“The Middle” has reached the century mark, and in keeping with the show’s very unflashy but almost always reliable brand of comedy, it didn’t try anything crazy to mark the occasion. Or no crazier than a giant burning cow, at any rate.
Wednesday’s (Oct. 21) show was called “The 100th” (in honor of Orson’s centennial as well as the episode count), and Mike and Frankie had a long can-you-believe-we’re-still-here sort of conversation, but other than that, it kept the meta-commentary and self-consciousness to a minimum in favor of just telling a couple of good stories about the Hecks and their town.
The beats were familiar: Frankie and Mike got roped into taking part in something without their recollection. Axl and his Boss Co. partners did not pull off their latest venture. Sue fretted about Darrin and turned to Brad for help. Brick was too smart for his own good.
But when it works, you don’t mess with it too much. “The Middle” is designed to be a show where things more or less are as they always were. Kids grow up and jobs change, but aside from those everyday ebbs and flows, life keeps on keeping on. There’s a certain comfort in that, and the show’s writers seem to know that. Rather than taking big swings each week, the show keeps managing to find the right jokes to play and the right details to emphasize — Ron Cougar Mellencamp, for instance — to make Orson a fully realized place.
There was one wrinkle in “The 100th” — Mike and Frankie had their heartfelt conversation before their walkie-talkie-enabled fight in the bowels of the cow float. It was among the longer and sweeter conversations about their relationship that we’ve ever seen, filling in some more of their history and reminding us why, despite all their weary sniping at one another, they’re still going strong 20 years into their marriage. Frankie’s narration about the difference between a burning cow in Orson and one in Chicago also made for a nice cap on the episode.
“The Middle” has never been a huge hit for ABC, but its ratings tend to be as reliable as the product on screen. That should mean a good many more episodes to come after this one.
What did you think of “The Middle’s” 100th episode?