The topic of The Middle is based off of the Heck family, however, there is the family who lives next door to them who is also a main part of what goes on in their lives, the Donahues. The Donahue’s are presented as the perfect family in which all the children have straight A’s and
everything in their life goes completely on track and as planned. Frankie is always jealous of this family because she sees them to be “the idyllic family” (The Middle). A majority of the time that Frankie goes outside, the Donahue’s also happen to be there flaunting around some new type of accomplishment. This is not as accurate of a representation on family and shifts ideas about what family is almost entirely. The depiction of the Donahue’s throughout this show is more of a constant competition, rather than a family. Everyone knows all too well that life amongst family is not always so easy and perfect, but rather requires work and everyones best efforts to succeed. This is the complete opposition within the Donahue family because within this family it is everyone for themselves. Either one of her daughters, Dottie, receives another community service award, or her son Sean beats out Axl in the position for lifeguarding. They also seem to not have to work for anything. Nancy Donahue, the mother, is a ‘stay-at-home’ mother who is president of all the clubs in the community. The free time she has is another characteristic that bothers Frankie to no end.
In one of the most recent episodes, Escape Orson (Season 8 Episode 10), the Heck family is greeted outside their home by the Donahues. The Donahue’s have big news which was that they not only recently participated in an escape room, but have also set the record for getting out of the room in the fastest time. Since hearing this news, Frankie Heck decides that competing in an escape room would be a fun family bonding activity to do together. She says that she would love to make it a tradition every January 1st in efforts to celebrate the new year, or so she tells her family. Her real intentions, however, were to compete against the Donahues and try to break their record by making it out of the escape room with more than one minute and eight seconds left.
Not all families from other sitcoms, however, are shown to be relatable to the Donahues. The article “Resignation and Positive Thinking in the Working-Class Family Sitcom” compares the television shows The Middle and Roseanne and says how they are both relatable and accurate when describing a United States family. The main family in the television sitcom, Roseanne, is depicted a lot differently. According to a consensus, television shows aim to describle working-class families in all different ways in order to “demonstrate a changing discourse in American culture about the possibilities of class resistance and social mobility” (Grabowski). During the time of this show, 1988, scholars have stated that Roseanne was the most accurate representation of what families go through when having to pay the next bill. This show was also given credit to being the motivation of women becoming apart of the working class.
Another reason it is understood that The Middle is a realistic depiction of a family is taken from the quote, “Unlike many other family sitcoms, The Middle places much emphasis on the importance of work and money” (Spangler, p. 480). By saying this, she is giving the example how without a good work ethic you are unable to make money to provide for a family. This is more specifically seen whenever Mike Heck, the father, attends job fairs during the time that his previous job is temporarily closed. Whenever he attends these, he is never satisfied due to the people that he meets there. He believes that it is never anyone with a good work ethic, rather just wealthier people who, according to him, are just out for his money and the other working, middle-class members money.