In "The Middle," an engaging ABC comedy premiering Wednesday, Sept. 30, Frankie ( Patricia Heaton) considers it cooking when she tosses a frozen pancake in the microwave. When the pancake hasn't defrosted, she tells Brick (Atticus Shaffer), the unusual youngest child, "Lick it, it will last longer."Glancing in the mirror on the way out, she notices her gray roots, grabs a brown marker and starts coloring.
Within moments, Frankie becomes the poster woman for multi-tasking moms everywhere: She's resourceful, resilient, and best, funny.
As her kids' whine stretches "Mom" into a five-syllable word, she turns to her husband, Mike (Neil Flynn, "Scrubs"), and says, "We did teach them the word 'Dad,' didn't we?"
Her latest job "which I'm too smart for," she says is selling used cars, and her boss relishes being mean. Making it worse, she's lousy at a lousy job.
But at least she has the perks of motherhood to bolster her.
Brick cites Mom as his example of a hero for his book report and needs her at school. Naturally she shows up wearing tights and a cape, as part of her homemade superhero costume. That Brick's report is the next week is funny and credible, as is this entire show named for the middle of the country.
The show is set in fictional Orson, Ind., home of Little Betty Snack Cakes and the world's largest polyurethane cow.
A proud native of Ohio, Heaton loves focusing on a part of the country often ignored. She looks far younger than her 50 years, and laughs about it, offering to share the numbers of her plastic surgeons.Mike and Frankie are very much partners; he's responsible, manages a quarry, loves his family, and is honest with them. The eldest, Axl (Charlie McDermott), a teenage boy, sleeps, eats and is sarcastic. The middle child, Sue (Eden Sher), is terminally optimistic, despite failing at whatever she tries.
And Brick? He obliviously strokes his teacher's breast, whispers words to himself, and is endearingly odd. His best friend is a backpack, but unlike Dora's, it's not animated.