The series features Frances "Frankie" Heck a middle class, middle-aged, Midwestern woman and her husband Mike who reside in the small fictional town of Orson, Indiana based on the real town of Jasper, Indiana. They are the parents of three children, Axl, Sue, and Brick.
The series is narrated by Frankie, initially an under-performing salesperson at a used-car dealership and later a dental assistant. Her stoic husband Mike manages a local quarry and serves as a stabilizing influence in the family, though Frankie complains about his lack of affection at times. The kids are quite different from one another: oldest son Axl, a popular but lazy teenager, does well in sports but not in academics; daughter Sue is an enthusiastic young teen but chronically unsuccessful and socially awkward; and youngest son Brick is an intelligent but introverted compulsive reader with odd behavioral traits loosely hinted to derive from Asperger syndrome.
- Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck
- Neil Flynn as Mike Heck
- Charlie McDermott as Axl Heck
- Eden Sher as Sue Heck
- Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck
The series was originally developed in the 2006–07 development cycle for ABC and was to star Ricki Lake as Frankie. Atticus Shaffer was the only actor to retain his role when the show was re-developed. ABC later ordered a second, cast-contingent pilot order tied to Patricia Heaton being cast in the leading role for the 2008-09 development cycle. The series was created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (who is from Muncie, Indiana) and the pilot was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
The show was originally set to take place in Jasper, Indiana, though the setting was changed to the fictional Orson, Indiana on the advice of attorneys. However, Orson is based on, and presumed to be located near Jasper. The show was filmed in Stage 31 at the Warner Bros. Ranch, with the house's exterior on the ranch's Blondie Street. Set director Julie Fanton shops at traditionally mid-western places, such as Target and Kohl's, so the show appears to have a realistic middle-class look.
The series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes after airing just two episodes. On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson announced that he was renewing The Middle for a second season. The show was renewed for a third season. The third season premiered with a one-hour episode on September 21, 2011. On May 10, 2012, ABC renewed the show for a fourth season, which premiered with a one-hour special on September 26, 2012. The show was renewed for a fifth season on May 10, 2013. ABC confirmed on May 9, 2014 that the series was picked up for a sixth season of 22 episodes, and officially ordered an additional two episodes in October of that year, bringing the season six total to 24.
On May 8, 2015, ABC officially picked up the series for a seventh season, renewing the contracts of the main cast at the same time. ABC renewed the series for season eight with a 22-episode order, later expanded to 23 episodes in December 2016.
The series was renewed for a ninth season on January 25, 2017, with filming beginning on August 15, 2017. On August 2, 2017, it was announced that the series would end after its ninth season, at the request of the series' creators. The one-hour series finale aired on May 22, 2018.
The Middle has received positive reviews from critics, citing its unique and original characters along with critics praising the show's consistent standard and its realistic portrayal of lower-middle-class families. It holds a score of 71 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. Critics praise the show's good timing, writing, and acting, with Robert Bianco of USA Today saying, "...This series seems to more assuredly offer a first-class version of what so many viewers say they want: a humorous, heartfelt, realistic look at middle-class, middle-America family life." The praise has been, so far, consistent, with Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker saying that, in season two, The Middle continues to be "...a rock-solid show, the saga of a family struggling to keep their heads above the choppy economic waters..."
In the 2009–2010 season, The Middle ranked number six on Metacritic's "Best Reviewed New Network Show" list. Airing behind the quickly cancelled Hank during its first season, ratings were not initially impressive, averaging fewer than 7 million viewers. At the start of the 2010/2011 season, ABC moved the show to the beginning of its prime time block (8:00 pm EDT) and ratings increased substantially, with the show usually ranking second in its time slot to CBS's Survivor.
In 2016, Bob Sassone of Esquire published an article called "The Middle Is the Best TV Show You're Not Watching" where he expresses the dissatisfaction of the series not having received nominations for several awards and not receiving the deserved attention of the critics, saying that "The Middle is the finest American sitcom on TV right now". After ABC confirmed that the ninth season of The Middle would be the last, Devon Ivie of Vulture published that "The Middle Is One of TV’s Most Underrated Gems" saying that "I’ll miss the midwestern comfort of The Middle tremendously" and gave five reasons why readers should give to the show a chance to charm them.
- The Middle Wiki on Fandom