This is that most wonderful time of the year: the time when the new TV shows are hitting and so there’s a metric ton of new DVD and Blu-Ray releases of last year’s shows, hitting at an opportune time for folks to get caught up before the new episodes air. One such release is The Middle: The Complete First Season, which basically only qualifies as genre TV because of the involvement of The Janitor from Scrubs, who of course appeared in Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau’s The Perhapanauts.
Similar to my issue with The Vampire Diaries, the new Neil Flynn-Patricia Heaton sitcom The Middle suffers from a little too much narration, much of which is heavyhanded and full of exposition. It’s also not helped by the fact that the show is pretty formulaic and predictable, with the same sitcom-staple plots that have driven every family comedy for years. In fact, the quirkiness that is the show’s saving grace may not be so impressive when you compare it to that other family sitcom with “Middle” in the title. Frankly, I never cared for the episodes I saw of Malcolm, which makes this one a little fresher to me. Besides, Patricia Heaton—who always came off as shrill and angry on Everybody Loves Raymond, really shines in this show, where her skills are front-and-center. Neil Flynn, best known as The Janitor from Scrubs, disappoints while impressing. He gets most of the best lines, and he definitely carries them off…but after having crafted The Janitor—one of the most insane and likable characters in the last 20 years of TV—almost from whole cloth, here he’s given a lot more to work with and does a lot less with it. That could just be a question of direction, but the bottom line is if you tuned in to see The Janitor you’ll be fairly disappointed.
The kids are really the weakest link of the show; while the parents are pretty strong performers, the kids are pretty much standard, both in terms of performance and in terms of writing and characterization. While the parents are certainly the centerpiece of the show, it would help sell the bit if the kids weren’t, frankly, a little boring. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with this show, and its scheduling proximity to Modern Family will probably keep it alive for a few years—but it’s probably not worth buying unless you fall in love with it on first viewing. If you want, though, it came to home video on August 31, so you can own it on Blu-Ray or DVD today.