'The Middle' Cast, Creators Don't Mind Being Called 'Underappreciated'

We "have a drink every time a critic says 'underrated,'" executive producer DeAnn Heline said at TCA.
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The cast and creators of The Middle don’t mind being called "underappreciated” or “underrated” or any of the other kind adjectives critics apply to the ABC comedy that has been mostly ignored by Emmy voters and gets a fraction of the fawning media attention of the network’s breakout hit Modern Family.

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“We thought in the writers room we would have a drink every time a critic says 'underrated,'” said Middle executive producer DeAnn Heline. “Obviously, it would be great to have even more awards or more recognition,” she added. To which series star Patricia Heaton interjected: “Did I miss something? Did we win something?”

Heaton has two Emmys and five nominations for Everybody Loves Raymond, the sitcom that made her a household name.

Heaton’s Middle co-star Neil Flynn noted that “slow and steady wins the race.”

“Before you know it, we’ll have done 120 episodes,” he added. “I’d much rather be perceived as underrated instead of overrated.”

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They also acknowledged that their 8 p.m. time slot has been a double-edged sword. “Sometimes it’s hard to get something going there,” said Heaton. Executive producer Eileen Heisler wistfully noted that when the show has aired behind Modern Family, it has received a bump in its audience.

“Our lead-in is Wheel of Fortune,” she said. “So we’re out there starting the train and that’s just how it goes. But it’s a vote of confidence that the network has put us at 8."