Two-time Emmy champ Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") pulled out the big guns for the second season premiere of her ABC laffer "The Middle." She fought a rematch with her "Raymond" sparring partner, four-time Emmy winner Doris Roberts, who guested as the new teacher to the youngest child of Frankie Heck (Heaton).
Chatting to Gold Derby, Patricia Heaton admits her experience with "Raymond" got her used to waiting to get the attention of TV academy voters. After all, "Raymond" sat on a slow simmer for two years before bubbling over with Emmy recognition for its third season in 1999. Heaton reaped seven consecutive bids for Best Comedy Actress, winning for seasons four and five.
Last year, "The Middle" debuted to good reviews and ratings but was outshone by another of its Wednesday night ABC comedy block, "Modern Family." However, this year "The Middle" is moving to the forefront and already has earned bids for Best Comedy, Best Comedy Actress (Heaton) and Best Comedy Supporting Actress (Eden Sher) from the nascent Broadcast TV Critics Assn. Our experts and editors agree that Heaton is a strong contender for an Emmy nomination this year.
After a misstep with the short-lived 2007 workplace laffer "Back to You" that mismatched her with four-time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier"), Heaton was asked to star in "The Middle." She admits she was reluctant to play another wife and mother until she met with creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline and understood their vision to depict a heartland working class family dealing with their everyday problems with grace and humor.
"The Middle" continues to charm critics. Writing about the second season, USA Today raved, "With each passing week, this series seems to more assuredly offer a first-class version of what so many viewers say they want: a humorous, heartfelt, realistic look at middle-class, middle-America family life." And Entertainment Weekly said, "All the performances are skillful, with Heaton and Flynn especially adept at conveying an affection for each other, for their kids undimmed by their weariness."