While the Hecks on “The Middle” are a nuclear family, in many ways the town of Orson is an extended family. Neighbors come together to lend a hand when someone needs to borrow a tool, and their kids are often welcomed into each others’ homes. It’s a sentiment that stems from the way the show has been run, led by DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler, echoing out from the show’s cast and crew to their audience, as well.
“I remember a great story about a woman who was one of the stalwarts of Newtown, Conn., and a huge, huge fan of the show,” says Warner Bros. Television Group president Peter Roth. “She used to assemble townspeople, about a year after the tragedy that took place there, to bring a group of people to her store to watch the show.”
The woman was Eunice Laverty, and on Wednesday nights she would open the doors of Bagel Delight, her small bagel shop and deli, to those in her community who wanted to come by and bond over “The Middle.” Heline, Heisler and Roth were so touched when they heard how much the show meant to her that they called her to tell her how grateful they were.
“And she quoted something that Frankie says back to us. That was ‘you do for family,’” Roth recalls. “And that is the essence of what ‘The Middle’ is all about. Just an honest, real, flawed, dysfunctional, loving family like we all aspire to have.”
Almost a decade of depicting that family life allowed the show to explore everything from graduations and holiday celebrations to first days of school, young relationships and the first time behind the wheel of a car — for more than one character. Though they may live in a pretty standard suburban town in Orson, Ind., the characters’ unique points of view and ways of interacting with each other have made even the seemingly smallest moments tinged with something special.
Here, the cast of “The Middle” reflects on some of their personal favorite memories from the show.
“The Block Party” (pictured top)
Season 1, Episode 5
“It was the episode where the audience was able to truly learn about who Brick really is, witnessed through the eyes of Mike when Mike and Brick have a bonding moment when Brick helps Mike build his racing lawnmower. At the end of the episode, Mike acknowledges Brick’s intelligence and demonstrates his love as a parent, through sacrifice, by using the lawnmower they built together to get Brick to the library before it closed.”
— Atticus Shaffer
Season 3, Episode 13
“I love the car scenes, and the one where the Hecks are coming from Aunt Ginny’s funeral is the best. Most family comedies don’t tackle that subject often, but our writers manage to be both touching and hilarious.”
— Patricia Heaton
Season 4, Episode 11
“Axl and Sue are paired up on a school project, which he leaves at home, forcing him to put it together during the day while classes are in session. I liked it mainly because it was the first time Axl actually did something right. It was a fun one to film.”
— Charlie McDermott
“War of the Hecks”
Season 5, Episode 11
“I love whenever I get to have a storyline with Charlie, and this one was a big one where we’re in an all-out prank war. Sue eventually goes too far, and the weepy speech I give at the end of the episode apologizing and talking about our future families not knowing each other and tearing woofie dog apart was one of the most personal, evocative speeches I’ve ever been written. I still think about it when I’m feeling sentimental about my time on the show or even my relationship with my real life brothers. It literally had me crying in real life for probably a week after we were done shooting”
— Eden Sher
“The College Tour”
Season 6, Episode 8
“The father-daughter moments are always a favorite and this episode has Mike and Sue together touring colleges. There’s a touching moment at the end when Sue lists all the things that she appreciates about Mike.”
— Neil Flynn