A few weeks ago I posted pictures from an upcoming episode of “The Middle” which featured two real-life Marines portraying Marines on the show. This week, that Thanksgiving-themed episode aired and – in this sitcom geek’s opinion – provided the best writing, performances and laughs in “The Middle’s” four season history.
The show opens with a wonderful visual gag based on Frankie Heck’s (Patricia Heaton) unwillingness to pay the new fee of 10 cents per shopping bag to pack her groceries at the local “Frugal Hoosier” supermarket. She then informs her husband Mike (Neil Flynn) that the store had a flyer inviting people to host two Marines in their home for Thanksgiving dinner (an actual program). Mike wonders, “Do you really think it would be wise to invite outside observer’s into this place?” His reluctance is expressed too late though. Frankie already signed up because she was afraid the program would run out of Marines.
In addition to the usual Heck family dysfunction involving the kids, Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer), come Frankie’s parents, Pat and Tag, played by Marsha Mason and Jerry Van Dyke. Though they’ve guest-starred on “The Middle” before, this is Mason and Van Dyke’s best appearance because they’re in full Fred-and-Ethel-Mertz, Frank-and-Marie-Barone bickering mode. Their dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. Into all this come the two Marines (William Franco Vasquez and Nick Jones Jr.) who survived Afghanistan, but may not make it through Thanksgiving dinner.
Tim Hobert wrote this episode and deserves an Emmy nomination for his work. Frankly,the whole show and cast deserve Emmy nominations, but for some reason, they’re always overlooked. This season, the writers and producers have been doing an exceptional job of growing and maturing all the characters so recognition for “The Middle”would be especially appropriate.
If you need a laugh this Thanksgiving, join the Heck family. The episode is embedded here: