‘The Middle’ Spinoff We’ll Never Get to See


The Big Picture

  • The Middle
    eschewed traditional sitcom tropes, making it stand out.
  • Sue Heck’s character was endearing due to her awkwardness and unrelenting positivity.
  • A potential spin-off centered around Sue called
    Sue Sue in the City
    was planned but ultimately scrapped by ABC.

When The Middle premiered on ABC in 2009, it was one of the last big sitcoms to come out on network TV, but while other big comedy series of the 2000s like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family used well known tropes like laugh tracks and confessional scenes, The Middle didn’t use tricks to get laughs. It worked through the audacity and the chemistry of its family, the Hecks, of Orson, Indiana.

Though a traditional setup of family highs and lows, with the drama resolved in thirty minutes or less, the Hecks were grittier than other sitcom families without being offensive. You can pick your favorite member of the Hecks, but the one who was written the best was the middle child, Sue Heck (Eden Sher). Though she was extremely awkward, Sue was endearing because of how happy she was and how hard she fought to love life. When The Middle came to an end in 2018, there were plans for a spin-off with Sue called Sue Sue in the City, but sadly, it never came to be. What happened?

The Middle

The daily mishaps of a married woman and her semi-dysfunctional family and their attempts to survive life in general in the town of Orson, Indiana.

Release Date
September 30, 2009

Patricia Heaton , Neil Flynn , Charlie McDermott , Eden Sher , Atticus Shaffer , Beau Wirick , Brock Ciarlelli , Chris Kattan

Main Genre


Eileen Heisler , DeAnn Heline

Sue Heck Is ‘The Middle’s Most Dynamic Character

The Middle often puts Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) in, well, the middle of most of the action, with her character getting voice over narration and generally steering the show, but she is not the star of this series. It’s a family affair, an ensemble where everyone gets their time to shine. Frankie’s husband, Mike (Neil Flynn), is the typical quiet, unemotional father working a blue-collar job in his plaid shirts and jeans, but he’s not a guy on the couch always wanting to be away from his family. Oldest child, Axl (Charlie McDermott), might come off as the stereotypical airhead jock, but his parents and siblings are the most important thing to him. The youngest, Brick (Atticus Shaffer) is a short, odd child, but while he may be nerdy, he’s more than just a cookie-cutter character getting bullied.

Everyone on The Middle finds their roots in familiar tropes, only to grow past them, just as The Middle itself does. There have been other family sitcoms about families doing their best to make ends meet, like Married… with Children or Roseanne, but those shows chose to use the lack of money to make everything more foul and hard-edged. Although The Middle isn’t sappy, it’s a feel-good series about a family who finds their wealth in each other. No one shows that spirit more than middle child Sue Heck.

As a teenage girl, Sue could have been played as a stereotypical “bratty teen,” and while she does struggle at times, Sue is naturally happy. She has a permanent grin on her face, finds excitement in small things, and has big dreams. The real world might try to crush her, but she has too much passion to stop. The running gag is that others don’t notice Sue. People forget her name constantly, whether it be her high school’s year book staff or the volleyball team she’s on, but she fights on no matter what. Because of that, it’s impossible for fans of The Middle not to notice Sue Heck.

ABC Had Plans for a Sue Heck Spin-Off

When The Middle came to an end in 2018 after a successful nine seasons, a spin-off about Sue Heck was quickly announced. The actress who played her, Eden Sher, spoke to TV Line on July 20, 2018 about the potential of a series surrounding her character. She didn’t want to talk too much about it, for fear of jinxing it, but she revealed that her character wouldn’t be set so far in the future that she was married (a time jump during the finale showed her married), but would deal with her time after college. Sher said she had no idea that a spin-off was possible when The Middle ended, but when asked if she was ready to play the character for another decade, she excitedly (just like Sue) said, “If she is a young adult, and fresh and cool, and like Sue as an adult, then yes.” Eden Sher said Sue Heck would always have a place in her heart, but alas, she wouldn’t have one in a spin-off.

The spin-off would have been called Sue Sue in the City, following Sue Heck as she finishes college and begins her independent life in the big city of Chicago. Sue’s best friend from The Middle, Brad (Brock Ciarlelli), was set to be part of the cast, with Chris Diamantopoulos, Kimberly Crossman, Finesse Mitchell, and Aaron Branch also announced as regulars. Sue Sue in the City would have also brought back The Middle creators DeAnn Heline and Eileen Hesiler as the show runners. Four months later, on November 21, 2018, came the news that ABC had decided to pass on the project. There was talk of Warner Bros. trying to find another home for the spin-off, but it never came to be.

Sue Heck Would’ve Been Perfect in Her Own TV Show

There is always a risk with a successful, long-running series trying to keep the magic going through a spin-off. Sometimes, even the seemingly easiest of slam dunks can fail spectacularly. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) might have been the funniest character on Friends, but when given his own series, simply called Joey, it tanked. Audiences, it turned out, didn’t want Joey if everyone else from Friends wasn’t there with him. Spin-offs that actually make it focus not on the lead cast but on an interesting supporting actor who can be built on. Harriet Winslow (Jo Marie Payton) was the elevator operator on Perfect Strangers, not at all one of the leads, but she was fun, and we wanted to see more of her, which made the spin-off, Family Matters, must see TGIF TV long before Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) took over its every scene.


What the Hell Does ‘Frasier’s Theme Song Even Mean?

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs?! Huh?

Few sitcoms have ever been bigger than Cheers, but would a spin-off following Sam (Ted Danson) have been wanted? It would have felt awkward and misplaced, but what about that side character, the high-strung, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer)? What if we got that guy as far away from Boston as possible and focused more on what we didn’t know about him? Frasier ended up being one of the most celebrated sitcoms in television history. The Middle could have tried to develop a lazy spin-off centered around empty-nesters Frankie and Mike Heck, but where would there be to go with that? Sue Heck is the most fascinating character by far, and the one most setup for her own continuing story.

Sue Sue in the City could have written itself, with countless opportunities to show this quirky former teenager trying to make it as a young woman. On top of that, she was leaving her sheltered life in small town Orson, Indiana, and her family behind. Combine her awkwardness with the fish out of water scenario, and you have so many setups for great comedy. It’s been over five years since the idea of Sue Sue in the City was dismissed. Odds say, in a world of fast-moving entertainment, that a spin-off is likely to never be at this point, but don’t count it out completely. With the continued success of The Middle on syndication and streaming, just like Sue Heck’s personality, there is always hope.

The Middle is available to watch on Peacock in the U.S.



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