Frankie Heck is not going to let the pinch steal Christmas.
The Middle's stretched-thin, harried mother (played by Patricia Heaton) has a scant $20 to spend on gifts for her three kids this year. Ever the problem solver, she cracks to her unflappable quarry-manager husband Mike (Neil Flynn): "I'll fake my own death!" This way, she says, when she appears very much alive on Christmas morning, her children will be so happy they won't care that there aren't any presents.
What the heck? Has a TV family ever been more appropriately named than the Hecks of ABC's spectacularly funny, oh-so-relatable and woefully underappreciated The Middle? They can never catch a break or catch up with the frantic pace of chaotic family life. Always strapped for cash, too overwhelmed to keep their ramshackle house in order — "I'm too ashamed to even open the door for the UPS guy," whines the hilariously harried mom Frankie (Patricia Heaton) — they are a mess.
They are also a riot, mostly because they feel so real. Wrapping their third and best-yet season tonight (8/7c), with the Hecks scrambling to make the house fit for an impromptu family wedding, unflappable dad Mike (lovably gruff Neil Flynn) tries to calm his wife's hysteria: "We'll just do the bare minimum like always."
There may be sitcoms that are flashier, edgier or more ironic than The Middle, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any that are funnier. Since premiering in 2009, ABC's hit comedy about the Hecks, a working-class Midwestern family of misfits, has proven that it doesn't take a right- or left-coast sensibility to produce laughter — thanks in no small part to the performances of Charlie McDermott (Axl), 21, Eden Sher (Sue), 20, and Atticus Shaffer (Brick), 13. TV Guide Magazine played hooky with the trio for an afternoon of mini-golf at Castle Park in Sherman Oaks to find out if they're equally entertaining off duty.
Even when the cast of The Middle is away from the set, they can't stop acting like a family. Patricia Heaton (Frankie Heck) gabs with her TV daughter, Eden Sher (Sue), about shopping. Neil Flynn (Mike) bonds with TV sons Charlie McDermott (Axl) and Atticus Shaffer (Brick) over who's the best shot during their on-set basketball games. We sat the close-knit crew down to swap stories about everything from the first time they met to their favorite Mexican veggie.