TV Review: The Middle Season 8 Premiere “The Core Group”

THE MIDDLE - ABC's "The Middle" stars Patricia Heaton as Frankie, Charlie McDermott as Axl, Atticus Shaffer as Brick, Eden Sher as Sue and Neil Flynn as Mike. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)
THE MIDDLE – ABC’s “The Middle” stars Patricia Heaton as Frankie, Charlie McDermott as Axl, Atticus Shaffer as Brick, Eden Sher as Sue and Neil Flynn as Mike. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

The Middle returned tonight with an absolutely superb season eight premiere. If you missed it tonight, you missed out on a first rate half hour of comedy.

It’s fall. Sue’s back from her summer job at Dollywood. Mike’s reaction to Sue being back is the absolute best! It’s literally me. That is how I react too. He was so, so excited for Sue to be home and as soon as he saw her, he was good, and went on about his business. It’s reassuring and comforting knowing the people you love are near you but you don’t actually need or want to spend time with them ha ha ha. As he says, “I miss people differently than you do, Frankie. Quietly, to myself. You should try it.” That is ME. Mike is me. Cheers to people like Mike.

“Brick, I am thinking I should have a backup plan for the acting major but if I know what it is then I might give up on my dream. So could you come up with one for me, write it down, but don’t tell me what it is?” – Sue
“Okay.” – Brick
“Great. Make two copies and give one to somebody else in case you die.” – Sue
“What?” – Brick

Anyway, now Sue wants to make her major acting, theatre. I love how meta this is getting within the show. Frankie isn’t excited about this decision but Sue is still freaking out about whether she should go all in with the acting or have a backup plan, so maybe all is not lost for Sue’s own slightly better The Middle life. It was nerve wracking watching Sue decide what she’s going to do for the rest of her life, knowing that her choice could drastically change the rest of her life and knowing that this decision doesn’t mean it’s the end. It’s an odd place to be, full of so much hope for what you can become, with the people around you willing to direct your path away from your full potential because it may not actually count, matter in this world. Whatever road Sue chooses to take, watching it unfold, my heart goes out to her.

Then there’s Brick who is starting high school. High school! Wow, time flies. His first day goes just about as well as you’d expect. Oh, Brick. Got to love the writers for being consistent and staying true to the realities of these characters’ personalities, all while giving us pleasant surprises and tiny beautiful moments along the way.

“There’s a lot of benefits to playing sports, you know. You can learn a lot about character.” – Mike
“Or you can learn that from your parents.” – Jeremy

And Axl, now a senior in college, wants Frankie and Mike to meet his girlfriend. When they do meet April, their expectations are immediately lowered. You see, Axl is bringing a girlfriend home on his own accord and he’s around the same age that Frankie and Mike were when they did the same thing. So Frankie thinks this could be the one – until she meets the girlfriend, who’s not that bright. And that’s putting it lightly. Like Frankie says, Axl needs to marry up, not down. But he’s in love and Frankie sees it, so she sits back, just as she did with Sue, and lets him experience what he needs to experience in his life.

Speaking of Frankie, her efforts to give a heartfelt speech at dinner utterly fails , oh man does it fail hard…and in the very best ways. Roadblock after roadblock occurs, from surprise dinner guests (including Sue’s annoying environmental activist hippie boyfriend – oh man, that dinner table scene was one for the books), to the kids hung up on the props in place of their glasses (so typical, am I right?!), what was supposed to be a lovely speech turned into Frankie shouting her love for her kids in a frustrated heat. Oh, Frankie. I love the Hecks. They never fail to disappoint. They never fail to be a mirror for The Middle and make us laugh while looking on. The season 8 premiere of The Middle was without a doubt, one of my favorite premieres of the show. Proving once again why this show is remarkable even after all of this time. I’m definitely watching this one again. It’s just that good.

Watch The Middle Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.