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The Middle - The Complete First Season


TITLE: THE MIDDLE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: August 31, 2010 (Warner Home Video)
Color / 2009-10
MSRP: $44.98
Packaging: Keep case with outer box
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: approx. 518 minutes
Audio: English and Portuguese
Subtitles and Captioning: English, French, Espanol, Chinese, Portuguese & Japanese Subtitles; No Closed Captioning.
Special Features: 12 Deleted Scenes from 6 episodes, “Raising A Sitcom Family,” “Sue’s Best Shots,” and Gag Reel


Introduction:

The Middle is coming to DVD (say it to yourself with your head down “The Middle is coming to DVD.”) Yes, Warner Home Video will bring all 24 first season episodes on a 3-disc set of the sitcom set in the fictitious city Orson, Indiana. Patricia Heaton stars as Frankie Heck in this warm and witty single-camera ABC comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations. Frankie Heck is a superhero. Well, no, not an actual superhero - but sometimes it seems to Frankie as though getting her kids out the door for school every morning is a superheroic act. Middle aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country, this harried wife and working mother of three uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact. The Middle stars Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck, Neil Flynn as Mike Heck, Charlie McDermott as Axel Heck, Eden Sher as Sue Heck, Atticus Shaffer as Brick Heck and Chris Kattan as Bob Weaver. Brian Doyle-Murray recurs as Mr. Ehlert.


Episodes:

This is such a great show. It has vibes of family sitcoms of the past. I like to call it The Brady Bunch meets Roseanne meets Malcolm in the Middle. All 24 episodes are so fun and the characters are all memorable. I think the series will grow even more in the second season both in the ratings and quality. Anyway, as for the first season the memorable episode include the series’ first episode, “Pilot,” where Frankie is struggling in her career as a car salesperson because she has failed to actually sell a car, while Sue has auditioned for show choir and, to everyone's shock, makes the team, but fails to mention that she's part of the stage crew and to top things off, Brick wants Frankie to come to his class presentation dressed as a superhero. In “The Block Party,” when the school counselor tells Frankie and Mike that Brick is "socially challenged," Mike sets about getting Brick some friends, but when his idea of basketball falls through, he discovers Brick has other talents, which may assist Mike in winning the Block Party lawnmower race. In “The Scratch,” while scrambling to gather the garbage for trash day, Frankie accidentally hits Brick with a beer bottle. In “Christmas,” to allow Frankie to focus on rehearsing for a solo in her church's midnight Christmas mass, Mike takes over handling the chores of setting up the Heck family Christmas. In “The Neighbor,” Brooke Shields plays Rita Glossner, a cigarette-smoker with a hard-life who is considered "mean" by her neighbors and her sons are also deemed "bullies" and get in a fight with Sue. In “Valentine’s Day,” Frankie and Mike try, but largely fail, to have a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day, while Brick gets invited to his first "sleepover" by a member of his social-skills class, "The Odd Squad." In “TV or Not TV,” the family gives up cable to save money and Sue dreams of being a model and starts saving the money to do so, while Brick experiences recess with "regular" kids, much to his dismay. In the season finale, “Average Rules,” parent-teacher conferences cause Frankie to worry about the kids and in them she's told Axl is gifted but not applying himself, that her teachers still do not know who Sue is, and Brick may have to repeat the second-grade due to failure to return over 30 library books.

Recurring this season is Jeanette Miller as Aunt Edie, Frances Bay as Aunt Ginny, Peter Breitmayer as Pete, Andrew J. Fishman as Zack, and Blaine Saunders as Carly. Then Guest starring this season is Brooke Shields, Betty White, Amy Sedaris, Suzy Nakamura, Alexa Vega, Marsha Mason and Patricia Belcher as Mrs. Rettig. Moreover, the episodes are unedited at just about 21:35 or so with the pilot running two minutes higher. Runtimes are really consistent, except for two episodes under 21 minutes (but I’m sure nothing is edited from those two episodes). Episode runtimes are as follows:

Disc one
1. “Pilot” 23:25
2. “The Cheerleader” 21:36
3. “The Floating Anniversary” 21:34
4. “The Trip” 21:32
5. “The Block Party” 20:46
6. “The Front Door” 21:37
7. “The Scratch” 21:34
8. “Thanksgiving” 21:34

Disc two
9. “Siblings” 21:35
10. “Christmas” 21:34
11. “The Jeans” 21:32
12. “The Neighbor” 21:35
13. “The Interview” 21:35
14. “The Yelling” 21:37
15. “Valentine’s Day” 21:36
16. “The Bee” 21:35

Disc three
17. “The Break Up” 21:36
18. “The Fun House” 21:34
19. “The Final Four” 21:35
20. “TV Or Not TV” 20:44
21. “Worry Duty” 21:02
22. “Mother’s Day” 21:36
23. “Signals” 21:35
24. “Average Rules” 21:35


Packaging:

The packaging is an outer box with a keep case inside. Both the box and case have the same artwork on the front with a white background with a cartoon style drawing of a road. We also have Mike and Frankie on the left side with Axel, Sue, Brick and Aunt Edie & Ginny’s dog on the right. The show logo is, well, in the middle and positioned vertically. Season 1 is listed on a highway route sign. The color scheme is white with a mix of blue/green. The back of the box has a nice synopsis of the show and set, with three episodic photos. In addition, there is a green box listing all the bonus features for this set, with credits below. Then we get to the keep case. The front has the same artwork as the outer box, but the back of the case is different from the box. The back of the case has a nice shot of the family sitting on the couch eating take out from an episode.

When we open the case, we get nice a promotional photo that is on the left panel and continues on the right panels. The cast is sitting on the dinner table eating pizza! We also have an episode booklet. The cover of the episode booklet is the same as the box/case cover art. The booklet has six sides, which includes the cover side. Disc-by-disc breakdown is per disc and has episode number, title, writers, director, original airdate and episode synopsis. And if there are any unaired scenes for an episode, it is mentioned. There are nice episodic photos on the bottom of each page, except the front and back. The back has a “Welcome to Orson, Indiana” sign, listing all of the stars. Back to the case, the first two discs are in a little plastic holder that we can flip back and forth like a page in a book, with each disc on one side. And disc three is on the right panel. Each disc has the same background used on the cover art along with the same image of the stars from the cover art. Disc one has artwork of Frankie and holds episodes 1-8. Disc two has artwork of Mike and holds episodes 9-16. Disc three has artwork of the kids (Axel, Sue & Brick) and holds episodes 17-24 and the bonus features.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menu screen is good but could be a bit better. We get the same artwork as the cover art. There is no music playing in the background either. The options for the main menu are: Play, Episodes, Deleted Scenes, Features and Languages. Languages menu has where you can choose a language (either English or Portuguese) or have subtitles on or off (in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, or Japanese). Episodes menu has the title of the episode, and if it has a deleted scene you’ll see a scissor icon that you select. Deleted Scenes menu is listed on each disc and lists the title of the episode where the scene was intended for and the scene title. Details on the Features will be in the extras section, as they are just listed in text on the menus for disc three. About 4 chapter stops are available for each episode and the show is in widescreen, of course.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio are both excellent, as it should be since this is a new season and the season just finished this past May. The video is in widescreen as I mentioned earlier, while the audio is perfect in Dolby Digital Surround Sound. I have no complaints whatsoever...as I keep saying, new series from 2000 and on should have no video/audio defects at all, or it is a total failure by the company. It is perfect on here however, as it should be. I have a DVD player that upconverts to HD, so it looks like it is Blu-ray to me. There are 4 chapter stops, which I again mentioned in the last section. So we have nothing to be worried about here, because it is near perfection. Good job by Warner Bros., but this is how it is expected to be for newer series. Anything less would be a total bomb.


Special Features:

We have some special features as well! Warner doesn’t usually load up on special features, but we get a nice amount here. Each disc has deleted scenes. Disc one has deleted scene for the episode “Thanksgiving” and it runs 0:30. Disc two has a deleted scene from the episode “The Neighbor” and that also runs 0:30. Then we have two deleted scenes from the episode “The Fun House” on disc three that runs a combined 1:01. We also have five deleted scenes from the episode “TV or Not TV” on disc three that runs a combined 2:19. Also on disc three, we have two deleted scenes from the episode “The Final Four” that runs a combined 1:35. And the final episode with a deleted scene is “Mother’s Day” and that scene runs 0:19.

The rest of the features are all on disc three. The best feature on the set is titled “Raising a Sitcom Family” that runs 12:56. The creators and cast tell us about the show, life in the Midwest, the characters, so so much more. This is a good featurette and has interviews with Deann Heline (executive producer), Eileen Heisler (executive producer), Patricia Heaton, G. Charles Wright (casting director), Deborah Barlyski (casting director), Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, and Chris Kattan. The next featurette is titled “Sue’s Best Shots” and runs 1:23 as the cast discusses Sue’s school photos and their own school photos. Interviewed are Eden Sher, Neil Flynn, Patricia Heaton, Charlie McDermott, Chris Kattan, and Atticus Shaffer. The final feature is the Gag Reel that runs 2:10. I wish that was longer. Why not have the entire blooper reel? I am sure they have one.


Final Comments:

Great show and a good DVD set as well! Relive or discover these 24 episodes for the first time. If you haven’t seen every episode, now is your shot before the second season premieres. Brick is a classic sitcom character with laughs! I have a feeling this series will do even better in season two in the ratings and will breakout. The summer repeats have helped, as will this DVD. As for the DVD, it has good packaging, good menus, great audio/video, and a decent amount of extras. Hurry and buy this in time for the season premiere on Wednesday. Sept. 22 at its new time of 8:00|7:00c&m on ABC! You better buy it before Mr. Ehlert comes back and notices you haven’t bought it yet!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by Pavan on 08/27/10

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002JVWQUU/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=271937


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