Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton
Turns out, not everybody loves Raymond. Or at least The Middle's Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) doesn't.
Fall Preview: Get scoop on your favorite returning shows
And viewers will learn why on the one-hour season premiere of the ABC comedy, which reunites Heaton with her Everybody Loves Raymond husband Ray Romano.
"We hadn't gone to him before," co-creator and executive producer DeAnn Heline tells TVGuide.com. "As a new show, you want to give it time to develop. Plus he was busy with his show — he's a busy guy. But, now, all the stars aligned."
Romano appears via flashbacks that are brought on by a Heck Family camping trip. As Frankie and Mike (Neil Flynn) take the kids into the woods, the couple reflects on the last time they went camping — on their honeymoon.
"Ray plays a friend of Mike's who happens to stumble upon them during their honeymoon and causes problems," Heline says. "He's kind of a sad sack. He's annoying and won't leave them alone."
Fall TV first look: Ray Romano on The Middle
Because he's a buddy, Mike tries to play nice. But Frankie? Not so much. "Frankie is very annoyed by the character that Ray plays," Heline says. "He's someone who is certainly ruining their good time. She's definitely trying to get rid of him."
Of course, some of Frankie's anger might be caused by the fact that Mike thought camping would be a wise choice for a honeymoon in the first place. "She's not thrilled, but being young and in love, she's going along with it," Heline says. "But through the course of the flashbacks, a story is revealed. They don't want to give up at the beginning what happens, but eventually a mystery is revealed about what actually happened on the honeymoon."
Despite the tension on the screen, Heline says Heaton and Romano quickly fell back into their old rhythm. "She was just so delighted to have him here. And it was great to see them together. He was so wonderful and gracious and hilarious. When he first came to the table read, he just killed. It was such a treat for everybody to have him here."
And might Mike's buddy ever reappear in present day? "It would be a dream," Heline says. "If he ever wants to come back, we'd love to have him."
Glee's Chord Overstreet is going back to school on The Middle
In the meantime, viewers can look forward to a slew of other guests, including Molly Shannon as Frankie's sister Janet and Glee's Chord Overstreet as Brick's (Atticus Shaffer) fourth grade teacher.
"Having a male teacher is a different dynamic that [Brick's] not used to," Heline says. "He likes bosoms. ... And the new teacher's into sports, and Brick doesn't really get that. He just wants to read."
Overstreet's character will also be a headache for Frankie and Mike, who is threatened by the fresh-out-of-college educator's age. "The fact that he's young and enthusiastic is something they have to deal with," Heline says. "They, as parents do not want to have to get involved, but this is a teacher who drags them kicking and screaming into getting involved. He's very eager."
Mike will also struggle with watching his little girl become more indepedent as Sue (Eden Sher) heads off to high school. Heline says Sue will be delighted by the possibility of new extracurricular activities — look for her to try out for cheerleading and lacrosse, among other things — but she will also begin to look for fulfillment in other areas of her life as well.
"We definitely want to put her in a relationship this season," Heline says. "It will probably be in the middle of the season or the end of the season. We do have a few episodes where she's starting to mature more. She's dealing with growing up and, more importantly, Frankie and Mike are dealing with her growing up."
The Middle premieres Wednesday at 8/7c on ABC.