I decided to throw some new words up here every day this week. That's my goal for the week. I'm a person who sets goals and announces them proudly to the public (as though the public cares) and then immediately fails to follow through. A Capricorn I may be, but a lazy one. The kind of goat who spouts off with a grand ambitious scheme for getting up the side of a mountain and then sits back on her haunches and waits for others, who are better prepared and more emotionally advanced, to push her along as they go. This is a terrible habit to have, for a Capricorn. Our entire raison d'être is to scale things. At this rate I might as well be a Pisces, or whatever the astrological equivalent of a puppy napping in a kitchen floor sunbeam might be. Cute and cozy and warm and happy to eat anything anybody throws at me between yawns. Or whatever the crab is.
Anyway, what I want to report on today is how over the last couple of weeks I've fallen in love with the television show "The Middle," now in its seventh season on ABC. Do you get me? I am SEVEN YEARS behind the curve on this one. Who ever would have thought I could enjoy a show starring Patricia Heaton, when I hated "Everybody Loves Raymond" to the nth degree x a million billion shards of poison-tipped broken glass? That show made me want to stab myself and every single person involved.*
Yet it happened. Emily Nussbaum (newly Pulitzer-minted TV critic for The New Yorker) convinced me to give it a try and now I love "The Middle" so much. I love every Heck family member and their colorful overstuffed falling-apart house and their scraped-up beater cars and their fast food dinners and Frugal Hoosier chips and no-brand candy and Old Navy wardrobes and Colin Firth (the dentist's dog) and Doris, the inherited beagle with the oxygen mask. I love how fearless the actors are, and how physical the acting is. I love that nothing changes much around them even as the characters have been allowed to grow, and the children allowed to grow up. They've become more themselves, as actual people mostly do. I love how they live lives that I recognize in a place that looks and sounds familiar to me, more real in every way than "Sex and the City" or "Girls" or even something like "Roseanne" could ever be. Big stakes, small wins, the plodding ordinariness of daily life that can be its own reward, however much you may resent it at the time. I love that it feels a little bit like home. And even though I'm 46 years old, I'm still learning from Sue Heck that not being cool is the #1 coolest thing to be. (The eternally exasperated, no-bullshit Frankie is who I identify with the most, but Sue Heck calls to mind that great line from Gus to Lorie in "Lonesome Dove" the miniseries: "You don't duck your head to nobody.")
In chronological order, here's a list of all the shows I can remember that have provided me with comfort during times of acute stress:
- freshman year of college: Growing Pains
- senior year of college: Murphy Brown / thirtysomething
- 1995: Cybill
- 1997: AbFab
- 2000–1: The West Wing
- 2007–8: The Office
- 2008–9: Battlestar Galactica
- 2013–14: The Big Bang Theory
- 2016: The Middle
Upon reviewing this list: have I ever not been acutely stressed?
* I see that Doris Roberts has just died, unrelated to this post (and, hopefully, yesterday's post). RIP obviously, but she'll always be Mildred Krebs to me.