Watch The Middle or I’ll Kill This Dog
While we're talking about new sitcoms, last night's second episode of The Middle was just lovely. The series is a modern variation on Roseanne, set in a cash-strapped Indiana household with two working parents who love one another and are clinging to stability by their fingertips.
The kids feel like real people, not wisecracking avatars for L.A. comedians. The husband is Neil Flynn, the janitor on Scrubs, and he rocks. But the standout is Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck, the weird youngest kid, who gets so excited at the library he hugs books to him like a puppy, murmuring, "I love this book I love this book I love this book." With his oddball delivery, Shaffer makes every interaction funny and poignant — and his mom's worried love for her quirky youngest packs a surprising jolt.
Like I said last week, this show is unlikely to be a critic's darling: The subject matter is mainstream, without any controversial Cougartown jiggle. The structure is straight-up sitcom, with no postmodern mockumentary trappings. But it's well-written, smart, realistic, and funny, and the air of desperation when Frankie freaked out last night about their credit-card debt and broken appliances felt genuine, not theatrical. I hope to hell the series sticks around, because I want to see where it's going.