After ninety-nine episode filled with laughter and love, ABC’s other hit Wednesday night family comedy celebrates its 100th episode tonight at 8PM. As such, series star Patricia Heaton was only too happy to take some time out of her very busy schedule to reflect on the past five years and what fans can expect from tonight’s “Orsontennial.” See for yourself, after the jump.
Launched in the shadow of MODERN FAMILY, THE MIDDLE has always been that little show that could! How surprised are you to have reached the momentous hundred episode mark?
Patricia Heaton: I can’t believe five years have gone by! On the one hand I’ve actually really felt every single hour we’ve put into the show, I mean by the end of the season you’re just shattered. But it went fast and we’re so light years beyond where we started as far as personally with the cast knowing each other. It’s funny, because when you first come together on any show you have no idea who these people are and you’re supposed to pretend you’re a family that has been together all your lives, yet five years later we actually do feel we’ve known each other all of our lives because we spend a great percentage of our lives together!
What do you think is the secret to THE MIDDLE’s success?
It’s a tough, tough environment we’re in for TV and to have been able to connect to the audience so well is a testament to the writing. Creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline are incredible writers, incredible showrunners and they have had a very clear vision of our MIDDLE family because it comes from their lives. And that’s the hallmark of a hit show: Authenticity. Audience members can feel it, they can smell a show that writers or a Network has put together filled with stock characters that feel fake and only serve as a vessel to deliver jokes from a writer’s room. It isn’t real. Case in point, that really funny episode a few seasons back where Frankie accidentally ate Axel’s toenails was from our makeup artist Tyson’s real life!
Reflecting on the show’s first hundred episodes, could you possibly pinpoint a moment where you looked around and thought there was really something special here and that this show was truly going to work?
The great critical response we got to our show carried a lot of weight in terms of getting the word out. And while it’s hard to pinpoint one particular moment that we knew we were going to be around for the long haul, I have to say that one of the most exciting mentions we got was the New Yorker. I’ve been getting it for years and I love it, so to have our show talked about by the magazine as one of the best shows on the air. I thought, even if our show doesn’t go after this season we got in the
Do you have a favorite Frankie moment?
We actually just shot it yesterday. You won’t see it in the 100th episode but I had so much fun shooting this speech I told Eileen and our writer Robin that I wish this was a play so that I might do this speech every night and try different things with it. Shooting television you only get a couple of takes with it before you have to move on, where as with theater you could have this wonderful juicy speech that you could play with every night and try different approaches. I also loved this past season’s premiere where Frankie so badly wanted to make an iconic moment out of dropping Axl off at school, which in typical MIDDLE fashion ended disastrously in that Frankie ends up delivering her goodbye speech to Axl’s faceless roommate Kenny. I just thought it was such a beautiful moment because it was so heartfelt on Frankie’s part and I think she spoke for all parents whose kids just won’t get it until they have kids of their own!
And finally, what can you tease about tonight’s big episode?
It’s one of our best episodes. I haven’t seen it but I shot it so I know most of how it turned out. We’re celebrating and very cleverly Eileen and DeAnne wrote the episode about the 100th anniversary of the city of Orson. It’s the “Orsontennial” and the entire Heck family is involved, reluctantly and not! Mike and Frankie end up getting the “honor” of driving a cow float, Axl comes home from school to try to make some money with friends Sean and Darrin and Sue tries to rekindle her romances with Darrin by making him jealous of her and BRAD! There’s also a contest for a new town motto, which Brick of course enters! It is a great episode where we’re just doing what we do, pack an awful lot of story and laughs into 22 minutes and I think audiences will love it.
THE MIDDLE airs Wednesdays at 8PM on ABC (City in Canada). Visit the official show page on ABC.com for more info.