While Patricia Heaton appreciates the expansive comedy buffet on TV these days, she prefers what's on her own plate with The Middle.
Airing Wednesday on ABC and Thursday on City, The Middle has the distinction of being a family sitcom that isn't boring. It has heart, but it definitely is not sappy.
“Normally for parents, if you want to watch something with your kids, you have to turn to Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, and it's that over-the-top kid acting and you kind of have to sit there and bear it,” Heaton said.
“For our show, they've been able to blend something so that you feel comfortable having your kids watch it, but there's enough – well, when I say adult humour, I just mean sophisticated humour. It's sly almost, some of the lines that just go by. And that's a tricky balance, but they've done it since the beginning (The Middle is in the midst of its fifth season).
“A parent doesn't have to suffer through a kids' show (when watching The Middle), but parents also don't have to worry about, 'Can I watch this with my kids?' You won't be sitting there suddenly regretting that your kids are seeing something that you would prefer they didn't.”
Besides, as Heaton well knows, there's plenty of that kind of programming to go around.
“There's just such a wide array of comedy on TV," Heaton said. "There are some shows that are just all-out crazy, you have Shameless, you have It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, that whole other end of the spectrum. You have things like Two and a Half Men, or 2 Broke Girls, that are almost Benny Hill-style, wink wink, nod nod, let's do vulgar jokes and look at each other. They're almost '70s comedies, like Three's Company or something. It's all sexual innuendo, that's kind of the point of every episode. And then on (cable), what's considered a comedy? Like, Nurse Jackie? That's a comedy? It's always in the comedy category.
“So really now, you can have your choice of whatever fits your sensibilities. But I really like the kind of stuff we do, which is character-based and not so punchline-based. Our show is a nice balance, like Raising Hope, where they're struggling, there's a little bit of – I wouldn't say sarcastic, but it maintains its love for family while also taking a few shots at it.”
This week's episode of The Middle is titled Hungry Games. Excited over receiving a time-sensitive coupon at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the Heck family plans to gorge at the restaurant immediately after church. But when they get into a squabble during the sermon, the Hecks find themselves being counseled by Reverend Deveaux (guest-star Keegan-Michael Key), and with all their pent-up issues, they run the risk of missing out altogether on their planned grand feast.
Buffets don't stay open forever. But comedy buffets do, and a hungry Patricia Heaton is more than happy to be caught in The Middle.