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ABC is keeping the Hecks around.
Fresh off The Middle’s nine-season run and May 22 series finale, the Disney-owned broadcast network has handed out a pilot production order for a spinoff revolving around Eden Sher’s Sue Heck. Like the flagship, the comedy hails from Warner Bros. Television and The Middle creators DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler and their studio-based Black and Blondie Productions banner.
The untitled single-camera comedy (referred to as the Sue Heck spinoff) follows the 20-something adventures of eternal optimist Sue Heck and she leaves the small town of Orson to navigate the ups and downs of a career and young adulthood in Chicago.
Set in the fictional town of Orson, Indiana, The Middle comedy revolved around middle-class couple Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn) and their three children, Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer). The Middle has been a reliable performer all over ABC’s schedule. Most recently, the series opened Tuesday’s comedy block before it was bumped to air after the Roseanne revival, where it has posted a series of upticks following the record viewership for the controversial Roseanne Barr comedy. With Roseanne now off ABC’s fall schedule, the network has an immediate opening on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., which was The Middle‘s pre-Roseanne time slot.
For her part, Sher has become a breakout star for ABC, with The Middle‘s final season exploring Sue’s love life and final year of college as she maintains her trademark optimism while seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. The actress has been vocal about her hopes for Sue’s journey, potentially seeing the character leave Indiana and strike out on her own, potentially in a larger city, and get a job in hotel management.
That ABC would find a way to continue The Middle comes as the network had found ratings gold with Roseanne and its portrayal of a working-class family in Middle America. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey has maintained that her network did not do a good enough job of catering to Trump’s America with programming that stretches beyond the upper-class characters featured on flagship series including Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family.
Heline and Heisler, who previously worked as writers on the original Roseanne, are repped by UTA. Sher is with Paradigm, LINK Entertainment and Skrzyniarz and Mallean.
Spinoffs remain in high demand on broadcast networks as they come with a built-in viewership (making it more affordable to market) and reduced costs as licensing fees on veteran series continue to climb. The Middle spinoff would join an ABC 2018-19 lineup that also includes the 1990s-set Goldbergs offshoot Schooled, which was held for midseason but could move up to fall given the Roseanne vacancy. ABC also renewed Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Station 19 for the fall as the Disney-owned network has Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish on younger-skewing cable sibling Freeform.
Keep track of all the latest renewals and cancellations with THR‘s scorecard.
Updated Aug. 13: This story has been updated to reflect ABC’s confirmation of the pilot order.
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