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National News / Entertainment

Friday, 30 March, 2012 2:03 PM

ABC's 'The Middle' honored at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

Photo credit: PictureGroup

The Middle panel at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on March 26, 2012.


by Jason Rzucidlo



NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) honored ABC's highly-successful sitcom The Middle on Monday inside the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre. The show is a single-camera comedy about raising your family and lowering your expectations. It features a middle-aged, middle class family living in the nation's midwest in a fake town known as Orson, Indiana. Lead actress Patricia Heaton stars as Frankie Heck, a saleswoman at a car dealer and mother of three. The Middle airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

"I was born in Indiana, we both went to school in Indiana," said DeAnn Heline, a creator and executive producer of the show. "At the time we were developing the show, a lot of networks had gone away from setting comedies in the midwest. They were doing the coasts. We just felt that we wanted to honor those people that we knew. It was wish fulfillment at the time. We wished we could go back to the midwest. Norm McDonald is back as Mike's brother. That's fun."

Not only is the show about the midwest, but four members of cast/crew are from the middle of the country as well. Heaton is originally from Bay Village, Ohio. Actor Neil Flynn, who plays Mike Heck on the show and Executive Producer/Creator Eileen Heisler were born in Chicago. Eileen Heline, the show's other executive producer/creator was born in Cincinnati.

"It's how we met, we wanted to celebrate the heartland," Heisler said. "Upcoming we have Whoopi Goldberg playing Sue's guidance counselor. We have a really fun episode with a gospel choir. Those are our biggies. I think by the end of The Middle, we've done everybody from Everybody Loves Raymond. We remembered the under appreciated wrestling cheerleaders in high school. It was kind of random for Sue, but fun."

Frankie Heck uses her wit and sense of humor to help get her family through each day intact. She struggles as the least successful sales woman at the town's only surviving car dealership.

"It's always nice having a job, there's a lot of actors that are out of work," Heaton said. "I'm fortunate to have another series that I love doing. We have Whoopi Goldberg coming up as one of the guest stars. There's a wedding coming up at some point in the future. I think now they tend to syndicate while a show is still running instead of waiting for the series to have ended because it helps get more viewers to come to the new episodes."

Everybody Loves Raymond stars Ray Romano and Doris Roberts have both guest starred on The Middle during this season.

"Yes, we're just missing Brad Garrett so we'll have to work him in there somehow," she added. "It was a little bit bizarre. It was like when worlds collide to have Ray come on and not be my husband, have someone else play my husband. It was a little fun. I think there was even an inside joke about whether I remembered Ray or not."

Mike Heck is the manager of a local quarry and is Frankie's partner in the daily grind that involves raising their average family. The two raise their family with love, humor and Midwestern practicality.

"It's a great pleasure to be on the show," Flynn said. "You can't take having a job for granted in this business, so I feel very lucky. Personally, I'm not married and don't have kids. I am acting more than anyone else on the show. I don't think the Hecks do a bad job of raising their kids. They do a pragmatic job of raising their kids. If I had kids, it would probably be similar. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know. I'll say yes, final answer. I feel lucky that I was able to hop from one show to the next without really a break. I'm very grateful for that."

Actor Charlie McDermott plays Axl, the oldest of the three kids. He is a jock slacker who eats the Heck family out of the house and constantly walks around the house in his boxer shorts.

"It feels great, it feels awesome, I feel very lucky," McDermott said. "I was probably the complete opposite of Axl. I was very quiet. I wore lots of clothes. This is the first series that I've been on as a regular at all. The fact that we've been going so far for so long is great. It's very awesome. The upcoming episodes are going to be really good. The second half of the third season is the best batch of episodes we've had. The finale is really good too. We just filmed that last week. I'm very excited about it. Thanks for watching and I hope that everyone continues to."

Actress Eden Sher stars as Sue, the middle child. She is an extraordinary ordinary teen daughter, who fails at just about everything. This season, she entered high school as a freshman and now goes to the same school as Axl.

"I have the same real dynamic in my real life," Sher said. "I have an older brother and a younger brother. It's exactly how I act, no differences in any way. No, I don't play cross country. I would not have tried as hard as Sue Heck, but I think we can all take a note from her. That determination is admirable. It feels so great to be going in syndication. It feels so great. I don't know if it's OK to say this, it feels like money. "

Sher discussed the average work week as an actress on The Middle.

"It's five days a week, starting at 6 a.m. and sometimes going as late as eight or 9 p.m.," the 20-year-old actress explained. "But sometimes I'll start at six and only go until six and then it's fine. But that's pretty much it for like five days per week, 12 hours a day."

Actor Atticus Shaffer plays Brick, the youngest of the three kids. He is a quirky fourth-grader who enjoys reading more than anything else. He has the habit of putting his head down and whispering to himself during the show.

"I really like being on the show because it's just a relatable show," Shaffer said. "Everyone with their family and kids can sit down and watch it. It's not too inappropriate for the kids, it's not going to be too high in times for the adults. I really like being a comedian, not like the class clown or anything. I like making people laugh and genuinely laugh. That makes me feel good. I do talk to myself, just not in a whisper. I think everybody does, just not the way I do it. I'll say words that sound good to me like jalapeño. I'll blurt that out as I'm walking down the street. The character Brick was actually based on Eileen's son, one of the creator's son. Apparently, he did the whispering thing. It was a phase for him."

Shaffer discussed some of the TV shows that he grew up watching.

"I'll be honest, I had a lot of variety watching the shows," the 13-year-old actor who plays Brick explained. "I love watching cartoons, I still do. I like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Chowder, when it was on. I like having the random humor and the storyline humor. But I used to watch some of the older family sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters. I would watch those. I really like it. I feel like I'm a part of that. Hopefully, it could go on to be like that. I'll also watch the other quirky stuff like Pawn Stars.

While new episodes will continue to air on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC, the sitcom will begin airing in syndication. ABC Family will air re-runs starting in the fall of 2013 while the Hallmark Channel will air re-runs beginning in March 2014.

"It feels real good, that's what every writer dreams of," Heisler explained. "I think it will be really thrilling when it actually goes into syndication. We'll see it on more. Hopefully, it will bring more audiences."

Heline added: "Once the show starts in syndication, people start watching it at that Wednesday eight o'clock time slot too. It brings more people to it so it will be great. Thank you for caring about The Middle. It's very exciting for us."

The Middle is taped at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. However, it does not have a live studio audience like how most other sitcoms have.

"I see the show the way it is for a reason," Shaffer explained. "You're able to completely commit yourself to something. It's not multiple days of rehearsal on the day then you shoot. You can really get into it and dedicate yourself to each scene. At the same road, having a studio audience would give you feedback on how the line was or how is this character. I hope everyone enjoys the show and read on."

Sher added: "We have a proper single-cam formula and I think it works with our format. I don't think we need a laugh track or anything."

Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky moderated the discussion inside the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre. Complimentary attendance was offered for Television Academy members and one guest.

The next event at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will be "Welcome to Shondaland: An Evening with Shonda Rhimes & Friends." It will take place on April 2 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.

For more information about ABC's "The Middle," visit their official website at

For more information about the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, visit their official website at

Related Story: PREVIEW: ABC Family's 'GREEK' returns on Monday at new time - 10 p.m.



Photo credit: PictureGroup

Lead actress Patricia Heaton from ABC's The Middle


Photo credit: PictureGroup

The main cast of ABC's The Middle on the red carpet.


Photo credit: PictureGroup

Heaton stars as Frankie Heck on the ABC series.



Lead actor Neil Flynn stars as Mike Heck on The Middle.



Actress Eden Sher signs autographs for her fans.


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Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.