In May, ABC’s The Middle ended with a wedding, when Rusty (Norm Macdonald) haphazardly got hitched at the Heck home. Frankie (Patricia Heaton) went out of her way to try to make the day nice, but — as tends to happen to the Hecks — everything went to crap. And that — yes, crap! — tends to be a theme for the family sitcom, which will find itself mired in quite a lot more of the stuff this coming season.
Tonight’s hour-long season premiere picks up during what series co-creator Eileen Heisler is “the Hecks’ long, crappy summer. It’s a summer episode because we thought about how you never really get to see that. Last year, we saw a teeny little bit of summer vacation, but this takes us through the whole summer. Frankie and [her husband] Mike [Neil Flynn] want their kids to have a summer like they had when they were kids, with all the joys of summer. They want them to have that so they have something pleasant to look back on later, when their lives are crappy.” See, more crap?
Besides that opening-episode crap, here’s a preview of five things to look forward to when the season starts up again tonight at 8 p.m.:
1. The wall is the new dishwasher. On the heels of last season’s recurring dishwasher saga, Heisler has queued up season 4’s domestic gag: an unsightly wall that needs to be re-wallpapered. “Literally the arcs are dishwashers and walls on The Middle,” says Heisler with a laugh. “Inflatable footbaths come back! We try to bring back all the little silly things we do.”
2. Frankie starts thinking about a new career. That’s right — it could be over for Frankie and the car dealership. “Frankie is going to have job trouble — major job trouble — that causes her to explore a potential second act in her life,” Heisler explains. “Her work life is going to get shaken up in a big way. She will end up doing a little community college, or doing a little career college, to try to get a skill. That’s going to be really fun. The Hecks, they don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘What do I dream of doing?’ Their second acts are a little bit more practical. At one point Mike says, ‘You’re not really thinking of doing something that completely fulfills you?'”
3. Axl (Charlie McDermott) tries to get into college. With the help of his father, Mike, of course. “Axl actually has several colleges interested in offering him potential scholarships,” Heisler says. “His parents have concerns though. Like, Are we going to be able to get him to college and out of our house? That road is not exactly smooth.”
4. Sue (Eden Sher) starts to drive. “She had a terrifying time when she tried to dive the Passat last year,” Heisler reminds viewers. “She’s pretty scared, yes. She’s a fairly terrified driver after that experience. To her, it was a nightmare, a hellish tour around the block. It’s going to be a bumpy road this season.”
5. Brick (Atticus Shaffer) develops a new tick. It’s not just the whispering thing anymore! The Hecks are called into Axl’s school, where the administration assumes they’ve noticed the new tick. “They’re like, ‘Um.’ They haven’t completely been paying attention,” explains Heisler. “They think back, and they go, ‘Ohhh!'” As for what the tick is? You’ll have to tune in to find that out.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky