NEW YORK - The creators of "The Middle" chose to end the show's run next year after nine seasons while ratings are still strong, and it gives the cast and crew a chance to say goodbye on their own terms. During a recent trip to LA, I asked Patricia Heaton to reflect on the show's contribution and her own role as Frankie Heck.
She is a real mom, and she plays one on TV. In fact, if you count her earlier run on "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Middle" means she has been a parent in prime time for two decades.
"When I was on 'Raymond,' my children were about the same age as the Barone children, so I experienced all those things as I was performing them," she said. "And it's the same with the Heck family. My children are all about the same age now as the Heck children."
"Approachable" is the word that comes to mind to describe the actress, who is known as Patty, and she told me being a mother of four boys has helped her performances.
"It freed up my time, because I didn't have to do any research on this," she said. "I didn't have go deep to find this. It was right there on the surface. I was making mistakes all over the place. I was always feeling inadequate so it all happened at the same time."
Since it was announced this would be the farewell season for her show, Patty's been hearing from other moms who said, "you made me feel better about my own mothering abilities."
Those mothers could clearly relate to the fact her character spent so much time feeling like a failure.
"I think so many moms have experienced that," she said. "I know I've experienced that."
Frankie said once, "We may not have been perfect, but we did do a few things right." And the actress who plays her agrees.
"At the end of the day, I think the message of 'The Middle' is all about the love you have for each other," she said. "It's about your family and loving each other."
Patty said she has no idea how the sitcom will come to a close, adding that she's now used to being surprised each week. But the show's creators told The Wall Street Journal recently, "the finale will stay true to the spirit of 'The Middle.'"
As one put it, "The Hecks are not going to win the lottery.'