It's called The Middle. It could be called The Forgotten.
"Do I feel like it's forgotten? Yeah, I kind of feel that way," star Neil Flynn tells TVGuide.com. "But that's OK. I feel like it's such a difficult task to get on the air and stay there that I don't worry about asking for more than that."
Unlike its neighbors on ABC's Wednesday night comedy block, Modern Family and Cougar Town, The Middle is much less buzzed-about, despite solid reviews and ratings and an early Season 2 renewal. But being overlooked came as no surprise to Flynn.
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"There's not much flash to the show," he says. "I think it's very likeable and relatable, but it's hard to pitch it to a friend or a family member by describing it in any other way than say it's good. I don't feel, like, bothered that it gets less press or talk than some other shows. It's not all that edgy or hip or whatever word these days means hip, but it is good."Indeed, The Middle
is as unhip as it comes. The family sitcom follows the exploits of the Hecks, a working-class family headed by Flynn, 49, and Patricia Heaton
, 52, in fictional Orson, Ind. The Hecks' antics, which are inspired by the writers' own weekend experiences with their families, are hilarious — and perhaps, at times, too discomforting.
Watch clips from The Middle
On Wednesday's episode (8:30/7:30c), the family runs up against a money crunch and must decide between having food and having cable. ("I, myself, watch a lot of TV, so I'd be hard-pressed to go without cable!" Flynn says.) The story line is just one of many on the show reflecting economic realities families face."People watch TV to escape, so is [The Middle
] not escapism? It's escapism for rich viewers! You see how the other half lives!" the actor laughs. "But yeah, it's realistic of the fiscal times some people might be having, but it's not bleak or dark. It's who we are. It's presented in a humorous way, so it's relatable, but not depressing. I think it works. We're used to seeing on so many shows people with no visible means of support [who] live in gorgeous apartments. Personally, this appeals to me, seeing just regular people."
Check out photos from The Middle
Something else that appealed to the Scrubs
alum was a deviation from the typical sitcom father archetype. Flynn's Mike, who worked at the rock quarry and is now unemployed, is not the usual inept or henpecked husband so often depicted on television."Mike's not perfect at all, but he's not a screw-up," Flynn says. "I compare this guy to John Goodman
. Those people had their flaws, but they were completely believable and you didn't doubt that Roseanne
was the star of the show, like Patti is for us, but you also didn't doubt that John Goodman was the man of the house without having to be any kind of a brute, either. When you say things like 'man of the house' or 'wear the pants in the family,' it almost seems domineering or forceful or chauvinistic, but it's not that at all."
Betty White books appearance on The Middle Roseanne
, of course, was a hit from the beginning, but Flynn is not worried about The Middle
's future. After all, he jokes, Betty White
's guest appearance in the season finale — where one character's story line has a happy ending — has generated the most press for the series all season."I didn't get to work with her, but she was a sweetheart. Maybe next time — she can pick me up hitchhiking — she can come back since we'll be back," he says. "That was really comforting to have a sign of confidence from the network so early. People like comedy. There are fewer and fewer [comedies] on TV. ... It's a quality show, and people, I believe, will come to it more over time. Cheers
wasn't a hit right out the gate. Seinfeld
either. Let's go with slow and steady wins the race."