A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sitcom draws its humor from typical middle-class family woes like tight finances, overscheduling, communication issues, and balancing work and family time. The parents are devoted to their kids and to each other but do sometimes show their stress over worries about money and other issues. Though the show’s content is fairly tame compared to much prime-time fare, young kids won’t grasp the humor, and some of the language (multiple uses of "hell" and "damn," plus name-calling like "freak" and "moron") isn’t appropriate for the littlest viewers. But older tweens, teens, and parents are likely to get a kick out of this witty, honest comedy about life’s trials.
What's the story?
THE MIDDLE is a sitcom that centers on the hectic life of Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), a middle-aged mom of three who lives with her husband, Mike (Neil Flynn), in the fictional Midwest town of Orson, Indiana. A mostly unsuccessful car salesperson who’s apt to belabor her customers with her personal woes, Frankie is a devoted mom and wife who nonetheless struggles to balance the daily disasters of the household and their kids, Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Shur), and Brick (Atticus Shaffer). Somewhere between unraveling Brick’s social ineptitude, bolstering Sue’s confidence, steering moody Axl to a promising future, and finding time for Mike, Frankie finds that the joys of life exist not in the uncommon highs, but in the middle of all the chaos.
Is it any good?
THE MIDDLE is a charmingly honest day-in-the-life glimpse at the struggles and joys of a "typical" working-class American family. Frankie and Mike aren't without their flaws, and their trial-and-error approach to raising their kids will garner chuckles, but their unwavering devotion to each other and to their family is inspiring. The show has a certain Roseanne-like quality whose message seems to be that true happiness is often found in redefining what it means to be perfect.
The show’s excellent cast -- led by Emmy winner Heaton and joined by Saturday Night Live funny man Chris Kattan as her work buddy, Bob -- delivers plenty of laughs, and parents and their teens will find some some family-related issues that are worth discussing after the show’s end. There’s enough language, social drinking (casual, by adults, that is), and sexual references to ensure it’s not for young kids, but if you’re looking for a more grown-up comedy to share with your teens, The Middle fits the bill, and it even offers some heartwarming messages about finding the joys of being, well, average.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media typically portrays families. Do you think the Hecks can be considered a modern American family? Has society’s definition of "family" changed over the past few decades? How do TV shows and movies reflect that?
How does the family structure presented in this show compare to yours? Do the Hecks seem like a realistic family to you? What would make them more relatable?
How do issues like finances and busy schedules interfere with family time? What rules does your family have about participating in activities and getting together with friends? What are your family’s rules about TV and other media?
For kids who love TV families
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.