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Patricia Heaton's new show isn't great, it isn't terrible, it falls somewhere in the... you know....
Warner / 516 Minutes / 2012-2013 / Unrated / Street Date: October 8, 2013
Our guide through The Middle: Season 3 is Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), a wife and mother in a small Ohio town who, like so many doting TV moms before her, is mostly just interested in putting one foot in front of the other. She makes a meager living as a car salesperson (she’s pretty bad at it), her husband Mike (Neil Flynn) works at a quarry outside of town, her kids are weird and difficult to adapt to – basically, she’s an American everymom.
Yet while Heaton’s presence in The Middle lends its often overcooked dramatic situations a sense of old-fashioned boob tube stasis, it’s not enough to give the show any sort of distinct identity. It’s a capably constructed piece of modern TV comedy – call it Modern Family with more of a Roseanne streak – but The Middle never jolts, never connects in a unique way. It works as background material, but heavy focus quickly brings its shortcomings to the surface.
Yet as the landscape of comedy on TV continues to shift in indeterminate ways, it’s easy to understand why a show like The Middle remains on the air. Heaton is a treat – she always is – and once you spend an episode or two in the kitchen with the Hecks, you simply want to see what happens to everybody over the course of the season, but it’s not a show you feel compelled to champion in any major fashion. The Middle is certainly good, but definitely not great.