This is the ninth and final season of the television show “The Middle.” I discovered the show through a clip on the internet where the mom, Frankie Heck, was trying to make it past those dreaded last days of the school year. As she eagerly anticipated summer she had to deal with various problems her three children were having; a book journal that had not been started, let alone finished; a middle schooler hysterical over not winning the perfect attendance award; and a lazy older son who had not done required community service for a civics class. As I watched, I found myself laughing out loud and felt, as I would often feel when I watched the show, that the writers were listening in at my house. After all these seasons, I’m still not entirely sure that my house isn’t bugged.
“The Middle” may not have been a runaway hit; however, it has had a loyal audience. An audience of people like myself who loved watching an imperfect (you could even argue dysfunctional) family. I found it relatable and somewhat comforting to see a show with kids who didn’t get along and drove their parents nuts. “The Middle” did not delve into heavy issues such as drug abuse or teen pregnancy but they did make it a point to cover real problems like aging parents and the family’s constant financial struggles; the dad was even out of work for a while when the quarry he worked at closed.
During the nine years the show has been on the air, two of my own children finished high school and college and one even finished graduate school and has joined the workforce. When they came home, we would catch up on episodes they had missed. “The Middle” was one of the few shows we could agree on to watch as a family (not easy with a ten-year age gap between my oldest and youngest children). We were able to recognize ourselves and each other in the characters and it brought us closer.
As my own children have grown up and matured, so have the Heck children. Although the show is billed as a comedy, in recent years it had me crying almost as much as it had me laughing. We saw Axl, Sue and Brick discover that their parents are people too, just as my own sons have started to see me and my husband in a more appreciative light. The Heck siblings found that they could count on each other, despite the almost merciless teasing from Axl, and they also found that even sort of liked each other, despite their different personalities.
Perhaps it was odd that I took a break from my own crazy family to watch another crazy family on television but maybe I tuned in it because it was nice to know I wasn’t alone. When Frankie had to go to Staples in her pajamas to get a plastic report folder for a school project due the next day, I related. When she forgot to hand in school forms, I related. When she wanted to be alone on Mother’s Day but then missed her kids, I related. When she ate from a bag of chips her son had clipped his toe nails into, well, I didn’t exactly relate but I laughed. A lot. And when her kids went off to college and she cried, I understood.
Through all the bickering there was always a sense of loyalty and love among the five family members. The dad, Mike, would often say, “You do for family” a refrain my kids have repeated. There are worse things you could learn from a television show.
The producers decided that nine years was enough and they had gone about as far as they could go with the Hecks. They have promised to wrap up the series in a fitting manner and I am curious to see how they end it. But perhaps I already know; the kids will grow up and have their own families and jobs but they will always be there for each other.
We have all the past seasons on DVDs so we will be able to watch the show whenever we want to relive all our favorite moments but it won’t be the same.
Thank you Frankie, Mike, Axl, Sue and Brick for making me laugh and making me cry and for reminding me that an imperfect life really is perfect. I will miss you more than you know.