Heck Bent!

The Middle

Summer is over and autumn has befallen the city of London once more. The trees meet their cycle’s end, the weather bites our skins, warm jackets bought cheaply during the summer wrap around us, and the seasonal common cold persistently makes its round – from the local corner shop man to the customer, from the customer to your colleague, from your colleague to you. Ah yes, nothing says a change in the weather than a good old fashioned virus.

Naturally, this really put a damper to the fall for me. All my clouded and dismantled insides could take this week were Vaseline and ginger tea. I fell behind on a lot of things; I have Spanish work to catch up on and a substantial amount of water weight to lose. Darn it to Heck!

No, really, the only other thing that got me through my misery of congested sinuses were reruns of The Middle, a show about the Heck family.

I got into the series a couple of years back and recently I decided to watch the entire thing again. For those 90s kids who grew up in the early to mid-noughties, most of us would come to compare The Middle and brand it as, yep you guessed it, a Malcolm In The Middle knock-off. Who would blame us? Big family, middle-class, lots of yelling, money troubles. It was almost a reboot. But by the time I reached the third episode I found myself quite entertained and surprised by how utterly relatable it was, (while I absolutely loved Malcolm In The Middle, I couldn’t relate much to the family and I’m kinda afraid of those who could). Very soon, I realised how very different the shows actually were.

Coming from a middle-class-almost-poor-as-hell family myself, I understand a lot of the experiences the Heck family go through. And money wasn’t the only thing relatable. There were times where I saw so much of my own family in them I laughed at the screen. Moments such as Mike constantly pulling the remote away to change the channel himself instead of letting anyone else do it (I’m looking at you, bro), or Mike and Frankie trying and failing to help their kids with homework (except my parents did a lot more yelling). To top it all off the show is actually very funny without having to leave the realm of possibility (which was what a lot of Malcolm‘s comedy relied on).

The show focuses on the five lives of the Heck family: Mike and Frankie, the parents, and their three children, Axl, Sue and Brick. All the episodes are narrated by the mother, a point of view that’s quite rare and long overdue in television. Frankie tends to be a little eccentric in some situations, but with a family like that and what she has to go through to maintain order in her house, I don’t blame her.

Axl is the older brother and typical jock. Athletic, but not the sharpest. He spends a lot of his time coming up with stupid and dangerous stunts, and making his little siblings’ lives (mostly Sue’s) miserable. He also likes to walk around his home in his underwear. Yeah, I don’t understand that either.

Next is Sue, the middle child in which life likes to shit on the most. Seriously, if I went through the same amount of torment that girl goes through on a daily basis I would’ve given up on day one. Sue’s optimism, whilst sometimes a little naïve, is very endearing and something all people should strive for.

Then you have the forgotten third child Brick. 95% books and 5% socialising, and he spends that mostly with his family.

And finally, Mike Heck, or as I like to call him, post-Janiter with kids; big as a tree and mostly keeps to himself. In a lot of ways Mike is my spirit animal. He hates people, I hate people. That’s enough for me to connect with him.

The characters have their quirks but ultimately it’s the humanity in them that drives the show forward. The Middle is the only show to ever make me cry from its sweetness. Sometimes all it takes is one line and a soft chord for me to start the welling. Some of those moments derive from the Axl-Sue dynamic. Because Axl is always being horrible to his little sister, it’s all the more special when push comes to shove and he comes through for her. In season 1 episode 5: The Block Party, Axl gives Sue his old jersey because he felt bad for her for not making a team. And if you say you didn’t cry at the season 6 finale, you’re lying.

One other particular favourite moment for me was during season 6 episode 8: The College Tour, where Mike starts to become a little worried he didn’t spend much time with Sue, but Sue reassures him and tells him “you’re the best dad ever” and continues listing all the things he ever did for her…aw man, here comes the waterworks!

Anyway, if you’re looking to snuggle into your blanket and hot cocoa and for some relatable domesticity, I highly recommend a marathon of this incredibly underrated show.

Till next time,

Sahar Is In Progress.

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