Full disclosure, this may be one of my favorite episodes ever. Was the writing epic and phenomenal? Not necessarily. Was the concept super original? God no. Was this show different from the last hundred-plus we’ve seen? Heck yes. It was different, it bucked the usual formula, and I love it for that.
I’ve said it before. Sitcoms are formulaic. Not a bad thing, not if the formula works, just how it is. When that formula’s been in use for over seven years? It can get hella stale. Therefore, I love any attempt to throw a wrench in that usual recipe. Even if the wrench isn’t anything special, it’s different, and different can be a gift when you review the same formulaic sitcom for years on end.
Instead of Frankie’s usual narration, it’s Brick leading us through the show this week. The show itself being a spoof of The Twilight Zone. Yes, The Middle joined the ranks of every other show and it’s spinoff who did a Twilight Zone riff. In that sense, this episode follows it’s own formula. But again, different from the usual, so I’m completely fine with that.
The ep is framed into three smaller stories, each with an intro by Brick. Though he’s not Rod Serling from Twilight Zone, he’s Rod from…some other show that no one’s ever heard of. Anyway, the first story features Frankie and Sue in a faceoff with Rita Glossner. Hands down the best of the bunch. Because, Brooke Shields as Rita. If you don’t appreciate the nature of that continued guest role, and how funny she and her kids are, then I can’t help you. Just, the return of Rita. That should be enough for anyone.
At the house, Axl is chilling with his roommates, not caring that Frankie wants them out. Oh, and apparently I missed the part where Kenny came with them? My bad. Anyway, they end up hiding from the Grim Reaper. Who actually turns out to be Brick’s extremely tall girlfriend Cindy, but, details. This segment was also enjoyable, culminating in Kenny the non-talking roommate actually talking. Quite a lot. Anyone remember that bit where Silent Bob finally opened his mouth in Chasing Amy after a few movies of, well, silence? It was like that, but with fewer drug references and curse words.
Brick’s tale, while short, was the most interesting. Not funniest, that still goes to Rita and Frankie, but definitely most interesting. While doing the Trick or Treat thing with Mike, he seems to do a bit of time travel as well, meeting an older version of Cindy, in a house that will one day be his. It appears that his love of fonts carries over into adulthood. Can you really make a living being an expert on fonts? Apparently. The point is, who doesn’t love a good time travel story?
So, The Middle chose to be different this week. By…doing something that’s been done countless times before. But, everything’s been done at this point, so it’s all about putting a unique spin on old ideas. The writers did that here. They built a fun show around The Twilight Zone formula, the same way they built a fun series around the dysfunctional family one. Kudos to the showrunners, this was my favorite of all the Halloween episodes.
Now, who wants to hit up Netflix and watch The Twilight Zone with me?