Sue Heck’s mom has got it going on. So does Barry Goldberg’s mom. If ever there were two TV moms whom I cannot only identify with, but who also make me belly laugh, it’s got to be Frankie Heck and Beverly Goldberg. If you haven’t watched the sitcoms The Middle or The Goldbergs, both on ABC, then you are for sure missing out. The former first aired in 2009, and the latter first aired in 2013. Both shows are still going strong and both mom characters continue to get better and better. Sometimes I wonder if there are hidden cameras in our house because I cannot tell you the number of times I have watched an episode where something similar has happened to me or my family.
In The Middle, Frankie is a strong female character who is the hub of the Heck wheel. She is a take-charge, problem-solving, comic-relieving mom who is raising three different kids alongside her aloof and less engaged husband, Mike (this is where we are different!). Frankie is no different from any other mom, constantly wanting the best for her kids, even while trying to make ends meet with her middle-class hard-working husband. This video clip shows Frankie in a flurry of panic when an old friend comes through town unexpectedly…a situation I’ve found myself in as I ran around the house and barked orders to my family to pick up.
I identify with Frankie because she is continually reminded that life is not perfect and realizes that laughter is, in fact, the best medicine. She is hilarious and unassuming. Despite having three very different children, she embraces their quirkiness and loves them fiercely. Most married couples with children can identify with her relationship with Mike. While they have unconditional love for each other, kids bring in a whole new dynamic. My husband and I still laugh about the episode where they were preparing for a night of romance, hoping for a little action in the bedroom to conclude the evening. Once they got back from eating a little too much at the restaurant, Frankie declared her excuse that she had eaten way too much to engage in “that,” much to Mike’s disappointment.
Perhaps it is because this show takes place in a small Midwest town that it also resonates with me (I grew up in a small Ohio town). The show is set in Orson, Indiana, a fictional place where everybody knows everything about everybody. It’s no wonder why, either. Frankie oftentimes discloses a little too much to Nancy Donahue, her neighbor and friend. She also compares her family to the Donahue’s family, but she usually comes up short. What I love about Frankie, though, is that during those moments of comparison she finally just accepts who the Hecks are and moves on in life.
Beverly Goldberg is a force-to-be-reckoned-with-mom, who rules the roost in the Goldberg household. She oftentimes navigates the whole mom/friend line, but she always makes sure that they know who the boss is in the end. Her helicopter mom style (referred to as a “smother” on the show) oftentimes embarrasses her children, but they always respect and love her through and after her shenanigans to get closer to them. Sometimes over involved, this translates to the viewer as being a caring and loving mama bear. This video clip was taken from the end of a show where the Goldberg kids had to write an essay about their “smother” after receiving Saturday detention, mainly because of an argument they had with her in the school cafeteria.
When I was researching for this blog I came across a description of Beverly on the ABC site: “She loves her kids, jazzercise, her kids, dancing…did we mention her kids?!” If this is not a description of me, I don’t know what is, to be honest. I can identify with Beverly because she is a stay-at-home mother who just can’t help herself from being a bit overbearing at times. Oftentimes, she storms down to the school when she feels that her children are being treated unfairly (okay, not me!), and she is always eavesdropping and interjecting on her kids and their friends. One of my favorite episodes is when she joins her youngest in his magic act, as he tries to impress a girl that he likes. Word gets around and many of his friends express that it isn’t cool that his mom is assisting him, so he “fires” her. After a magic show fail at a birthday party, however, he appreciates her swooping in to help him out.
Another reason why I love this show is because it is based in the 1980s, and that decade saw me through some of my formative years. From mixed tapes to Columbia House brochures, to the Mouse Trap board game and Trivial Pursuit and movies like Risky Business and The Breakfast Club, I find myself nodding along and laughing out loud as they resurrect artifacts from my first ten years of life. I’m always amazed that the Goldbergs, a real-life family, have video footage of their lives from the ’80s and have made a show out of it! One entire episode is centered around which movie was the best dance movie: Footloose or Dirty Dancing. Now that is a tough one!
Maybe it’s the fact that both shows are based on a family with three kids, two boys and a girl, just like us. Perhaps it’s the way the families come around each other and love and support each other through life’s ups and downs that has me parking it on the couch each week. Whatever it is, I’m all in and totally committed to these two shows and look forward to what Frankie and Beverly have up their sleeves next…the latter probably has some shoulder pads.
The Middle, season 4, premiered on Tuesday, October 11 at 8/7c on ABC.
You can find The Goldbergs each week on Wednesdays at 8/7c.