Season Analysis: This was the first season that I watched The Middle.  I have heard from other critics who have been watching since the beginning that this was the best season yet.  I won’t argue with that assessment.

“The Play”

It seems that I have not given myself the opportunity to write articles here relating to Norm MacDonald very often, so let me just make it clear that Norm is by far one of my favorite comedians, so any episode of The Middle with Uncle Rusty is practically guaranteed to be a fine episode in my book.  Norm’s observational, satiric style is different than the normal comedic style of the Heck family’s misadventures, but his persona of being easygoing while also keeping himself at a slight remove actually fits his role of the flaky uncle and the show as a whole quite well.  His memorable quotes from “The Play” are plentiful enough to fill up an entire one of these posts, but let me just point out the one (“Coffee’s bad. Cigarettes are bad, too. I’m gonna go have both, but let me be a cautionary tale for you”) that best exemplifies how it seems like he is on a completely different plane of existence than the rest of the Hecks while actually fitting into their world quite seamlessly (which I guess is pretty much how it goes with absentee family members).  Now, as much as I love Norm and as big as a reason as he was for this episode being the best of the season, I do not want to imply that the usual stable of actors on The Middle are not able to hold their own, because they are, and in fact, they were all quite sharp in this episode.  Neil Flynn particularly raises his game whenever he has to confront Rusty and actually display some emotion.  And in the storyline that this episode gets its title from, Patricia Heaton and Eden Sher bring out the best in each other, as Frankie gets a major role in a community theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, while Sue gets cut from the show due to her crazy eyes.  Frankie is forced to hide the fact that she is still in the show, since this was something that she and Sue were supposed to be doing together.  It was nice to see Frankie actually let loose a bit, and just as amusing to see Sue go a bit dark (in a way that was not very threatening but was completely devastating) upon discovering her mother’s deception.