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'The Middle' Christmas episode recap: "It really is the best holiday"

Season 6 | Episode 9 | “The Christmas Wall” | Aired Dec 10, 2014

One of the best parts about the Christmas season, aside from presents and peppermint milkshakes, is TV holiday episodes. There’s just something about seeing actors decorate the tree, wrap presents, and have dysfunctional family meals with surprise guest stars that puts me in the holiday spirit. This week’s episode of The Middle was no exception.

Well, it was kind of an exception, because this is not your typical Christmas episode, especially when compared to Heck Christmases past. The Hecks just aren’t really feeling it this year—especially Frankie.

Frankie is in a bit of a holiday funk. Maybe it has to do with the fact that their brand-new fake Christmas tree doesn’t have a top to it. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that the only wrapping paper in the house has “happy birthday” on it. Whatever the reason, this year Frankie has decided she doesn’t want to get “sucked into all the trappings.” No more buying presents. No more lights and decorations. Not even a simple candle that smells like freshly baked cookies. Frankie is going full on Axl mode, no pants and all.

She’s even trying to recruit Nancy Donahue into her trappings-free Christmas … “trying” being the key word. If anyone on earth is all about the Christmas trappings, it’s Nancy Donahue. Plus, of all the crazy schemes Frankie has tried to recruit Nancy Donahue into going along with in the past, none of them have ever worked.

Side note: Can you imagine how good the Donahue house must smell? Not just at Christmas, but, like, all the time. Christmas probably isn’t that special to them, because at the drop of the hat in the middle of July they can probably conjure up some spruce and mistletoe and have it smelling like Santa’s workshop. Yep, Nancy Donahue is all about the trappings.

Speaking of the Heck Christmas tree, I mentioned that it doesn’t have a top, right? Mike has to go back to the store and get a new one, which, oops, is pink. So now he has to go to another store in another town to get a tree, which, oops, they sold. So he’s gone to another store. And another, and then another. There are no fake trees left in Indiana!!

It doesn’t matter, because Frankie doesn’t feel like decorating it anyway. She’s still lying on the couch in her underwear, eating fudge.

In the meantime, Axl is home from college and ready to do what he does best—attempt to make money without actually doing any work. That can only mean one thing—BossCo is back in business! My favorite thing about BossCo is the fact that nothing can break up the eternal friendship between these three lovable weirdos. Not college, not distance or age. Not even an argument about Rudolph.

Yea, that’s happening. Because Axl and Sean have differing opinions about what constitutes as a toy, and, well, Darrin has never seen it. But really, who hasn’t gotten into some sort of fight over the specifics of the classic special about a reindeer with a shiny red nose with good friends? We’ve all been there. And we’ve all come out closer with our friends because of it.

Also, Brick has discovered the Christmas letters from the Hecks’ friends and family, and he has gotten very into them. He’s read all the letters, and making phone calls to catch up with people he’s never spoken to before to find out more about the life behind the letters.

Now that I think about it, maybe Frankie is in a funk because she doesn’t exactly have anything cool to put in her Christmas letter. She could mention that her kitchen has a sinkhole in it. Or mention the funny story of how she got rid of her dining room table to replace it with a doll’s table. Maybe she could mention the extra jobs she and Mike have taken on? Sue did tinikling, and that was cool.

I think Mike said it best: “Christmas letters are just for the good things in the last year?” And when you’re the Hecks, the good things are sometimes hard to pinpoint.

But there is one good thing. They have each other. And they love each other. For the most part. And that’s the true meaning of Christmas. Decorations, fudge, bicolored trees, and family.

The Middle airs Wednesdays at 8/7C on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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