sweet, gentle, positive, life-affirming half-hour.