Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Middle: June, July, August, and September

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I've never been a big fan of the fact that, when most shows go on hiatus between seasons, time passes that is never acknowledged. A few series in the 90s tried to circumvent this by having longer seasons (remember the summer episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved by the Bell, for instance?), but you're generally either left with a gap in time or a season that doesn't match reality. The gap ain't great, but who wants to watch the Halloween episode three weeks late to allow for catch-up time? This season, The Middle fixed the issue by having the first two episodes (a double-whammy) cover all of the summer activities that took place after last season's finale. I wasn't thrilled that we didn't see what became of the business that Axl and his friends were running, but it was otherwise a decent way to sum up things. The third episode had the start of the school year all the way up to the week or so before Homecoming, so it's safe to say that we'll hit the holidays on the nose when those episodes come to light.

On an unrelated note, I finally realized that the Heck kids are spaced apart about the same as I am with my siblings - I was a senior in high school when my brother was in tenth grade (albeit at a different high school) and my sister was in fifth. Not that I needed another reason to love this show, but it's fun to think about!

The Middle "Last Whiff of Summer" (S04E01 & S04E02): In June, Mike wants the kids to stop sitting in front of a screen all day so they try to take the kids for a fun experience - a triple feature at the drive-in movies! [how had Axl never been before? he tries to be quite the flirter most of the time! oh, and the films were Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fiddler on the Roof, and Serpico. and Mike IS a really tall guy, so I'm surprised that they couldn't get that seating thing situated.] The kids start arguing about which of them is the favorite child, though Sue doesn't believe that parents really have favorites. Frankie gives a line about how parents love all of their children infinitely, but Mike says Axl because they have more in common. [I've never seen a swing break like that in my life!] Because of this, Sue decides that she and Mike needs to have an awesome summer together, so she keeps inviting him to do things with her, however ridiculous they may sound. [the SOSAD (Summer of Sue and Dad) survey was funny.]

Because Axl then announces that Mike is his favorite parent, Frankie wants to win the affections of Brick or Sue, but Brick goes with Mike and Sue refuses to pick… until she accidentally says that she doesn’t want Frankie’s feelings get hurt. [haha!] So, Frankie spends the summer trying to win points with the kids, only she fails in many ways, like taking them to the wrong park to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. So, when Brick spends the summer growing a tomato plant that was in his backpack and wants to take it to a county fair three hours away, Frankie decides that it could be a clincher. [flowered shirt with plaid shorts??] Of course, Axl accidentally drives his car into a Demolition Derby, ruining the tomato in the process.
Unfortunately, that's not Axl's biggest worry. See, he had failed English and not told his parents, who promptly make him attend summer school when they find his report card. So, Mike spends the summer forcing Axl to study, because if he can't use a football scholarship because of academic ineligibility, everyone will be upset. And, Axl receiving negative attention causes Sue to try the same thing, so she tries using Mike's razor, not winding up the hose, stealing chapstick, not wearing shoes in the car, and even getting lost at the fair... only for the family to not realize she was ever missing. [sad that nothing really worked for Sue, but I loved seeing the scrapbook at the end.]

The Middle "The Second Act" (S04E03): It's the first day of school, and Sue is really excited about mentoring Jenna, a freshman, this year. Sue has made a huge binder of information for Jenna, but the only question she has is something Sue doesn't know about - the late bus. [I was surprised that Jenna didn't find Sue annoying.] Jenna makes the cheerleading squad and Homecoming Court, so Sue decides that she doesn't need her anymore. [so... mentoring isn't for the whole year then, eh? think we've seen the last of the popular freshman?]
At work, Frankie is fired and decides to go back to school for a career. While Sue is afraid they'll lose the house and Axl is upset that he's not getting a new car, Brick offers up his "gap year" fund. [first, I was surprised that Sue exaggerated things that quickly. second, I was upset that Axl felt he could just "get" a car after what he did. and third, I was intrigued to hear that Brick was planning to have a "gap year."] So, Frankie heads to the Orson Tech and picks up some syllabi, but she's quickly overwhelmed and it's up to Axl to convince her that she can do it with the family's help. [seeing him do laundry at the end was sweet.] 

Mike has a softball game with some work buddies, and brings along Brick, who is buried in a book and hardly speaks. Mike forgets to punish him for ignoring the company, then doesn't want to because Brick got picked on all day, and when he finally does, he can't come up with a good punishment. [yeah, I don't know that this was even worth mentioning.]
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