ABC has given an early renewal to The Middle for next season, the veteran comedy’s ninth. Earlier this month, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey revealed to Deadline that the network was in renewal negotiations on both of its long-running comedies, Warner Bros. TV-produced The Middle and 20th TV’s Modern Family, both currently in their eighth seasons, and she was hopeful both shows would come back. Similarly, CBS is in talks with Warner Bros TV on more seasons of The Big Bang Theory.
Closing new license deals early on the three long-running series from outside studios is important when the cast contracts on the shows are up at the end of the season and studios need to have the security to make new deals with the actors. While Modern Family and Big Bang studios are focusing on hammering out new network pacts before starting cast negotiations, I hear WBTV has locked in The Middle actors in conjunction with the ABC renewal. I hear the new deals with the cast are for one year.
Talks with networks are key as, this late in the life of a show, it is the network that shoulders the lion share of production costs, including cast salaries. I hear the renewal negotiations at ABC are led by new president of business operations Bruce Rosenblum, who has spearheaded a number of license fee and cast negotiations on the studio side, while he led the Warner Bros. TV Group, including for The Middle in the past. It is noteworthy that the first deal he closed was with his former studio for the blue-collar comedy starring Patricia Heaton. I hear the renewal is for 24 episodes.
The pact will help prevent a situation like the one two years ago when The Middle cast’s deals were again up and they had not been re-signed by WBTV as it did not have a deal with ABC. That led to co-star Charlie McDermott booking the lead of a CBS pilot. That plot did not go forward, The Middle was eventually renewed and all actors came back but had the CBS pilot gone to series, The Middle would’ve lost one of its main cast members.
“The Middle has been one of the network’s most consistent performers and helped us to launch a whole new night of comedy when it moved to Tuesdays this season,” said Dungey. “The Indiana Hecks have found America’s sweet spot with their authentic, acerbic and always loving take on parenting, work, kids, marriage and life.”
The Middle fits into ABC’s push to better represent working-class, middle America. Since its debut in 2009 when it helped launch ABC’s formidable Wednesday night comedy block, The Middle has been a dependable anchor in the 8 o’clock hour. In its move this season from Wednesday to Tuesday night in the 8:00 p.m. anchor position, it has improved its half-hour by 22% year to year with Total Viewers, The Middle is ABC’s most watched comedy in the Tuesday time period in 5 years – since 2011-12 with the debut season of Last Man Standing.
Two-time Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton stars in the single-camera comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations. Middle-aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country in Orson, Indiana, Frankie Heck is a harried wife and mother of three who uses her wry wit and sense of humor to get her family through each day intact. Frankie works as a dental assistant, and her unflappable husband, Mike, is manager at the local quarry and her sardonic partner in the daily grind that is raising their average – yes, most definitely average – family.
The Middle stars Heaton as Frankie, Neil Flynn as Mike, Charlie McDermott as Axl, Eden Sher as Sue and Atticus Shaffer as Brick. The series was created and is executive produced by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline.