Patricia Heaton and co-stars wrap up long-running ABC sitcom
The end has come for “The Middle.”
The family comedy that has been a staple of the ABC lineup for nine seasons – thus tying star Patricia Heaton’s earlier tenure on “Everybody Loves Raymond” – concludes its run with an hour-long finale Tuesday, May 22. Though the show is destined to live on in repeats (currently seen on Hallmark Channel), it’s the end of an era for fans who have made the sitcom a quietly enduring hit … and, clearly, also for the show’s stars.
“It’s a special mode you get into when you know the end is nigh,” the pleasant Heaton reflects of the atmosphere while filming the last stories of “The Middle,” which was created by longtime writing-producing partners Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline. “It takes on a special poignancy, and they’ve allowed characters to come back and say goodbye.
“We got to do an episode with Marsha Mason where (Frankie Heck, Heaton’s character and Mason’s daughter on the show) got to say ‘Thank you,’ and there’s one where Axl (Frankie’s eldest son, played by Charlie McDermott) and his college roommate Hutch (Alphonso McAuley) have a talk about their friendship. Everybody’s gotten to have their send-offs.”
Admitting that she doesn’t know how the cast “got through” production of the final episode, Heaton says she “felt very emotional when we had our 200th-episode party, and people were getting up and giving speeches, and that’s when I knew what (ending the show) would be like. You were starting to feel it.
“Even though everybody’s ready to move on, you know, nine years together … the kids grew up, and lots of things happened,” adds Heaton. “People were born, people died, and the cast and crew members became like family and you knew what was going on with everybody. Then, you don’t see each other a lot. It’s a very weird phenomenon.”
Still, Heaton is looking forward to keeping tabs on the rest of the “Hecks” as well: Neil Flynn (who has played Frankie’s husband Mike), Eden Sher (daughter Sue) and Atticus Shaffer (youngest son Brick).
Also noting the nine-year run she had with “Raymond” (which earned her two Emmys), Heaton deems herself “so blessed” to have had two long-lasting series. “I moved to L.A. when I was 28 or 29, with no agent and no manager and no car. I never thought I’d be here. I’m just so grateful.”