Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton talks 8th season of 'The Middle'

NEW YORK -- The ABC hit comedy "The Middle" returns for an eighth season, and star Patricia Heaton sat down to talk about growing up with a second TV family after the runaway success of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

"It's so hard to get a show on the air and then have it stay on the air," she said. "So I'm grateful that I'm working, and more than that, on a wonderful show with great scripts...and this season is probably one of the best yet."

The two-time Emmy-winner plays Frankie Heck, a harried wife and mother of three who uses her wry wit and sense of humor to get her family through each day intact.

"They pay attention to the little details of life, and they can build a whole story around it," she said. "It's so specific and every parent relates to it, so it's those kind of details that the writers really go in that make this show what it is."

It's all about raising a family and lowering your expectations, and Orson, Indiana, is the setting where Frankie works as a dental assistant and her unflappable husband Mike is manager at the local quarry. Together, they are sardonic partners in the daily grind that is raising their average - yes, most definitely average - family.

"I think not a lot of middle American families are represented on TV the way the Hecks represent them," she said. "They don't shy away from daily struggles, and yet they find the joy in the simplicity. They find the joy in the kind of community you find in small towns."

This year, the kids will find themselves breaking out of their comfort zones and navigating new situations.

On the season premiere episode, "The Core Group," Frankie and Mike are excited to meet April -- the love of son Axl's life -- but they discover that love may indeed be blind when she reveals a quirky personality trait. Meanwhile, after getting bit by the acting bug while working at Dollywood over the summer, daughter Sue wants to change her major to theater. And youngest son Brick is starting high school, making it his mission to try for a fresh start to avoid being considered one of the weird kids.

But for Heaton, it's all about the family and what her co-stars have become -- more than just actors.

"It's just like I have this other wonderful family," she said. "You watch those kids, I can't believe how young they were when we started...they're off having these wonderful lives, they're all becoming adults, and it's a joy to see."

"The Middle" now airs on new night, Tuesdays, at 8 p.m.
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