Aw, heck. Is it really worth making a fuss over The Middle's 100-episode milestone? It hardly seems in character for a family like the Hecks of Orson, Indiana. When she's reminded that they volunteered to drive a giant cow float in Orson's centennial parade, Frankie (Patricia Heaton) whines, "This is what happens when we drink: We sign up for stupid committees. Or get Brick."
But as Orson itself expresses in a self-deprecating new town motto: "Why not?" This episode (Wednesday, 8/7c, ABC) truly is cause for celebration, as TV's most heartfelt and hilariously relatable family sitcom reflects on what brought Frankie and Mike (Neil Flynn) to Orson in the first place, while giving their lovably imperfect offspring a chance to shine in clever-to-wacky subplots. (Sue's attempt to make Darrin jealous by cozying up to her flamboyant BFF Brad is especially genius.)
Mike, a man of few words, ultimately concludes, "It's a good town." And The Middle is a great, inexplicably underappreciated comedy. May there be at least 100 more.
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14 YEARS AND COUNTING: Dwarfing that achievement, CBS's stalwart CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which unlike the original Law & Order managed to outlive both of its spinoffs, clocks its 300th episode (10/9c) — and as an added treat for armchair detectives, the producers have embedded the number "300" 14 times (representing one per season) within the episode as "Easter Eggs," in case you want to play along. The real headline, though, is the return of original cast member Marg Helgenberger to help solve a cold case harking back to the series' origin 14 years earlier. Guest stars include Jason Priestley as a casino mogul, which suddenly makes me feel old. As if knowing there's a library of 300 CSI episodes hadn't already accomplished that.
DIVA CENTRAL: Words you never expected to come out of Patti LuPone's mouth: "Where's your modesty?" This outspoken Broadway diva is the latest of her tribe to show up on FX's femme-friendly American Horror Story: Coven (10/9c). She's Joan Ramsey, a Bible-thumping harpy who moves in next door to the witches' academy and immediately takes a dislike to her harlot neighbors. The young students-of-the-coven (especially Emma Roberts' monotonal Madison) like what they see in Joan's hunky and shirtless son Luke (Alexander Dreymon), and given the nature of this ungodly welcome wagon, it looks like there'll be holy hell to pay on this New Orleans block. Also making cameos this week: fellow Tony winner Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens) in a 1971 flashback as the coven's former Supreme, and Mare Winningham as the grieving mother of frat boy-turned-Frankenstein monster Kyle (Evan Peters). His homecoming earns the episode's biggest ewwww. It's a typically disjointed hour with at least one major (and welcome) twist, and I expect fans of this lurid nonsense will lap up every single minute.
NOT A PEOPLE PERSON: OK, I tried to see if The CW's The Tomorrow People would improve on a repeat visit. But episode 3 (9/8c) is just as dreary and derivative as the pilot, and once again leaves us wondering why we should care about these super-powered brats. "We don't use our powers to intervene in human lives," cautions Cara (Peyton List) when Stephen (Robbie Amell) tries to enlist his underground pals' help to save a troubled classmate on whose suicidal thoughts he eavesdrops. "Do you really want to play God? It's messy, it's complicated and it risks exposure," Cara says with all the passion of someone compiling a grocery list. (Later, when Stephen accuses Cara of being a "good actress," I'm glad my Diet Coke spit take went unwitnessed.) Of course, things aren't much rosier when Stephen goes to Uncle Jed (the droll Mark Pellegrino) with his problem. "You can't save everybody," Jed snarks, as thoughts of wiping out the Tomorrow People dance in his head (and mine). There's also a mission involving tapping into Ultra's computer system, and a twist involving Stephen's two worlds colliding that's likely to surprise only anyone who's never watched TV before. Done.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: This year's World Series is seeing red — as in the red birds of the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Boston Red Sox, with Game 1 (7:30/6:30c, Fox) at Fenway Park, where Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will call and analyze the action. ... On a very different playing field, this above-par season of CBS's Survivor (8/7c) once again shakes things up when Jeff Probst shuffles the tribes, potentially creating new conflicts among the various loved ones and castaway alliances.
THE GUEST LIST: Nathan Lane returns to ABC's Modern Family (9/8c) as Mitch and Cam's irrepressible friend Pepper, who's hired to plan their dream wedding at no expense — of their feelings. Fred Willard is also back as Phil's widowed and lonely dad, and Adam DeVine (Workaholics) is Gloria's new male nanny, hired against Jay and Manny's wishes. ... ABC's Super Fun Night (9:31/8:31c) pits Kimmie (Rebel Wilson) against her mom Pamela (Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver of Silver Linings Playbook) over planning her sister Jazmine's (Ashley Tisdale) engagement party. ... Supernatural's Jim Beaver arrives on NBC's struggling Revolution (8/7c) as a Texas Ranger who knew Uncle Miles back when and could be the rebel leader's best hope in taking down the Patriots. ... CBS's Criminal Minds goes inside the mind of an injured Hotch after his stabbing by the "Reaper" (C. Thomas Howell), a trauma that conjures up memories of Hotch's late wife Haley (Meredith Monroe). ... Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) is in hot water on NBC's Law & Order: SVU (9/8c) as a politically connected childhood friend of ADA Barba's who's arrested on an attempted rape charge, which leads to political complications in the current (fictional) mayoral campaign. We repeat: Any resemblance to actual politicians is entirely coincidental.
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