Follow TV Tropes


Context Series / TheMiddle

Go To

1[[quoteright:319:]]²[[caption-width-right:319:From bottom-left to top-right: [[ChildProdigy Brick]], [[TomboyishName Frankie]], [[WalkingShirtlessScene Axl]], [[TheStoic Mike]], and [[GenkiGirl Sue.]]]]²²An Creator/{{ABC}} sitcom about two working-class parents raising three children in small-town Indiana. Rife with narration and flashbacks.²²Frankie Heck ([[Series/EverybodyLovesRaymond Patricia Heaton]]) and her husband Mike ([[Series/{{Scrubs}} Neil Flynn]]) live in the Midwestern town of Orson, Indiana. Frankie first works as a saleswoman at "Ehlert Motors" before moving on to dental hygiene; and Mike is the manager at the local quarry. Their three children are: Axl (Charlie [=McDermott=]), perpetually lazy and unmotivated, often to the point of wearing only his boxers; Sue (Creator/EdenSher), the quirky but persistent and energetic middle child who tries out for a number of extracurricular activities...and fails spectacularly at almost every one; and Brick (Atticus Shaffer), the gifted, but socially awkward youngest child, who reads a lot and has a tendency to [[VerbalTic whisper the last words he said]][[note]]last words he said[[/note]].²²Other characters include Bob Weaver ([[Series/SaturdayNightLive Chris Kattan]]), Frankie's coworker at Ehlert Motors for the first few seasons; Don Ehlert (Creator/BrianDoyleMurray), Frankie's first boss; Sean Donahue, the eldest son of a neighbor to the Hecks, Axl's friend, and eventually [[spoiler:Sue's boyfriend and then her husband]]; and Lexie Brooks (Daniela Bobadilla), Sue's rich roommate/best friend at college and later [[spoiler:Axl's girlfriend and then his wife]].²²Along with ''Series/ModernFamily'', it was ''the'' break-out comedy of the 2009 television season (though ''Modern Family'' tends to get [[SpotlightStealingSquad all of the entertainment media attention]]). In 2017 it was announced the show's ninth season would be its last, with its final episode airing in May 2018.²²On May 30, 2018, [[ in the works]] from ABC was a SpinOff centering on Sue.²²Not to be confused with the 2000 sitcom ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'' (though some comparisons are inevitable).²²----²!!The show provides examples of:²* AbhorrentAdmirer: Weird Ashley to Axl.²** Axl jokes about Lexie being one to him at first, saying things like she keeps staring at him and throwing herself at him even though he's with April when she's actually just standing there looking puzzled.²*** In actuality, he's this to her as this is his way of stealthily flirting with her while still being loyal to his girlfriend.²* AerithAndBob: There's Axl, Brick, and... Sue. It kind of emphasizes her lack of specific talent. It even works with their real actors' names: Charlie... Atticus, and Eden (respectively).²* AesopAmnesia: In “The Cheerleader," we find out that Frankie and Mike always bought items with no payments until 2009, only to forget about it by the end of the episode. They were able to get a new credit card to pay off their debts and buy new items with no payments until 2012.²** Frankie is getting hit by this trope all the time. No matter how many times meddling in other people's lives/insisting on trying to get people to see things her way turns out bad/gets people upset at her, she's doing it again next episode. Once Mike even specifically spelled out to her that she shouldn't do something because it always turns out horribly, and she agrees - one quick GilliganCut later, there she is doing ''exactly'' what she agreed she shouldn't do. At this point, it's practically a compulsion.²** No matter how much of a good impression Sue makes on others about who she is by the end of an episode, they’ll all go back to not being able to remember her in future episodes.²** Axl learns from time to time about how important it is to help Sue out when she needs it and not to ignore and get frustrated with her just because she’s his goofy younger sister. He keeps learning this lesson though. He seems to keep forgetting it.²** Brick forgets constantly that the family doesn’t really share his interests and constantly develops the impression and treats things as being more popular with them than they truly are.²* AgonyOfDeFeet: Sue drives over Axl's foot.²* TheAllegedCar: Axl's '75 Ford Gran Torino [[spoiler:met its end]] when a county fair official took a guess about the rusty, faded old land yacht and [[spoiler:waved Axl into the demolition derby]].²* AmbiguousDisorder: Brick's disorder is never specified though he does seem to have several symptoms[[note]]such as not making friends with children his own age, lack of interest in social activities, his VerbalTic (known as echolalia), etc[[/note]] that relate to Asperger's.²** Cindy Hornberger, Brick's girlfriend, speaks in a monotone voice, refuses to take her hat off, cannot say something she doesn't mean, and she has little understanding of social etiquette (ex. she has no problem speaking to Brick in the men's room while he's using a stall).²** In season seven, Brad is finally about to come out but Sue simply says, "I know" and hugs him. ²* AskAStupidQuestion: After Brick reveals he lost his backpack in "The Smell" and Frankie asks where he was when he lost it:²-->'''Brick:''' That's kind of what makes it lost, mom...²* AssumedWin: When Brick entered a contest to come up with the town's new slogan.²* AVerySpecialEpisode. Subverted by the third season premiere, in which Sue gets her first period near the end of the episode.²* TheBabyTrap: One episode had Brick have an unwanted girlfriend that started stalking him. When he tried to break up with her, she said that they were now married and had a baby to apparently keep him from leaving her.²* BackToSchool: After being fired from Ehlert Motors in the fourth season, Frankie decides to retrain, ultimately as a dental technician.²* BadBadActing: This is the result when Brad and Sue write, direct and star in the senior play "The Loneliest Locker."²* BadJobWorseUniform: Sue and (even more so) Brad's uniforms for their jobs at the mall's food-court chain outlets, as seen in "Vacation Days" during the fifth season.²* BearsAreBadNews: On their camping trip...²* BelligerentSexualTension: Axl and Lexie are this. He teased her with the idea of her being interested in him while showing a thinly veiled interest in her, she'd shut him down and then it turned out, he was right all along about her reciprocating. She only thought he was just enjoying trying to make her uncomfortable, until it turned out [[spoiler:he truly did have feelings for her all along]].²* BigBrotherInstinct: While Axl shows more affection towards his little brother, Brick, he's more emotionally closed off when it comes to his little sister, Sue. He treats her with disdain, taunts and teases her to no end, and belittles her very existence (he never tells anyone in his school that he has a sister)... but when it comes down to it, Axl shows a softer, comforting side of him when it really counts. Examples would be in episodes like ''The Block Party'' (where he gives Sue his old jersey because he felt bad for her not making ball girl), and ''The Paper Route'' (where he gives her a little pep talk after her boyfriend dumps her for another girl, and invites her to come watch his game to cheer her up, awww!).²* TheBigDamnKiss: At the end of "The Par-tay" and after nearly a season of UST, Axl and Lexie's RelationshipUpgrade finally occurs when Axl shows up to the apartment and kisses Lexie almost immediately after she answers the door.²** Practically all their kisses in "The Confirmation" are this, given the sneaking around and dramatic gripping they do to each other.²* BigEater:²** Axl has a reputation for having a big appetite.²** Brick as well, in "The Map" he and Axl try and create a model Indiana cake out of brownie mix, pancake mix, and pizzas. The brothers end up devouring all of them. As for the pizza model they ordered two so they could eat one and use the other for the model; they end up eating both of them. ²* BitchInSheepsClothing: Shannon in "Errand Boy."²* {{Blackmail}}: In "The Telling," Axl accidentally wakes Sue up late at night while sneaking back into the house via her room. Knowing that he has a big trip to the lake with his friends coming up on the weekend, she holds the threat of telling on him over him to get rides for her and her friends everywhere over the next few days.²* [[ShowWithinAShow Book Within A Show]]: Brick is a huge fan of the sci-fi series "Planet Nowhere," as revealed in "Twenty Years."²* BottleEpisode: Season 8's "Sorry Not Sorry"²* [[BrattyTeenageDaughter Bratty Teenage Son]]: Axl²* BracesOfOrthodonticOverkill: Sue is expecting to get her braces off in the third season's "The Paper Route". Instead, because the braces overcorrected her teeth, she developed a simultaneous overbite and underbite and must wear headgear full-time.²* BrainlessBeauty: Deconstructed in a season 2 episode; Axl's boss is an extremely sexy but extremely dumb party girl who he is at first overjoyed to work with, but eventually grows to intensely dislike, even turning down a date (to his own shock) due to frustration at her thoughtlessness.²** Axl's season 8 girlfriend, April. The rest of the Heck family agrees that she is sweet and cute but utterly brainless and not good enough for Axl.²* BreadEggsMilkSquick: In the first part of "Last Whiff of Summer," the fourth-season premiere, the Hecks go to a [[DriveInTheater drive-in]] where the triple bill is ''Film/ChittyChittyBangBang'', ''Theatre/FiddlerOnTheRoof'', and ''Film/{{Serpico}}''.²* BrickJoke: [[JustForFun/IThoughtItMeant No, not with the character]]. In one episode, Brick is home alone and he tries to make Pizza puffs with the oven and nearly starts a fire because there was a ''quilt'' in the oven (because they only eat fast food, Frankie puts Aunt Edie's old quilts in the oven). In a 2012 episode, Axel and Brick try to bake a dough map of Indiana and after turning the oven on, shout, "'''THE QUILT!'''" and take it out of the oven.²** Its return in the next season's "Christmas Pageant" suggests this may be becoming a RunningGag.²* BrilliantButLazy:²** Axl most of the time, but subverted whenever he is motivated to succeed on a test, etc. Arguably, Brick is a more straight-up example (see below).²** Brick does invert this in one episode. He fails a few math tests, but it's not because of the teacher or the material. [[spoiler:He was just curious what getting an F was like]].²--> '''Brick:''' That's probably because [[spoiler:I only answered the first five questions]].²--> '''Brick:''' Ms. Rinski said we could have free reading time after we finished the test, [[spoiler:so I finished in five minutes]].²** When a football recruiter from East Indiana State visits the Heck home, Axl demonstrates that he ''can'' be a polite, charming young man, infuriating his parents, because at home, he doesn't bother.²** In season 9, Axl takes the lazy side to new extremes [[spoiler:after spending a summer in Europe]]. Later, in the episode “Eyes Wide Open”, [[spoiler:he visits his college roommate Hutch in Chicago and sees how he is acting more like a responsible adult than when they last saw each other. This inspires Axl to finally shed his slacker image, cut his hair neatly, and find work that makes better use of his business degree]].²* BrokenAesop: In-universe in the second-season episode "The Quarry." Axl gets suspended from school, so Mike decides to teach him a lesson about how much of a drag the real world is compared to school by taking him to work with him. It backfires when Axl finds his temporary co-workers are cool guys in their early 20s who throw weekend parties attended by lots of attractive women.²* TheBusCameBack: Averted in "Valentine's Day IV" when Matt leaves a message for Sue to tell her he's back together with his old girlfriend, so he won't be coming back to Orson to take her out to the dance.²** Carly, Sue's best friend from the earlier seasons, reappears during the New Year's party in season 9. (Frankie mentions her needing to get home to relieve her babysitter, so most likely her lack of appearances was due to being busy with a kid). ²* ByWallThatIsHoley: In "The Name," Axl is helping out at a Habitat for Humanity house. When asked if he needs help with the bracing, he scoffs and says he knows what he's doing, only to have the wall fall while he stands in the doorway.²* ButtMonkey: Sue and, to a lesser extent, Frankie. You could argue that it's an ''entire family'' of {{Butt Monkey}}s, but those two stand out the most.²** Brick gets a lot of this - by virtue of being the third child, his own parents often seem to forget he even exists. This goes all the way back to his birth when they managed to take the wrong baby home and not realize it for a month. More recently, with both Axl and Sue in college, Mike and Frankie have more or less phoned in the job of parenting the poor guy.²* BumblingDad: Subverted with Mike, as he is a streetsmart man, who knows what he is talking about.²* CallBack:²** In "Halloween III: The Driving," Sue mentions her "near-death experience" secretly driving the Donahues' car (see ProductPlacement, below) in the previous season's "Hecking it Up."²** In the very next episode, Sue and Brick accidentally reopen the same hole in the wall from the second season.²* CantGetInTroubleForNuthin: In "The Last Whiff of Summer," Sue attempts to get attention from her father by deliberately misbehaving so he will have to punish her. However, her attempts to be a 'bad girl' fall solidly in PokeThePoodle territory and Mike fails to even notice.²* CaptainOblivious: Sue is the only one who seems to have no idea that her former boyfriend Brad is [[TransparentCloset very probably gay]].²* CelebrityParadox: Frankie says that Axl impressed a college professor with facts he learned from watching ''Film/HotTubTimeMachine'' [[SawStarWarsTwentySevenTimes 27 times]]. Charlie [=McDermott=], who plays Axl, was in ''Hot Tub Time Machine''. ²* CharacterizationMarchesOn: In the earlier seasons, Sue had a lot more of "Hollywood teenage girl" moments, and sometimes even mouthed off to her mother a few times, a notable example being an episode where Frankie ruined a pair of jeans that she bought Sue that were popular at the time. In later seasons, imagining Sue doing such a thing would be ''impossible'', especially with how much she values being the "good child" in comparison to Axl. Quite a few later episodes actually have her reach a nervous breakdown level over her parents finding out she did something incredibly minor, and likely wouldn't care about.²* ChildProdigy: Youngest son Brick is prone to philosophical thoughts about the meaning of life.²* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: In the early seasons, Axl was almost never seen without his [[ThoseTwoGuys two best friends]] Sean & Darren; Sean continued to appear frequently [[spoiler:and eventually ends up marrying Sue]], but Darren disappeared after dumping Sue when she she turned down his proposal. ²** Also, Sue's best friend Carly stopped appearing after a while, although Sue does reference her on occasion. Averted in season 9 where she does come back for one episode (dialogue from Frankie revealed she had a child, so that might explain her absence). ²* ClipShow: Subverted: "Back to Summer" had a subplot where Brick had to fill out a journal covering everything he did that school year (or, in other words, covering Season 2). Only problem is that neither Brick or Frankie could actually ''remember'' anything that happened that year.²* CloudCuckoolander: Brick Heck.²* ComicTrio: Axl, Sean, and Darren, in an obvious tribute to ''Film/TheThreeStooges''.²** Axl's [[TheLeader the snarky leader]] who invents crazy schemes. And he has black hair like Moe Howard's.²** Darren, ever [[TheFool the fool]], blindly goes along with them. And he has a blond crew cut not unlike that of Curly Joe Howard.²** Sean is the [[OnlySaneMan only sane man]] with a dash of [[NiceGuy nice guy]] and hair as red as that of Larry Fine.²* ContinuityNod:²** In "Friends, Lies and Videotape" during the second season, Mike confronts Sue about a ticket stub to an R-rated movie she and her best friend sneaked into earlier in the episode. Sue responds by tearfully confessing every (actually relatively minor) transgression she's committed recently. In the process she reveals the hole in the wall she and Brick enlarged while trying to fix it four episodes earlier in "The Big Chill."²** In "The Friend," we learn who fixed it, and Sue confesses to it again (even though it's fixed[[note]]"New hole."[[/note]]) in "Wheel of Pain."²** In "The Clover," Mike takes the Heck's old dishwasher from "[[ValentinesDayEpisode Valentine's Day III]]" to his father.²** In "The Telling," Sue is shown sleeping with [[BracesOfOrthodonticOverkill her headgear]], which she got earlier that season, on. During "Last Whiff of Summer (Part 2)" she takes it off in a desperate bid for attention, loudly announcing she's doing so, but no one notices. She sleeps with it yet again in "Bunny Therapy."²** In "The Wedding," Sue looks for ideas for Rusty's wedding in a notebook she kept when she was imagining that she and Matt (whom she'd broken up with long distance earlier in the season) would someday get married.²** In "Bunny Therapy," Axl and his friends are shown raking leaves in the "Boss Co." shirts they had printed up for the previous season's finale, "The Wedding," And they're seen again in a couple of other episodes that season.²** In "The Friend," Cassidy turns out to be a big fan of the ''Planet Nowhere'' series that Axl spoiled for Brick in "The Smile," and in "Wheel of Pain," we see some of the books stacked next to Brick's bed.²* CoveredInMud: Mike, in "The Ditch," during the fourth season, after trying Axl's plan to get the car and boat unstuck.²* CrappyHolidays:²** As of its sixth season, the show has done a Thanksgiving, and a [[ChristmasEpisode Christmas]] episode every season. An annual HalloweenEpisode started in the second season, and each season except the fifth he got a ValentinesDayEpisode. The first two seasons also featured Mother's Day episodes, and then "Hallelujah Hoedown" in the fourth season had Mother's Day (the Sunday after it aired) as one of its plot threads.²** The first Mother's Day episode sneaked in a ''Father's Day'' episode via flashbacks. A third-season episode was also devoted to the Hecks trying to keep their New Year's resolutions.²** And the show has also built episodes around the 2011 Final Four and Super Bowl XLVI, both of which in real life took place in Indiana. ''And'' an episode around the 2011 Royal Wedding.²** On Feb 29, 2012 the show aired the episode ''Leap Day''.²** The two-part fourth-season premiere, "Last Whiff of Summer," had one act set on Fourth of July. ²* {{Crossover}}: In the episode "Operation Infiltration," Troy Gentile made a non-canon appearance as his character Barry Goldberg from the Eighties-centric sitcom ''Series/TheGoldbergs'' (a fellow ABC sitcom). ²** Maybe. While the ads for the episode certainly implied that, Gentile is uncredited and it never explicitly says it's Barry, it could just be another kid from their school. ²* CutHimselfShaving: Subverted when Frankie tosses an empty bottle to Sue, which accidentally hits Brick in the arm. Later at school when asked about the injury, Brick innocently says, "My Mom hit me with a beer bottle," not intending to make it sound the way it did.²* DamnedByFaintPraise: Sue wins an MVP award for her participation on the Cross Country Team. Unfortunately, the specific award is "MVP Most Punctual," and everyone on the team gets some sort of an "MVP" award. Sue being Sue, she's still genuinely excited to win something.²* DaydreamSurprise: "Ok...that didn't really happen..."²* DemotedToExtra: Bob was a regular for the first season or so, but after the show began to focus more on the Hecks' lives and less on Frankie's job, he had little use on the show and was relegated to the end credits.²* DeadpanSnarker:²** Axl most of the time, but everyone has their snarky moments. ²** Mike, especially to Frankie and Axl.²* TheDeterminator:²** Sue. No matter how many times she fails to make any team or club, she never gives up. This extends far enough that, in that SeasonFinale, she "runs" five laps around a cross-country track ''with a twisted (and possibly broken) ankle'', only for it to start raining while she's on her final lap. Then, after being splashed with mud and grass and losing a crutch, she drags herself across the finish line with only her arms. Did we mention that the entire time the theme from Chariots of Fire was playing, timed out well enough that what is usually a cheesy StockParody?²*** Not to mention the fact that every one of her schoolmates watching and cheering for her cheered the wrong name until the family corrected them!²*** And presumably had been for the first four and a half laps. That makes the support of the family even more heartwarming!²*** In the second episode of the third season it's lampshaded when Axl pays her a backhanded compliment, calling her a "dork optimist."²*** It's lampshaded again in "Twenty Years", when she says "Sue Heck will never give up!".²** Frankie could be one too, given her various quests to help out her family (during which she is inevitably faced with several obstacles).²*** Her speech in the dental-assistant class at the end of "The Safe" pretty much confirms it.²* DoggedNiceGuy: Sort of. Sean has no romantic interest in Sue (At least for the majority of the show) but he has twice, out of the kindness of his own heart, driven all the way down from Notre Dame (blowing off his own studies in the process) to be Sue's date only to be rejected because Sue found someone else at the last minute. ²* DontMakeMeTakeMyBeltOff: Mike's father had a belt [[ICallItVera he called "the Enforcer"]] that he used frequently on his sons. It is implied that this is the reason Mike never even considers CorporalPunishment for his children.²* DoubleMeaningTitle: The name of the series actually has a ''triple'' meaning. It's about a middle-aged mom, in a middle-class household, living in the Midwest. The family also tends to consciously or unconsciously avoid the winner obsession usually attributed to American society. They represent Aristotle's aurea mediocritas (golden mediocrity, another way of being in the middle) and this is shown as the basis for their simple yet beautiful happiness, much in the vein the Greeks understood it.²* DrivingTest: Sue spends the fourth season trying to get her license. By "Hallelujah Hoedown," when she's alone among her like-aged friends, in which we learn she's failed her road test ''six times'' and must wait another month.²** After which, in the season finale, she passes at last.²* EggSitting: Axl gets this assignment in sex ed. Needless to say, he is a less than perfect parent.²** In a later season 9 story arc, Brick is given the same assignment, and forced to use the same (now virtually destroyed) doll Axl used.²* EmbarrassingMiddleName: Sue Sue Heck. Her first name was accidentally written twice on her birth certificate. Frankie and Mike have been meaning to get that changed. When they finally get around to it in "The Name," [[spoiler:the government worker at the courthouse thinks her name is interesting. Sue, delighted that someone has finally found something about her unique and special, decides not to have it changed after all]].²* EndingFatigue: Happens InUniverse (thankfully mostly off-screen) with Sue and Brad's school play in "The Loneliest Locker". Unable to agree upon an ending, they use all of the endings they came up with. This leads Brick to comment that he likes the third ending the best. ²* EskimosArentReal: In a ChristmasEpisode, Brick explains that Eskimos know how to put a fire in an igloo, only for Axl to snap that back that Eskimos aren't real, but are made-up creatures like leprechauns.²* EurekaMoment: Near the end of "The Test," Mike finally manages to get Brick to stand up for himself, something he wanted throughout the entire episode. ''However'', as he tells Frankie, he realizes that Brick tricked him when he thinks back to how Brick deals with bullies[[note]]by giving them what they want, they'll think they've won and leave him alone[[/note]].²* ExactWords: In "The Clover" during the third season, Frankie, worried about Aunt Edie's ability to continue on her own after her sister's death, visits her. While there, she points to the phone with extra large buttons and pictures of her, her mother and her sister on the numbers in memory:²-->'''Frankie:''' ''Press my face if you want to talk''.²-->'''Aunt Edie:''' (reaching out and actually pressing Frankie's face) ''Hello? Hello?''²* ExplainExplainOhCrap: At a religious camp, Brick meets Blake Ferguson, the boy the Hecks accidentally took home from the hospital and kept for a month before realizing their mistake. Brick is excited to meet his "brother," hugging him and laughing about the mix-up...until it hits him that Blake's parents never told him about it.²-->'''Brick''': We were switched at birth! I spent the first month of my life with your family and you spent the first month of your life with my family! Why aren't you more excited about this? You're acting like you've never heard this story've never heard this story before. ²* ExtracurricularEnthusiast: Sue.²* {{Fanservice}}: Axl. He's played by a young adult actor with a learn, ripped body.²** Don't forget about his two buff football buddies who have had multiple shirtless scenes. Sometimes the scenes are even homoerotic. Case in point: the first Valentine's Day episode, where Darren takes a picture of the three of them sitting side by side, flexing for the camera.²--->'''Axl:''' Dude, we look like three naked guys huggin' each other. \²'''Sean:''' Yeah, and you can't see what our hands are doing... \²'''Darren:''' And...send! High five, my brothers! \²''(Axl and Sean look at each other in disgust before fleeing the scene)''²*** In "Hecks at a Movie", it's revealed that Axl and Sean's first kiss was with each other. ²* FelonyMisdemeanor: Frankie being arrested for an overdue library book - "Stormy Moon."²* FirstKiss. Subverted somewhat in "[[ValentinesDayEpisode Valentine's Day]] III" in the third season. Sue and her new boyfriend have admitted to each other that his French kisses have been a problem for them both—she doesn't like the feel of an other person's tongue in her mouth, and he's been trying to avoid cutting his tongue on her braces. So the show ends with a nice moment on the Hecks' doorstep, as they kiss on the lips, limned by sunlight. It's not her first kiss per se but it's her first real one.²* FirstPeriodPanic: Played for laughs. During a camping trip with her family, Sue discovers she's having her first period, and her period blood has attracted the attention of a [[BearsAreBadNews bear]] nearby.²* {{Flanderization}}:²** Sue seems to be becoming even more hopelessly naive and clueless than ever in recent episodes, to the point of ridiculousness (especially in "Halloween III," when she becomes so nervous about driving that she accidentally runs over Axl's foot and potentially ruins his football scholarship). RuleOfFunny aside, Sue has not shown very much depth or personality change, and some are finding her perpetual enthusiasm stale - not to mention fast becoming unrealistic (underbite-crossbite, anyone?)²*** This was addressed in the fifth season's Halloween episode when Mike showed legitimate concern that Sue's "extreme innocence" (which he referred to as being normal for a child but not for a 16-year-old) will make her look crazy and the victim of bullying.²** Brick, too, has been affected by this. As of "Bunny Therapy" he's acquired a whole new odd VerbalTic for no apparent reason, other than perhaps to make him seem even weirder.²* FlippingTheBird[=/=]RelaxOVision: In ''Signals'', when Frankie is about to give Mike the middle finger for making fun of her, the scene cuts to a shot of the Hecks' house so Frankie can continue telling the audience about signs.²-->'''Frankie:''' Well, read this sign. [Scene cuts to the Hecks' house] Yep, some signs are unmistakable...²* FlyoverCountry: The show is set in the U.S. Midwest, and the title, "the middle," is a colloquialism used by inhabitants of places like Orson to describe where they live.²** The pilot episode even goes so far as to show a plane flying overhead, and the passengers not caring when the flight attendant tells them that if they look out their window, they can see Indiana.²* ForHalloweenIAmGoingAsMyself: Invoked in the seventh-season Halloween episode when Axl's friend suggests that the mysterious trick-or-treater in TheGrimReaper costume they keep seeing might actually ''be'' Death, since Halloween is the one night of the year Death could walk around like that without anyone thinking anything's amiss.²* FourLeafClover Brick finds one in the "The Clover" episode and it brings him all manner of {{bad luck|Charm}}.²* FourPhilosophyEnsemble: Axl (the Apathetic), Sue (the Optimist), Mike (the Cynic), Brick (the Realist), and Frankie (the Conflicted).²* FourTemperamentEnsemble²** Heck family combo ensemble: [[{{Jerkass}} self-centered person-user]] Axl (choleric-sanguine), [[TheStoic non-sentiment]] Mike (melancholic-choleric), Aunt Edie (phlegmatic-melancholic), WideEyedIdealist Sue (sanguine-phlegmatic), and Frankie and Brick (eclectic).²** Recurring secondary characters: Don Ehlert (choleric), Bob Weaver (melancholic), Darrin (phlegmatic), Brad (sanguine), and Sean (eclectic).²* FromBadToWorse: Sue and Brick's attempt to fix a small hole in her wall in "The Big Chill" only makes it larger.²* FunnyBackgroundEvent: While Frankie is talking to Mike and bemoaning her inability to figure out who she really is, Brick can be seen in the background trying to get himself into a sleeping bag, and failing miserably.²** This gag is repeated in a later episode. Frankie and Mike have a conversation while Sue is shown in the background learning to row a boat in the above-ground pool and, also, failing miserably. ²** In the final episode, Axl tells Sue and Brick that he's [[spoiler:moving to Denver]]. While Axl deals with an inconsolable Sue, Brick is in the background measuring their bedroom. Later in the same episode, Brick is pushing a bookcase down the hallway while Frankie and Mike are having a conversation. They don't notice until Brick gets the case stuck in the doorway.²* FunnyForeigner: Subverted in "Foreign Exchange". The Japanese exchange student who comes to stay with the Hecks has zero personality and says almost nothing to the family the entire time. Only when he returns home and a brief shot of him with his Japanese family is shown in TheTag, is it revealed that he's basically a sullen teenager with some of the same personality traits as Axl and Brick.²* GeniusBookClub: Brick is often shown reading something incredibly advanced for his age. This leads to the hilarious "I googled ''Literature/MobyDick'' - the hard edition - [[TheInternetIsForPorn and guess what I found?]]" line.²* GenerationXerox: Sue and Frankie, at least to some extent. Both are redheads, both have sanguine-phlegmatic personality types, and they have some of the same mannerisms (see InelegantBlubbering below).²** Frankie frequently lampshades this when talking about stoic Mike and his equally stoic father.²** The GrandFinale shows that [[spoiler:in the future, Axl has three sons who are just as lazy and snarky as he was as a teenager. Frankie says it's retribution for what Axl put her and Mike through.]]²* GenkiGirl: Sue²* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: Axl is responsible for quite a bit of this.²** For example, in "Last Whiff of Summer," he just ''knows'' ''Film/ChittyChittyBangBang'' sucks because "it has "chitty" right in the title!"²** In "The Friend," he's Snap-Chatting with Cassidy, and he says, "Hang on, gotta say good night to my girlfriend." At which point he ducks under his covers, then the scene changes.²** Brick does this in "From Orson With Love," where he says that the bunny he got in "Bunny Therapy" found a bunny friend, gave it "piggyback rides," and now there's a litter of bunny babies in his and Axl's closet.²** In one episode, Brick wakes up Axl. Axl yells at him that he shouldn't wake him up because he was having a "big boy dream".²* GilliganCut: Used often.²* GirlfriendInCanada: Brad has one, per "Sleepless in Orson".²* GirlOnGirlIsHot: When Frankie talks about baby showers, she makes Rusty think she takes showers with other women. His immediate response is, "Oh, that is hot".²* TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry: The third season's Thanksgiving episode introduces Molly Shannon as Frankie's sister Janet. Frankie resents the fact that she's married to a chiropractor and has a higher standard of living than the Hecks do, while Janet in turn resents that Frankie didn't need medical assistance to conceive and has three children whereas she only has one.²** This builds up to Frankie [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech telling her off]] during "The Name," when Janet shows up all by herself ostensibly to give Frankie some time and space to study for her dental-hygiene final, but seems only interested in showing her sister up. A short time later, Janet admits to Frankie that her daughter has severe tantrums and has been sent to a special camp during spring break, and as such she envies Frankie.²* GoingToSeeTheElephant: In "The Bee", the family forgets Sue's birthday in the run-up to the road trip to Chicago for Brick's appearance in the regional spelling bee, so they make it up to her by letting her plan the trip from a guidebook. Sue winds up wanting to see [[HilarityEnsues hilariously minor]] tourist attractions.²* GoldenMoment: Usually with Frankie, but when it's Mike.²* GoodGirlGoneBad: Subverted in "Last Whiff of Summer," the fourth-season premiere. Sue realizes that even the negative attention her older brother gets is attention, and decides to start going bad to get some of that from her parents. However, the transgressions she comes up with—not wearing her headgear at night, wearing a red hair extension, and not taking her multivitamins—aren't really that serious. Double subverted by her parents not noticing or caring. ²* GrandFinale: The hour-long "A Heck of a Ride". The family drives [[spoiler:Axl to Denver for his new job]], and it ends with a FlashForward to show how their lives change after that.²* GreatEscape: Brick is terrified of the schoolyard and prefers to spend recess in the library, reading. When forced to spend recess outdoors in one episode, he and his friends devise a scheme for distracting the teachers and getting back into the library that plays out as a pint-sized prison break.²* TheGrimReaper: [[spoiler:Cindy]]'s costume in the seventh-season Halloween episode²* HappilyMarried:²** Frankie and Mike²** "Halloween VI: Tick Tock Death" reveals the same for [[spoiler:Brick and Cindy]] with four kids in the future.²** The finale also shows [[spoiler: Axl and Lexie and Sue and Sean]] as such too with the former [[spoiler:having at least three kids]].²* HeroicBSOD:²** In "Twenty Years," Axl spoils the ending of the final "Planet Nowhere" book for Brick, sending him into a catatonic state for much of the remainder of the episode.²** Sue gets one in "Life Skills" after realizing that she has brought the wrong bag to school, and she is afraid she'll now get an F.²* HighSchoolHustler: Axl unexpectedly becomes this in "Life Skills," as he [[spoiler:manages to extract favors from a '''''huge''''' number of students to help him design a "How to Run an Italian Restaurant" project demonstration for himself and Sue in less than an hour]].²* HorribleCampingTrip: The two-part third season premiere, which doubles down on the trope by flashing back to a similar trip 20 years earlier—which was the Hecks' ''honeymoon''.²** The pilot also features a horrible ''field trip'' for Sue, where she forced her way onto a bus that was for kids that had sold a certain amount of cheese and sausage for a fundraiser so that they could go to the state capital. It turned out that her mother had forgotten to mail the money, resulting in Sue having to sleep on the floor in their hotel, not having a seat on the bus, having to sit out on the steps of the state capitol with an orderly because she wasn't authorized to come in, and a whole other list of horrible things that happened because of it.²* HugeGuyTinyGirl: Lampshaded in the episode "The Final Four" when Mike meets Frankie's boss for the first time and Mr. Ehlert remarks "Short woman, tall guy...always funny!"²** Not exactly a considerable height difference, but Axl is noticeably taller than Lexie as well.²* HypocriticalHumor: After loudly complaining she wasn't ''that'' old in "The Diaper Incident" when the store clerk assumed she was looking for adult diapers, Frankie takes out her reading glasses to look at the fine print on a package of child diapers he finds for her.²* IAteWhat:²** Axl's toenails, clipped into a bag of Doritos that Frankie ate.²** In "The Map," Axl eats Brick's school project, a baked clay relief map of Indiana, after it breaks. Subverted, weirdly enough, in that he doesn't seem as bothered by this as much as he is at the fact that everybody else finds this almost too stupid to believe.²** The chicken that Frankie brought along on the Fourth of July in "Last Whiff of Summer" got browsed at by a dog, surprisingly not eaten, and left so the Hecks could do so. Then they all got sick.²* ICallItVera: Mike's father nicknamed his belt 'The Enforcer'.²* ITakeOffenceToThatLastOne: In "Dollar Days," when Frankie, after a fruitless day of job interviews, asks her kids for one word to describe her. They offer "lazy," "angry" and "tired," prompting Mike to defend her:²--->'''Mike:''' ''The reason your mother is tired, lazy and irritable is because of you kids''.²--->'''Frankie:''' ''No one ... said ... irritable'' (walks offscreen).²* IWantYouToMeetAnOldFriendOfMine: Doris Roberts as Brick's teacher during the second season and Ray Romano in the third-season premiere—both costars with Patricia Heaton in ''Series/EverybodyLovesRaymond''.²* IdiotBall: Brick. Axl and Sue's stupidity have always been consistent but Brick's intelligence will disappear depending on the episode or situation.²* ImportantHaircut:²** Sue gives herself one of these before heading off to college. Though she got a little push from [[GagHaircut a malfunctioning curling iron that burned off part of her hair]] first.²** In Season 9, [[spoiler:Axl gives himself a strikingly shorter haircut to reflect the more mature attitude he adopts after visiting former college roommate Hutch in Chicago and seeing how well he's doing.]]²* IneptAptitudeTest: Sorta played around with in the season finale. Axl's score says that he's BrilliantButLazy, so Sue and Mike try and push him harder. It turns out that some results were switched, but because of his hard work, Axl gets the best score he's ever gotten- a B minus.²* InformedAttribute: It's a little hard to believe that Axl could be a self-professed "football hero," largely due to his slim build and relative lack of muscle (just compare him to his buddies Sean and Darren for proof.) He's also a little on the short side for playing basketball.²** Actually, Axl is usually praised when it comes to football, as being quick and agile. For a small high school in a small town in Indiana, he could easily stand out. And while Sean, who is broader and has more future potential, is recruited to Notre Dame, Axl gets into a state school.²** Lampshaded in Season 7 when Axl complains that the incoming freshmen players are bigger than him:²-->'''Axl:''' I'm not gonna play Pro Bowl anyway.²-->'''Brick:''' It's true. I have always felt he has more of a dancer's body.²* InelegantBlubbering: Frankie lapses into this when she's really upset, once prompting Mike to call her on it. Sue has [[GenerationXerox lapsed into it at least once over the years.]] ²* IntelligenceEqualsIsolation: Brick, who'd almost always rather read. His speech to Axl in "Twenty Years" about how he reads so much because he doesn't have many friends otherwise. ²* IronicEcho: Plenty.²-->'''Mike:''' I'm done talking to you now.²* ItMakesSenseInContext²-->'''Sue:''' I'm allergic to Christmas![[note]]It was actually the tree.[[/note]]²* JerkassHasAPoint: In the 2013 Christmas episode, Axl and Frankie negotiate when and how they will spend Christmas together. Frankie's non-negotiable is watching a Christmas movie. Problem, she got it in German. Axl, having been denied the right to go to a bonfire to watch this, determines that this sucks and goes to his old room. Frankie says that he's right, and this Christmas is terrible. Don't worry, it gets better.²** While Sue’s roommate proved to be incredibly selfish many viewer’s probably pictured that exact same conversation long before she appeared. ²* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Axl, who usually treats Sue with disdain, will nevertheless protect her and help her—but only when she'll never know he did.²* JockDadNerdSon: Mike and Brick they still get along pretty well though.²* KillerRabbit: The title creature in "Bunny Therapy" eventually takes over one of the Heck's bathrooms due to its vicious attitude.²* KnowNothingKnowItAll: Played with hilariously for Axl in ‘From Orson With Love' when Axl correctly explains to Brick that he can’t just release domesticated animals into the wild then started spewing a bunch of gibberish.²* LastMinuteHookUp: [[spoiler:Sue and Sean finally get together]] in the series finale after the final season constantly continued to set up the idea with [[ArcFatigue little to no reason to drag it out so long]], but then again, with how big the moment was, it feels earned and almost makes up for everything.²* LaxativePrank: Axl does this to Sue in "Foreign Exchange," just before the family takes a long car trip.²* LeapDay: Sue was born on February 29th and is technically four years old.²* LemonyNarrator: Each episode begins with Frankie narrating over a short montage of StockFootage, going from describing some general aspect of life in "[[TitleDrop the middle]]" to the specifics of the episode. The narration returns when needed later in the episode, sometimes describing things Frankie couldn't be aware of, and usually taking a somewhat Garrison Keillor-esque tone.²* LimitedWardrobe: Axl again. To the point that his wardrobe seems to consist solely of boxers.²** Lampshaded in Mike's case in "Wheel of Pain," when he observes that he seems to have an awful lot of plaid shirts.²* LivesInAVan: After getting kicked out of his college dorm, Axl buys an RV and moves there with his roommates, parking it where ever he needs to be.²* LongDistanceRelationship:²** Sue tries to have one with Matt in "The Paper Route." Axl warns her it won't work, [[spoiler:and they break up by the end of the episode]].²** With Axl saying he’s taking the Denver job, he and Lexie are forced to have one, but it doesn't matter because [[spoiler:the two are eventually HappilyMarried with at least three kids]].²* LoveAtFirstSight: Axl immediately wants to personally introduce himself the first time he encounters Sue's roommate Lexie and on her end, she's looking intently at him when he first comes in, does attempt to shake his hand when he extends it and at that is also shown to be flattered when he says that if he wanted to date her, he'd have no problem winning her over with how irresistible he is.²* MamaBear: Frankie serves as this to her kids, no matter how embarrassing or difficult it is for her.²* {{Meganekko}}: [[FieryRedhead Cassidy Finch]], Axl's new tutor in "The Safe."²* MessyHair: Sue. To further cement her loser status, it always looks like she just got of bed and forgot to brush it.²* MiddleChildSyndrome: Sue seems to be unable to succeed. On the bright side, she at least appears to be cheerfully unaware of it or undaunted. Either way, you gotta give her credit for trying.²* MultiPartEpisode: The third- and fourth-season premieres are Type 1: "Forced Family Fun (Parts 1 and 2)" and "Last Whiff of Summer (Parts 1 and 2)," respectively.²* MustHaveCaffeine: Sue starts drinking coffee after becoming a senior, which makes her act more hyperactive. She crashes on the night after the second day.²* MyBelovedSmother: Brick's teacher accuses Frankie of this.²* NeverMessWithGranny: Though Aunt Edie is very old and senile, in "The Math Class" episode she sprays a guy with a garden hose.²* NeverMyFault:²** Practically Axl's catch phrase. He's convinced that his parents only punish him to ruin his life and is oblivious to the fact that his actions are completely selfish. When he gets caught he blames everyone else for his own stupidity.²** All of the kids have many instances of this.²* NiceMeanAndInBetween: The [[HollywoodNerd studious]], inoffensive Brick and spirited, encourager Sue; the vain, pompous, opinionated and tyrannical coolness policeman Axl, who cracks down on all "dorks"; and the parents in the middle, each in a unique way: the major [[TheMcCoy McCoy]]-like Frankie and the [[TheStoic stoic]], distant Mike.²* NonverbalMiscommunication: When Sue is at the meeting listing all the activities she tried (and failed) at in a speech, Frankie gives her a 'hurry up' gesture from the audience. Sue sees this and concludes "Oh, yes, and tumbling."²* NoodleIncident: One of the many things Tag tells Mike about in "From Orson With Love" is this, because all that is known about it is that [[PersonaNonGrata Tag is no longer allowed at the Panama Canal]].²* OnlySaneMan:²** Mike is usually the first to acknowledge the craziness going on in the house.²** Brick also falls under this category, as he's usually the only calm one in the family.²** Invoked by Frankie early in "Vacation Days," when Mike is at odds after being forced to take a paid vacation and Sue reacts with joy when she learns she'll get double shifts at her job while her coworkers are on Spring Break.²** Axl constantly labels himself as this when compared to the rest of the Hecks.²* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: ²** Subverted in "The Concert," Brick is angry and depressed after washing out of the school spelling bee on the first word (after he had gone to the regionals in Chicago the year before). His parents are actually happy about this since it's an emotionally appropriate response (normally, he responds to his failures philosophically).²** Played straight in "Halloween III: The Driving," when Brick eats all his Halloween candy that night. The resulting sugar high makes him much more normal, to the point that one of his teachers says to keep doing whatever it is they did. However, Frankie and Mike miss the old Brick and are relieved when he returns after passing out.²** Played straight again in "Wheel of Pain." When the kids are nice and civil to each other the morning after the window was broken, Frankie knows something's up.²** "From Orson With Love" starts with Sue lying on the ground moping because she didn't get invited to another girl's party (but her best friend Carly got to go). This prompts Frankie to finally take an active interest in improving Sue's social life.²** "The Shirt" in the seventh season is built around this trope, when Mike's decision to wear a Hawaiian shirt out to dinner (instead of [[LimitedWardrobe his usual plaid]]) with another couple becomes a joke that neither Frankie nor the other couple can stop making the whole evening.²** This becomes a bit of a RunningGag whenever either parent suggests that the family eat around the dinner table. Sue immediately panics, assuming the family needs to talk about something serious, which must mean that either her mother or father is dying.²** Axl's dormmate Kenny is usually [[TheFaceless only seen from behind]] and [[TheVoiceless never speaks]], so when he suddenly looks up from his laptop and talks in "Halloween VI: Tick Tick Death", Axl is startled.²** In "A Very Marry Christmas", Axl marries April. Afterwards, he asks Sue for help, and she can tell that things are bad because he hugs her and doesn't make any barfing noises.²* PapaWolf: Mike has this towards his children; especially towards his daughter, Sue. An example of this would be in Season One's Valentine's Day.²* ParentalFavoritism: Deconstructed by "Last Whiff of Summer," the two-part fourth-season premiere. The kids' debate among themselves as to which of them their parents like more soon turns into a question to them, and their answers and non-answers (Frankie denies that parents favor any of their children) drive the plot. Then Frankie and Mike ask the kids which parent they prefer, which leads to a competition between the two of them.²* PersonaNonGrata: Mike is banned from Brick's school after his attempt to help at the Valentine's Day craft project ends up ruining Valentine's Day.²* PlotDrivenBreakdown: Axl's car breakdown in "Vacation Days" sets him up for a climactic chat with his mother on the way home. Justified by Axl not being the kind of person who would be expected to regularly maintain his car, as his father points out.²* PokeThePoodle: Sue trying to act out so that her parents will notice her. It doesn't work - not only do they not notice her, they don't even notice her acting out, because her rebellions are so thoroughly this trope.²* PottyFailure: It's stated many times that Frankie pees herself a little anytime she runs, jumps, or sneezes. ²* ThePratfall: Sue specializes in this.²* PrimaDonnaDirector: When Brick makes a ''Series/KnotsLanding'' remake for school, he mistreats Cindy and Troy so much they both pretend to be sick and have dead relatives.²* ProductPlacement:²** "Hecking it Up" in the third season is a drawn-out ad for the Volkswagen Passat.²** Later in that same season, "The Guidance Counselor" has Frankie announcing dinner's ready while the camera pans across some ostentatiously placed Subway sandwiches and wrappers.²** And, in "Twenty Years" next season, the family is again seen conspicuously dining on Subway fare.²** In "Halloween III: The Driving", Frankie sneaks a Kit Kat out of Brick's bag of candy.²** In the original broadcast of "The Smile" Axl talks the family into going to Red Lobster to tell them that he got accepted into college. Next commercial break -- "ABC's ''Series/TheMiddle''--brought to you in part by Red Lobster, followed by a Red Lobster ad.²*** That episode also had a subplot in which Brick successfully persuaded his parents to get him an iPad. One was shown briefly near the end, but unlike Red Lobster Apple wasn't credited with promotional consideration.²*** When the episode was rerun on 5/29/13, Red Lobster again sponsored it, complete with another 'brought to you by' bumper and commercial.²** A subplot of "The Bachelor" is built around Frankie's shock at the resolution of that season of [[Series/TheBachelor that eponymous reality show]], which like ''Castle'' also just happens to air on the same network.²** In the episode "From Orson, With Love," an ad for the upcoming movie ''[[Film/TheLoneRanger Disney's The Lone Ranger]]'' appeared alongside Frankie's Dad's Website/YouTube video. Disney owns ABC.²** The very next episode, "Hallelujah Hoedown," had [[CrappyHolidays Frankie's perennial concern about the Mother's Day gifts she got]] as one of its subplots. She dropped hints to all three kids about a Brookstone back-rubber that she wanted, in the hope that one of them would tell Mike ([[spoiler:it backfires when none of them can remember exactly what she wanted]]). ''Twice'' she described the product in detail and told them how much it cost, and then Mike and Brick went on an extended visit to Brookstone to get it, with the store's logo conspicuous in the background and on product boxes.²** "Orlando"/"The Wonderful World of Hecks" is another of a long line of ABC sitcoms promoting the Ride/DisneyThemeParks. A prize of what is assumed to be tickets to Walt Disney World turns out to be tickets to Disneyland, 2,500 miles in the other direction. WDW is magnanimous enough to accept the Hecks' tickets anyway, and then proceeds to upgrade their hotel room when the park runs out of standard rooms (an incredible unlikelihood given the amount of hotels either owned by Disney or on their property in Orlando).²** Sue can be seen eating from what is clearly a Kroger yogurt cup.²** Star & Stripes cola bottles can be seen in one episode.²** There's a twofer in one episode where a box of Fruit Loops with the Moana packaging can be seen.²* PungeonMaster: Sue will do this with any word that she can use as a pun on her own name, e.g. "Sue's Baby''sue''tting Service" or "''Sue''-weet Sixteen."²* PutOnABus: Sue's boyfriend Matt moves to another town in "The Paper Route."²* RageBreakingPoint: [[TranquilFury Downplayed]] in "A Christmas Gift": Mike brought Frankie a dishwasher to give her as a surprise gift. Frankie, not knowing this, spent the entire episode along with everyone else belittling Mike over the fact that not only is he a horrible gift giver, but also because he refused to buy a new dishwasher. This culminates in her and her friends (drunkenly) singing a TakeThat-version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at their Christmas party. During this, Mike quietly left the room, rolled in the dishwasher (which [[StunnedSilence shut everyone up]]), [[SarcasmMode sarcastically said "Merry Christmas"]], and retreated into the bedroom (after stealing a beer from one of the guests).²* RantInducingSlight:²** When Sue finds out Brad used a pseudonymous Yelp! account to post what he thought was constructive criticism of Sue's work performance at the mall in "Vacation Days", she gets up on a table and makes a speech about how if people want to do that they should use their own names at least. It backfires when people in the audience start to use it as setup lines for their jokes at Sue's employer's expense. ²** Frankie had one of these at the end of “The Cheerleader”²* RealityEnsues: "The Trip" ends like this when Sue forces her way onto a field trip after she collected the necessary money (which her mother forgot to turn in) to go. Needless to say, because the field trip wasn't prepared for an extra student, it was a miserable experience for her. She couldn't go in the state capital building, had to sleep on the floor in the hotel, and numerous other things that combined to make the trip awful.²* RelationshipUpgrade: Axl and Lexie, after being briefly [[ShipTease ship teased]] with their first encounter in Season 7 and then ship teased [[UpToEleven HARD]] in five episodes of Season 8 spread across 17, finally got this without warning by the end of the season's episode 18.²* RidiculousProcrastinator: Brick has a habit of forgetting to tell his parents about school projects he needs their help with until the last minute.²** An extreme example of this is in the Season 4 finale when Brick tells Frankie he needs a slideshow of his 5th grade class's graduation ceremony. When asked by Frankie how long he knew about the assignment he says "about 3 years". (A CallBack to his election as class historian in Season 1)²* RoadsideWave: Happens to Sue when she is walking home from a football game in the mascot costume in the episode where she breaks Axl's foot.²* RomanticFalseLead:²** April is this to Axl in Season 8. After the previous season ended with the tease of Axl meeting "the love of his life", the rest of the family thought April was the absolute wrong choice for him. Despite how nice she was, a lot of the bad that happened with Axl that season was rooted in dating her and things turned around for him once they split up and he got together with [[spoiler:Lexie]].²** Aiden in Season 9 for Sue and while April at least seemed important in some way, he's without a doubt useless!²* RuleOfThree: Whenever a character thinks about previous examples - Sue's past Halloween costumes, Brick's suffering though Frankie's errands etc - they generally think about three examples.²* RunningGag:²** Frankie '''''always''''' forgets the blue snack bag.²** The family using the oven and forgetting that there's a quilt stored in there.²** "I made dinner!" whenever someone brings home fast food.²** The announcer on the P.A. system at the car dealership constantly paging Frankie about weird home situations.²** Brick occasionally repeating the last word or phrase he says under his breath.²-->'''Brick:''' My egg hatched! There's a chicken in the house! ''[StageWhisper]'' Chhhhhhicken in the houuuuuuse...²** When Creator/BettyWhite made a cameo in the season finale as an authoritative librarian, she was seen to share this habit.²*** Or she was making fun of his tic, she was playing a character just mean enough to do that.²** Did Sue mention that she was on her school's cross-country team throughout the second season?²** Various things ending up in kitchen appliances that you wouldn't expect or want to be there (i.e., a quilt in the oven).²** Mike's father and brother rarely informing him about major events in their lives, such as a health problem or getting engaged, because he didn't ask, and their general tendency towards almost no verbal communication when they're together.²** Every since Axl went off to college, his inflatable palm tree has become this, making a OncePerEpisode appearance.²* [[SawStarWarsTwentySevenTimes Saw "]]Film/HotTubTimeMachine[[SawStarWarsTwentySevenTimes " Twenty Seven Times]]: As Frankie reveals in "The Carpool," Axl's knowledge of what a black hole is comes from doing just that, CelebrityParadox be damned.²* SequelHook: Even before the end of the finale reveals [[spoiler:Axl and Lexie as end game (HappilyMarried with at least three sons!)]], there's enough wonder about the two's relationship leading up to that to suggest many more stories to be told about them before that!²* SexyPriest: Rev. [=TimTom=], youth pastor at the Hecks' church.²* ShamingTheMob: Inverted in "The Award." Mike is honored by his employer for 20 years on the job, which actually makes him depressed since he realizes he's spent all that time in the same place, not moving. At the party celebrating this, he reminds his coworkers of their colleagues that he's recently had to lay off, who won't be getting to celebrate this anytime soon, and how basically any of them could lose their job at any moment. The crowd goes from exuberant to subdued.²* ShipperOnDeck: Frankie clearly liked Lexie from the moment she first met her and has been nothing but nice to her since then, so she clearly shows approval when Axl later tells Frankie that he and Lexie are seeing each other.²* ShipTease: The first encounter Axl and Lexie have in Season 7's "Crushed" is certainly this. The Season 7 finale teases Axl meeting "the love of his life" and many suspecting that it was referring to Lexie. It becomes even heavier with each encounter after that too in Season 8. There are those who even considered the idea of her being with Axl when she was first introduced and became friends with Sue. And the two hadn't even shared an interaction yet at that point!²* ShoutOut:²** In "The Map":²--->'''Frankie:''' How is it that we've missed all these milestones in our children and family's lives, but we haven't missed a single episode of ''Celebrity Rehab''?²** In "Year of the Hecks", two of the four girls who try out for the "wrestlerette" cheerleading group that Sue organizes decide to go home and watch ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'' instead.²** Brick might very well be open to reading anything, but most of the time when he has a book open, it's a ''[[Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians Percy Jackson]]'' book.²** In the first Mother's Day episode, when the kids are in Frankie's room, you can see briefly that they're watching ''[[WesternAnimation/KickButtowskiSuburbanDaredevil Kick Buttowski]]''.²** In "Last Whiff of Summer," Sue asks her father what his favorite ''Series/{{Glee}}'' character is during her attempt to create a scrapbook of the summer and get closer to him.²** One episode Mike asks if the kids are done watching Series/WizardsOfWaverlyPlace on the TV yet²** "The Safe" name-drops a surprisingly wide number of popular reality shows having to do with the finding of old things, including but not limited to ''Series/AmericanPickers'' and ''Series/AntiquesRoadshow''. [[Series/PawnStars Rick Harrison]] even cameos as a pawn-shop owner.²** Frankie references ''Series/{{Castle}}'' (which coincidentally [[ProductPlacement airs on the same network]]) twice when explaining her suspicions about the kids' story about the window in "Wheel of Pain.":²-->'''Frankie:''' There are no coincidences. Only clues.²-->'''Mike:''' "Castle"?²-->'''Frankie:''' It's a really good show, Mike. You should watch.²** In "From Orson, With Love" Frankie creates Website/{{Facebook}} accounts for [[Series/CharliesAngels Jill Monroe & Sabrina Duncan]], [[Series/TheLoveBoat Julie McCoy]], and [[Series/ThreesCompany Chrissy Snow]].²*** All of which were also on ... surprise! ''ABC''!²** "Halloween VI: Tick Tick Death" is done as a spoof of ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'', with Brick as Creator/RodSerling (although he claims he's really Rod Serling from ''Series/NightGallery'').²** In "Hecks at a Movie", Sue and Logan both prefer fellow ABC star Jimmy Kimmel over NBC's Jimmy Fallon. On top of that, the movie theater had movie posters for Disney films ''The Jungle Book'' and ''Zootopia'' (ABC is owned by Disney). ²* SignificantReferenceDate: The episode ''Leap Year'' aired on Feb 29, 2012.²* SittingOnTheRoof: Axl and Sue on "Major Anxiety". Sue almost falls off.²* TheSnarkKnight: Axl's trademark is making snarky comments and being cynical about every situation he's in with his family. ²** Cassidy Finch also qualifies, which is one of the reasons Axl is attracted to her and the ONLY thing they have in common with each other is their snark. ²* SpiritualSuccessor:²** Many View it as one to ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'' (down to name similarities).''Malcolm'' mother Jane Kaczmarek even guest starred in the fourth season as Frankie's teacher.²** Arguably, ''The Middle'' is more the ''Series/{{Roseanne}}'' to ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'''s ''Series/MarriedWithChildren''. The former both shows are interested in finding comedy in the lives of an ordinary-ish blue collar family (with the wife being the central character both times), while the latter shows used the same premise as a backdrop to show the family's antics. Plus, Eileen Heisler and [=DeAnn=] Heline used to be writers on ''Roseanne''.²* StageWhisper: Brick's VerbalTic involves repeating the last thing he said in this manner. ''[-In thiiis mannner-]''.²* StalkingIsFunnyIfItIsFemaleAfterMale: While [[JerkassHasAPoint Axl may be a jerk about it]], weird Ashley has been stalking him for years and it is always played for laughs. It reached its head in Steaming Pile of Guilt where after following him to college Rory not believing that they didn’t used to date because of the numerous pictures they have together almost led to them breaking up. ²* StatusQuoIsGod: Sue's relationships never last. By her count in "Dollar Days," she's had three boyfriends.²* StepfordSmiler: The Donahue Family. Compared to the Heck family they're more affluent, put-together, less crazy, more skilled, and cheerful. It later turns out that Nancy and Ron argue a lot and that Ron goes on all the business trips that make up a lot of their income to be around less; also that their oldest son Sean tells Axl that he's tired of having to tailor his life to what his parents want, who reacted badly to his new facial hair and heartfelt veganism, with [[IHaveNoSon Nancy kicking him out of dinner]].²* TheStoolPigeon: Brick, who we learned in the third season episode "The Telling," has been rewarded by Frankie with candy cigarettes for years for informing on Axl and Sue.²* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial:²** Inverted in "Dollar Days," when Frankie, after a fruitless day of job interviews, asks her kids for one word to describe her. They offer "lazy," "angry" and "tired," prompting Mike to defend her:²--->'''Mike:''' ''The reason your mother is tired, lazy and irritable is because of you kids''.²--->'''Frankie:''' ''No one ... said ... irritable'' (walks offscreen).²** Used several times by Sue in reference to Derrick Glossner in "Sleepless in Orson."²** Subverted as Frankie drives Axl home in "Vacation Days." When she admits she misses him, she qualifies it by saying it's not like she's smelling his pillow or anything, [[spoiler:which she told Mike earlier in the episode she had done a few times]]. ²* SwitchedAtBirth: Mike and Frankie put off telling Brick the story of his birth, because they are embarrassed to admit that they impersonated another family at the hospital to get a nicer room, and ended up taking the wrong baby home as a result (since both were labeled "Baby Ferguson" in the nursery). Both families had the wrong baby for a month before things were straightened out.²* TakeThat: A rare one in "The Award":²--->'''Frankie:''' (at laptop, excited) ''Look, Mike, now there's an Orson [[ Patch]].''²--->'''Mike:''' ''Great, now it's even easier to read stuff I don't care about''.²* TheTalk: Deconstructed in "The Hose." It starts off as Type 1, when Brick tries to opt out of sex-ed class at school because it makes him uncomfortable, making Mike and Frankie realize they've never had "the talk" with him. Before they can, however, he asks his older brother, who gives it all to him in a two-hour session of what is clearly Type 2. Brick repeats it when he does finally have sex ed, which results in a parent meeting and ultimately Mike and Frankie talking to Axl.²* TeenPregnancy:²** In "[[ValentinesDayEpisode Valentine's Day]] III," Frankie expresses her amazement at Sue's mistaken belief that a French kiss was one given under a rainbow by reminding her that at least two girls in her high school class (she's a freshman) are pregnant.²** In "The Clover," Axl and his friends recall that at last year's prom, a girl gave birth.²* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Frankie to [[TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry her sister Janet]] in "The Name."²* ThereWillBeToiletPaper: A rare example with a female character. Among Sue's attempts to [[GoodGirlGoneBad go bad]] in "Last Whiff of Summer" is shaving her legs with her father's razor, followed by a SmashCut to her sitting next to him watching TV with little bits of red-dot special on her legs.²* ThoseTwoGuys: Axl's friends Sean and Darren, who seem to have about as much intelligence as he does, and that's not saying a lot.²* TitleDrop:²** Many episodes starts with Frankie's narration saying some version of "Here in The Middle...."²** Cassidy also works one into her valedictorian speech at graduation, quoting Mary Shelley, "There are no happy endings, so just give me a happy ''middle'', and a very happy beginning."²** The pilot episode featured "The Middle" by Music/JimmyEatWorld.²** [[spoiler:The very last line spoken by a member of the family; Axl and Sue are arguing across Brick in the back seat of the car, prompting Brick to say, "See? This is why I didn't want to sit in the middle! ''(whispers) The middle''."]]²* TitleOnlyOpening²* ToiletPaperPrank: In one HalloweenEpisode, Frankie leaves her elderly aunts to hand out candy while she and the family go out. The aunts forget to hand candy, and when Frankie returns, the whole house is covered in toilet paper. ²* TomboyishName: Frankie²* TotallyRadical: Mr. Fulton, as if he wasn't creepy enough.²* TransparentCloset: Brad Bottig, Sue's temporary boyfriend, whose talents include square dancing, embroidery, and making centerpieces out of everyday objects. It's blatantly obvious to Mike, Frankie, and the audience that he's [[CampGay camp gay]], but Sue and Brad are both oblivious of that fact (they break up in the first season after Sue finds out that Brad is a smoker, a habit he eventually breaks).²* TrueLovesKiss: After kissing her for the first time, Axl comments to Lexie that she needs to brush her teeth, but then says he doesn't care and kisses her again.²* UltimateJobSecurity: Averted in "The Second Act." After three full seasons never having actually sold a car that we've seen, Frankie gets let go from the dealership. She decides to go to a technical college and learn another job skill.²* UndisclosedFunds: In "The Hose," Sue freaks out when she sees her dad's paycheck and realizes how little the family lives on. We never actually find out how much it is.²* UnrequitedLoveSwitcheroo: Axl (while he's with April) acts like Lexie is interested in him in order to hide the fact that he is falling for her. After he stops, Lexie later on decides to romantically pursue Axl and he ends up ObliviousToLove.²* UnresolvedSexualTension: Axl and Lexie had this to irritating levels. [[spoiler:Well, at least until "The Par-tay" when Axl (having learned about Lexie's feelings for him two episodes prior), goes to her and reveals that he feels the same way]].²* TheUnsmile:²** Sue in "The Smile," where she tries to prove that smiling is contagious, and ends up creeping people out instead. It's so bad, in fact, she actually makes a baby cry.²** When Mike gets Woofy Dog repaired in "Not Mother's Day", [[ this]] is the result. Axl later rips it off, to Sue's delight.²* VerbalTic[[note]](whispered) verbal tic[[/note]]²** "It soothes me."²** The fourth episode of season four has Brick starting to make little siren sounds out loud. Cue Frankie spraying Brick with water (like a bad cat).²** Later in that season, "The Name" has Brick invert his older tic, when he finishes a sentence that he's whispered to his mother so his aunt won't overhear them with the word "bossy"—and then repeats it in a normal tone of voice.²* WalkingShirtlessScene: It's easier to count the number of times Axl ''has'' worn a shirt. He's even in his boxers on the cover of the first season DVD set.²** After Season 3, he's been doing this a lot less often - and most of the time he ends up [[HilarityEnsues spilling milk or something similar on his chest]]. And at one point, [[{{Squick}} soaking it up with bread and eating it]].²** Notwithstanding the above, this was lampshaded in the fourth season's "The Name."²-->'''Axl:''' (walking around shirtless) Where's my favorite shirt?²-->'''Frankie:''' I thought your chest was your favorite shirt.²** And again in "From Orson With Love," when Axl is looking around for his shirts and can't find one.²* WeddingDay: The third-season finale, "The Wedding," built around Mike's brother Rusty's wedding at the Hecks' house.²** The final episode shows [[spoiler:Sue and Sean's wedding]].²* WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue: "A Heck of a Ride" ends showing how the Hecks future pans out. [[spoiler:Axl marries Lexie and has three sons, Brick becomes a best-selling author, Sue marries Sean, and Frankie and Mike... stay exactly the same.]]²* WhoNamesTheirKidDude: ''Axl and Brick?''²** Cool name makes a cool kid, right?²* WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes: Brick is afraid of bridges.²* YokoOhNo: Invoked by Axl in "Dollar Days," in which Sue starts giving Axl's band advice in her typical oddball style (such as changing their name to "[=DaSeanAx=]" to incorporate everyone's name). While Darren and Sean don't mind, Axl does, very much, and this leads to [[spoiler:a fight between Darren and Axl which culminates in Sue stepping in and accidentally getting punched in the face by Darren. The two break up by the end of the episode]].²* YouCanAlwaysTellALiar:²** For Brick it's when he says "[[spoiler:I'mmmmmmmmmm lyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyingggggggg]]" to himself out loud.²** Recently, Sue has demonstrated a tendency to end her lies with a nervous "...and so on, and so forth, and what have you!"²* WritersCannotDoMath: Sue turned 16 in "Leap Day" appropriately set on February 29th, 2012 and a big deal is about how she's a leap baby. Then, in 2015, she turns 18, somehow.²** One early episode has Sue and Brick complain about getting hand-me-downs from their older cousins, Randall and Mindy. At this point in the show, Mike's only brother was unmarried and had no children and the only child of only Frankie's sister is younger than Brick.²* YourFavorite: For Frankie, the way her Mom makes grilled cheese sandwiches with potato chips in the middle.²----


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: