Another Indiana sitcom

. . . another slap in the face. After NBC’s awful Parks and Recreation—what’s really surprising is that a show can copy The Office so closely and still avoid any redeeming qualities—ABC gives us The Middle. It will premiere sometime this fall, in the made-up town of Orson, Indiana. It will star the ever-attractive Patricia Heaton. And, based on the trailer, it will suck.

I could give this show the same treatment I gave Parks and Recreationarguing that, in fictionalizing the town, it blows any chance at authenticity or at helping out a real Hoosier community—but I don’t think The Middle will be worth even my underemployed time.

[UPDATE, 2013: For reason only Google understands, this throwaway post keeps getting tons of hits. That's regrettable because this post sucks. Parks and Rec was pretty awful in its first season, but it's amazing now --- one of the few shows I watch live every week. Also, I've never watched The Middle, but I hear good things, largely from angry commenters on this post. My only point back in 2009 was that both shows looked like they were going to rely on lazy stereotypes. Seems like both of them have managed to transcend this concern --- I know Parks and Rec has. Regardless, if you all want to keep filleting me in the comments, go for it. I deserve it. I got this one way wrong.]

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About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
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21 Responses to Another Indiana sitcom

  1. kadacoza says:

    Why don’t you wait and see what it is like before you tear it apart? Even one episode won’t be enough to judge it because sometimes it takes a few shows for the characters to develop.

    • Thanks for your comment. You’re right, of course, that the show might be good, but my larger point still holds—the producers passed on setting the show in a real town, which hurts their product and (by omission) Hoosiers everywhere.

      If you read the article I linked to—and, honestly, self-promotion was my real larger point—you’ll see that such fictionalizing is the unfortunate norm.

  2. kadacoza says:

    Well I watched it and I have to say I am glad they fictionalized the town-first of all they tried to make out that Hoosiers are stupid hicks so I don’t think I would have wanted my hometown to be connected with Hollywood’s idea of and Indiana town. I don’t know if I will bother to watch anymore. The lead in for it “Hank” will probably do the same thing to people from VA. Too bad Hollywood doesn’t realize their shows can’t make it just on the viewership of the east and west coasts. They make fun of any of us who live in the heartland.

  3. Altoney says:

    At least the show portrays a family. It is tough these days to see a mother and father with their own children. They aren’t perfect, but then if they were it wouldn’t be entertaining at all.
    I watched the first episode and found it pretty average. Nothing spectacular.
    Being a Hoosier myself I agree that it would have been nice to base the program on a real place. There are plenty of picturesque places in Indiana and even more characters!

  4. Lync says:

    I started watching “the middle” at the beginning of the season because I typically will watch the pilot of anything that looks interesting to me. Especially comedies.
    Plus being a big fan of Patricia Heaton, it pretty much locked in my viewership for at least three episodes. Because it does typically take a show a few episodes for the actors to really grab on to their characters to truly portray them.
    After the first few episodes, I found myself truly impressed. In a world of “the Hills” and more “reality” shows than I care to admit truly exist, it is good to see a new scripted family comedy.
    A family that faces money issues, and awkwardness, and just the weird kid we all knew in school. We never really gave him, in this case Brick, a lot of thought. But in hindsight, he was probably the most interesting person we never knew. Now he has his own show… and they have my viewership for the duration of the series.

    3.5 stars.

    They lose the half star because I don’t truly buy the relationship between the parents. They should be a touch more loving towards each other. They act more like roommates who occasionally hug.

    • Peter says:

      > They act more like roommates who occasionally hug.

      From that comment, I’ll venture a guess that you aren’t married with kids. That’s kind of what happens. At least for me.

  5. Woody in Fort Wayne says:

    This show is a very funny new sitcom, and I think that it is a great family show. It does not portray Indiana as a stupid farm state, but shows how every day common folk live. We get a kick out of it, and I am so glad to see a sit-com that we CAN watch as a family. I hope to see this and many other programs similar to this last, and bring back the kind of humor that we do not need to hide from our children.

  6. Brad in Evansville says:

    I love this show. And, unfortunately, it satirically depicts too many people I’ve actually known in this state to a point of accuracy. Not unfortunate that they do so, but unfortunate that it isn’t so far off of the mark. I can’t help but believe that the creative/writing staff for this show actually are from here.

    Having grown up in Odon, IN (town of maybe a thousand in Amishland,) and having relatives from all over the southern half of the state; this show grabs pieces of Hoosier life from all over.

    The high school basketball obsession, the Colts fanaticism and references to various towns and cities is the easy part, but they latch onto lesser known subjects as well. When the dad drives the daughter all over the state selling ‘crap’ for her school to earn a trip to the ‘state capital.’ The dad working at a limestone quarry. The freakish weather changes complete with tornado sirens. Oddball bargain store shopping. French Lick getaways. Oddball extended families. Rural quirks. All things that are kind of regionally unique to southern Indiana at least.

    The show may not be flattering…but it ain’t untrue either. At least I can laugh at it and know that someone else sees and gets this place for the weird and somehow great place that it is all at the same time.

  7. Sarah says:

    I think the show is great! It’s very realistic on how families really are. It makes me laugh everytime I watch it! I also think the Indiana references are fun!

    Sarah in Indianapolis Indiana

  8. Schroedinger's Cat says:

    It’s fairly innocuous in it’s depiction of “flyover countrry” people as hicks.

    Please leave out all the remotely offensive language to be a completely family friendly show.

    Opening scene reminds me of the crop duster scene setting in “North By Northwest”. That movie scene was also set in western Indiana.

  9. Nafaton says:

    I live in Indiana and like the Janitor so I really wanted to like his show. Unfortunately it is so terribly written that after suffering through the first one, I couldn’t take much more than a segment here or there in the following episodes just to confirm that it hadn’t improved any. I would hope this would be another bad sitcom destined for the scrap heap, but since it’s a show about and targeted at white trash with low standards it will probably be on for years.

    • Ed says:

      This show is not targeted towards white trash (a la Roseanne – which had exterior shots taken in Evansville). I enjoy the show and moved here 4 years ago from Florida. Yes, it is fiction, but there are many strands of truth in the show. I enjoy the fact that we can watch it as a family.

  10. adrian says:

    wow the middle is a great show ! we have just watched the whole 1st series in the uk over the last few weeks and even us English get it,we watch it as a family my wife and 2 kids and me and we can all relate a little to each character and also watch without worrying about bad language and sexual content that smatters most sitcoms at the moment

    bring on series 2

  11. Alicia Allan says:

    I live in Indiana, but I am not from here. This of course means that we don’t actually fit in here. I have to say that ” The Middle” is spot on….portrays a family who has NEVER been out of what I call ” Hoosierville”. Born here, exist here, and die here all the while breeding more Hoosiers….As soon as my kids graduate high school we are out of here! If you are offended by the show, it is because you see yourself written in the script!

  12. Max says:

    Great show, so glad the renewal of these shows (like The Middle) aren’t based on mindless chatter from some random wanna be critic. I bet you feel silly about your initial review?

  13. Sadie says:

    The Middle is fantastic! I bought the first season dvd and watch it nearly every day! Yes, I do have a life, have a degree in English Lit, am employed full-time as a master teacher, love God, and have a precious family. I also have a sense of humor. I watch it because it depicts the normality of life, the true things we do when others aren’t watching. Life isn’t perfect and neither are members of families…but love can exist in the midst of imperfection. Despite the situations that present themselves, the members of The Middle’s family love each other…and that’s what real life is about.

  14. Well being that i am a Hoosier and think that Indiana is an overly unknown state and as for the show i think it is an amazing show its funny and family oriented.

  15. Mom says:

    I love “The Middle” finally a good clean family show with comedy. I miss home improvement and everybody loves raymond. I also like last man standing.

  16. U.C. says:

    It’s 2013 and the show is still on . Does it tell you something;-)orson why not lol their name ” the Hecks” :-) why the heck not .entertainment at its best we live the show and we most likely all have somebody for a neighbor like the people in orson

  17. P-Rick says:

    You are an ass. P and R won several awards , and The middle is a spectacular show with incredibly funny ideas. They are sitcoms you moron. They’re not supposed to give people a motto by which to live . Or were you influenced by The Three Stooges. Look up the words comedy and satire. Maybe then you’ll get it.

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