Ok, so I know we have a lot of family sitcoms, new and old. We probably don't need too many more. But one worth saving is The Middle. It's is as warm and hearty as a Winter stew, and you don't have to be married with kids to appreciate it. At first it reminded me of Malcolm in the Middle, but after watching a few episodes it came into its own and felt like an all-rounded show. Neil Flynn and Patricia Heaton star as Mike and Frankie Heck, a married couple living in small town Indiana with their three kids. You'll recognise Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond, but don't worry, she's a whole new character now. Flynn easily separates himself from his role as the janitor in Scrubs, so no typecasting here. What we have instead is an endearing sitcom narrated by Frankie, as she tells us about all the mishaps from her day, whether it's work or child-induced, and how by the end of it she's grateful to come home to the brood.
The eldest child is Axl, a 15 year old teenager, complete with apathy and sarcasm. Sue is 13, and dedicates herself to trying out for things even though she never gets anywhere (there's a life lesson there somewhere), whilst remaining optimistic and undeterred. The youngest is Brick (Frankie hoped giving him a cool name would make him a cool kid, not so), socially inept but unnervingly clever. Brick is played by Atticus Shaffer, whom you might recognise from The Unborn (if you managed to sit through it), and is quite the excellent child actor. The children all deliver a different kind of funny: Axl is lazy, Sue is dorky, Brick whispers to himself. In a lot of family comedies the kids tend to be popular and gorgeous, or acerbic and patronising, making the Heck kids a breath of atypical fresh air.
Frankie works for a bigoted owner of a car dealership, with much of the humour seeping from his politically incorrect dialogue. Frankie is a soldier for her family, but no pushover, making her a realistic representation of the modern mother. Mike is uncomfortably blunt, possessing the honesty we all wish we had the balls to have. The Heck family isn't perfect, their kids aren't perfect, and nothing ever fully works out for them the way they'd expected. Yes we've seen it before in other family comedies, but never before has it been so powerfully echoed.
You'll do more than smirk glibly at The Middle, you'll laugh out loud, and be impressed by the depth the characters have. It's so good I even compared it to food. However, if you don't like feeling fuzzy inside, or just really cannot stand kids, then it might not be for you. But I would recommend taking a look anyway, even if it's just out of curiosity.