A Chat with Eden Sher of ‘The Middle’

Credit: ABC/Bob D'Amico

Credit: ABC/Bob D’Amico

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

As you all know, I’m a huge fan of The Middle (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC). The show is so funny without having any snarky undertone. (If you’re not watching the show, give it a try. Have I steered you wrong before?) The comedy features two of the best teenage characters on television. When I was at the Television Critics Association Press Tour last week, I had the chance to talk to Eden Sher, 21, who plays the ever-enthusiastic, middle child Sue Heck.

Question: How much of you is in Sue?

Eden Sher:  Sue was like my Sasha Fierce. She was my alter ego. I have become more like her. I think we’ve sort of melded into one. I think it’s like if you spend enough time around another person you’ll eventually be like them and I spend so many hours of the day pretending to be Sue.

Question: I always say there’s a little bit of Sue in anyone who has ever been a teenage girl. Do you think that’s true?

Sher: I don’t think it’s a universal thing. It’s a common thing. Definitely a relatable thing among people but I have come across some cynical people who just by nature do not have any Sue in them and I always feel like those are the people who need the most Sue.

Question:  Sue is a great role model.

Sher: There are tons of arbitrary standards that specifically women are held to, held to very harshly and they don’t matter at all. Sue is the poster girl for not giving a s*** about what anyone else thinks. She is totally unapologetically her. Always. Walk into a room. Don’t care about what anyone else thinks. It’s time to do Sue.

Question: What’s coming up for Sue? Will she get a boyfriend?

Sher: Yes! It’s a real life natural progression. If there was like an older brother and a younger sister, the  younger sister is probably going to date one of the brother’s friends. The writers sort of took that dynamic and made a little story line and Sue gets an older BF. He’s kind of a dope. He’s one of Axl’s friends that you’ve seen around. [TV Gal note: Could it be Darren who took Sue to the prom last year? Or Sean who Sue had a crush on in season two?]

Question:  You wrote and directed a short film called The Suitcase. How is that coming along?

 Sher: It is 97% done, it just needs five hours in post sound but I’ve just been so busy working.

Question: What’s it about?

Sher: It’s about a girl’s journey on her way to the subway and that’s all I will say.

Question: Do you think you want to do more things behind the camera?

Sher: I would love to write or direct something in the future. I’ll probably just keep writing because that’s a compulsion. I can’t help that. The quality is not very good but the quantity is large. I would love to do something behind the camera. That’s probably what everyone says.

Question: Do you think you will always want to act?

Sher: Acting is draining. Acting is physically exhausting. It’s definitely something I want to continue to do in the very immediate future. I see no stopping that in the next two, three, four years but beyond that but I don’t know. But then I would sort of just love to be in TV forever and just love to be on this show forever. I have a personal relationship with TV. Before I was even on TV, I just always related more to TV than to movies. I like the idea of going back week to week and building a personal relationship with these people and to sort of evolve with their lives. I love that.

Question: You (@edensher) and your co-star Charlie McDermott (@charliemcdrmott)  are very funny on Twitter. How did that get started?

Sher: I’m best friends with Charlie in real life. We just rag on each other. We just make fun of each other a lot. Most of the time we’re just having these exchanges two feet away from each other. We like to make fun of each other for always being on our cell phones. He’ll call me ‘Cell Phone Sally’ but he, in fact, is ‘Cell Phone Sal.’ He’s the major culprit on set for always being on his phone.

Question: But you guys aren’t dating?

Sher: No absolutely not. We’re very, very close. I set him up with one of my best friends. He was dating her for a very long time. I’m dating someone else. We all get along like family.

My Favorite Shows of 2012


By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

When I first started writing about TV, I could list my ten best shows of the year with confidence. Sure one viewer’s trash is another’s treasure (some think American Horror Story is brilliant, I find it rather laughable). Lists are always subjective and my opinion is just my opinion. But, back then, I had at least watched one episode of every show and felt I had given every series its fair consideration.

That, my friends, is no longer the case. Even if I did nothing else but watch TV, I don’t think I would be able to say I’ve seen everything the medium has to offer. There are way too many shows on the air. For example, I will admit to you that I’ve never seen a single episode of Justified. It’s been on my “I need to watch this show” list for years. There are other shows I liked –The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad among them – that for whatever reason I haven’t kept up with. The second season of Downton Abbey is just sitting on my desk waiting to be watched. Do spa/TV viewing vacations exist? Because that’s what I need.

My other issue is the rise of what I like to calls shows that are rated NFA – Not For Amy. For example, I can appreciate that Lena Dunham is creating something unique with a distinct point of view with Girls. However, from the opening moments, I couldn’t stand the show. I found the characters to be whiny, obnoxious and self-centered. And series such as Game of Thrones are also NFA.  With its gratuitous sex and violence, I didn’t even make it through the series premiere of Game of Thrones.

What I can offer you are my favorite shows of the year. The shows that have been consistently high in quality. Show that each week offered thoughtful, moving performances and strong writing. Shows that make me laugh, cry or both. Shows that are among the best TV has to offer. I have ranked them in terms of what I would choose to watch first on my TiVo.

1.Homeland (Showtime): So we’re all kind of in a fight with Homeland and I totally get that.  The show is cutting corners and sacrificing realism to advance the story and get the characters where they need them to be. I mean we’re going to have to ask Carrie more follow-up questions about how she escaped from Abu Nazir, right? An acceptable answer isn’t “I got lucky” when it comes to freeing yourself from the world’s number one terrorist. But all my quibbles aside, no other show surprises me and keeps me engaged like Homeland does.  Especially in season two, I never knew what the show was going to do next. Every time I lulled myself into believing I knew what was going to happen, the series zigged in a totally different direction.  But what really sets Homeland apart is the incredible acting. Clare Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin are breathtaking every week. They rise above the most inane writing and ridiculous plot twists.  Danes and Lewis have made me believe in TV’s most unlikely and unhealthy romance. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to a show as much as I look forward to Homeland. And that means, despite the ridiculousness of late, the drama is doing a lot of things right.

2.Parenthood (NBC): This is the season Parenthood transitioned from a good drama into a great one.  I wrote about Parenthood being one of the best shows for Paste Magazine. You can read what I had to say here.

3. Southland (TNT): The best cop drama on TV. With gritty realism, Southland pulls the viewer into its world each week.  This past season the drama added Lucy Liu and, as much as I enjoy Liu on Elementary, I am really going to miss her on Southland. Her performance was transformative. I could write paragraphs about the brilliant acting that occurs each week on the show but I want to especially praise Regina King, whose Detective Lydia Adams is one of the strongest female characters on TV. Bonus points to the show for having C. Thomas Howell in its cast. When I was a girl, pictures of Howell adorned my bedroom walls. How wonderful it is to have him on TV. Some things that are gold can stay.

4. The Middle (ABC): This week Frankie (Patricia Heaton) woke up in the middle of the night to fight with Mike (Neil Flynn) and you know what I loved best about that scene? Frankie was in mismatched pajamas. That, my friends, is real life. (My biggest complaint with Homeland this season remains that Jess packed a negligee to go to a safe house). While Modern Family may be the show all the cool kids watch, The Middle is the show that truly captures the humor of family life. The comedy has the best teenage characters of any show. Each week Eden Sher and Charlie McDermott are perfect as the ever enthusiastic Sue and her older, slacker brother Axl. (For real fun, follow these two on Twitter to see how they interact in real life).  When people ask me what’s the one show they are not watching that that they should be watching, I always say The Middle.

5. Scandal (ABC): From her first power-suit strut into the office, I was all about Olivia Pope and her not-so-merry band of Gladiators. The show provides a juicy soap opera and intense mystery while, without making a big deal about it, has built a show around a successful woman of color. Plus nobody enunciates quite like Kerry Washington enunciates. I want to be a client of Pope & Associates just so I can hear Olivia say my name. Most of the time, I have no idea what the Huck the show is going to do next and I love that.

6. Parks and Recreation (NBC):  What other series could make local politics so utterly compelling? I literally love this show. Parks has the best ensemble cast on TV. There are no weak links. I adore every single character on it.

7. The Glee Project (Oxygen): The Glee Project is the only reality competition that is truly rooted in reality.  The audition process is grueling and, in the end, no matter how much the casting director, vocal coach and choreographer may love you, it all comes down to the executive producer’s capricious decision.  I love that this is a tough competition but one where none of the coaches are mean-spirited or nasty. If you’re not performing well, they will tell you but in a way that allows the performers to flourish. Bonus points to the show for 1):  Totally making up words.  We all need a little glee-ality and romanticality in our lives.  2): Giving me my new secret boyfriend Zach Woodlee. His proud papa face when he watches the kids perform makes me tear up every time.  3): Giving Glee Blake Jenner and Alex Newell. They’ve both been great additions to the series.

8. Mad Men (AMC): Not everything worked this season but when the show worked, it worked brilliantly. Joan finally telling her husband to get out. Peggy leaving the agency and coming into her own. Joan becoming a partner in the worst possible way. These are TV moments indelibly inked in my mind. Mad Men continues to create a world that is mesmerizing.

9. Awkward (MTV):  Yes I know I’m way too old to be watching this show. But what I love about Awkward is that although the technology has changed (no one had a blog when I was in high school), the experience of being a teenager hasn’t. Awkward takes me right back to the not-so-glory days of high school. But it’s not just nostalgia that makes me love the show – it is witty, hilarious, poignant and heart-breaking.  While I always rooted for Jake, the Jake/Matty/Jenna love triangle is one of the best ones out there.

10. New Girl (FOX): For a show ostensibly about a girl, it’s the men who have made this comedy flourish. The rapport between Schmidt, Nick and Winston is the stuff of TV magic. If Schmidt is the series breakout character, Nick is the sleeper breakout character. I still laugh every time I think about Jake Johnson’s “I give you cookie” diatribe.

Honorable Mentions:

The Good Wife (CBS): I adore this show. The only reason it isn’t part of my top ten is due to the mandatory “Nick is a bad husband” deduction. May we never have to see a fight involving raw eggs again.

30 Rock (NBC): As always, I want to go to there. In its final season, this smart comedy has enjoyed a greater and more hilarious freedom as it mocks its corporate parent and takes Liz Lemon through some major life changes.

Switched at Birth (ABC): Bunheads may be Gilmore Girls Redux but it’s Switched at Birth that has filled the hole Gilmore Girls left in my viewing schedule.

Go On (NBC): This comedy is doing exactly what a freshman comedy should be doing: It gets better every week as Ryan (Matthew Perry) continues to grieve his wife’s death with an unlikely support group. It can’t be easy to make a comedy about people continuing on with their lives after a great loss, but Go On is doing an excellent job.

Those are my favorite shows of 2012. What are yours? Talk about it below.

Where Have I Seen Them Before and Quotes of the Week for October 25, 2012

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

Skyler Day was the teen who wanted to keep sailing even though she might lose her foot on Grey’s Anatomy. She was Amy, Drew’s girlfriend, on Parenthood. Meeghan Holaway was the lawyer for Derek, Cristina, Meredith and Arizona. She played Amanda Burke, the lawyer Kathryn and John had on Switched at Birth before they hired Craig (Sam Page).  Ned Vaughn was the lawyer for the airlines. We just saw him in an episode of The Newsroom, where he played a representative for Halliburton who came on Will’s show.

Patrick Fischler was Artie Hornbacher, the NSA employee who tricked Olivia on Scandal. Fischler has been on so many things but I remember him most as Jimmy Barrett, the comic who did the Utz Potato Chip commercials on Mad Men and Phil, a DHARMA Initiative employee on Lost. Wendy Davis was Kimberly Mitchell, the talk show host. She’s Joan on Army Wives. Steven W. Bailey, who played the bartender Joe on Grey’s Anatomy, was the medical examiner. Brian Letscher is Tom, the secret service agent. I wanted to point him out because he’s the brother of Matt Letscher, who played the evil Billy Chambers last season on Scandal. So Shonda Rhimes hire within her TV family and within real families as well.

Adam J. Harrington was the robot like Congressman on Parks and Recreation. He was Ethan last season on The Secret Circle and Agent Walker on Dexter.

Rosa Salazar was Molly, Kate’s wild high school friend on Ben & Kate. She played Zoe, the woman who changed her mind and kept her baby last season on Parenthood.

Yancey Arias was the father of the missing girl on Elementary. He played Senator Tom Kingsley last season on Revenge but I’ll always remember him as Miguel on Kingpin.

Matthew Del Negro was Kent, Penny’s physical therapist on Happy Endings. We just saw him in the season premiere of The Good Wife as the police officer who pulled over Zach. He’s lodged in my memory as Brian Cammarata on The Sopranos.

Rachel Shelley was Milah, Rumplestiltskin’s wife on Once Upon a Time. She was Helena Peabody on The L Word

Quotes of the Week

“I loved you . . . if only the circumstances had been wildly different. You’re a disgrace to your nation Sergeant Nicholas Brody. You’re a traitor and a terrorist. And now it’s time to pay for that.” Carrie to Brody on Homeland.

“You’ll never be done.” Amanda to Emily on Revenge.

“I’ll wait until I hear them all sing and then I’ll text in my choice.” Axl on which Presidential candidate he’ll cast his vote for on The Middle.

“You gave me cookie. I got you cookie.” Nick to Schmidt on New Girl. This is definitely one of those quotes that makes no sense out of context but I loved it so much I had to include it this week.

“There are no bad ideas Lemon. Only great ideas that go horribly wrong.” Jack to Liz on 30 Rock.

“You see her again, I’ll blow you away. And I’m an excellent shot, remember?” the First Lady to the President on Scandal.

“Christopher, this is no time to be petulant.” Tim to Christopher on Project Runway when he won’t stop sewing when his time is up.

“I’m proud of you but also a bit fearful that we’re verging on what I call feelings territory so let’s stare at the fire in silence.” Ron to Tom on Parks and Recreation.

“It’s going to be old school – guitars and great songs. Just a show for people who love actual music.” Rayna to Juliette about her new tour on Nashville. Rayna could rival Victoria Grayson for biting one liners.

“Now I don’t feel like pie. Wait. No. It’s back.” Kevin on The Office.

“He won the election. Honey, our son is the new president of Cedar Knoll Middle School. God help us all.” Adam to Kristina on Parenthood.

“I will always come find you.” Emmett to Bay on Switched at Birth. Thanks to Diane for the quote.

Best Exchange of the Week

“Who’s your favorite rapper?” Nick to Schmidt in a flashback to their college days on New Girl.

“Brian Austin Green.” Schmidt’s response. I would watch a whole show about Nick and Schmidt in college. Can we make that happen?

Have you seen a familiar face or heard a great quote? Email me through my contact page and let me know about it. And remember to follow my blog (enter your email in the upper right hand corner) so you’ll always know when I have a new post.

TV’s Best Tertiary Characters

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

How do you know you’re a great character?

There’s a fan outcry when you aren’t around.

Since Homeland began its second season, viewers have been plagued with questions:  Will Carrie realize she was right? Will Brody get caught? But perhaps the biggest question troubling viewers was: Where is Virgil?

The beloved surveillance expert brilliantly played by David Marciano finally returned on Sunday.  I actually clapped when he came on the screen. There is something so wonderful about Virgil and his relationship with Carrie. He’s exasperated when he should be, protective when he needs to be, and funny when the show is in desperate need of comic relief. Plus, he’s kind of the only character besides Carrie that I truly trust at this point.

But the really interesting thing about Virgil is that he’s obviously not a main character (that’s Carrie and Brody). But he’s not a secondary character either (lsuch as David Estes or Mike). He’s a tertiary character. And to make a tertiary character stand out you’ve got to be really good.

Here are some of my other favorite tertiary characters on television:

First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) on Scandal: I adore Mellie. First of all, she’s a woman in the right. Her husband, the President of the United States, cheated on her and continues to be hung up on a woman he cannot and should not have.  Secondly, would you want to cross her? Young brilliantly pulls off the tricky act of being simultaneously sympathetic and devious. The scene in the limo where she asks her husband to forgive her? Heartbreaking. The scene where she tells her husband that she needs to start making plans for her future.  A little terrifying.  The season Young was promoted to series regular and is rightly getting so much screen time that she’s almost a secondary character.

Grizz (Grizz Chapman) and Dot Com (Kevin Brown) on 30 Rock: As Tracy’s entourage, the pair have provided some of the comedy’s best laughs with their droll commentary on their boss’s ridiculous antics. They’re the voice of reason not just in Tracy’s world but sometimes for the entire series. I would so watch the Grizz and Dot Com Show. Now that 30 Rock is ending, isn’t it about time for a spinoff?

Cora (Barbara Hershey) on Once Upon a Time: How do you make viewers feel sorry for the Evil Queen? Give her a mother who is worse than she is. Hershey is wonderfully evil. I’m so glad she is still around this season causing trouble. Also bonus points for the fact that Hershey actually looks like she could be Lana Parrilla’s mother.

Brad Bottig (Brock Ciarlelli) on The Middle: As Sue’s enthusiastic former boyfriend, Ciarlelli makes me smile every time he comes on the screen.  He also exemplifies what makes The Middle such a fantastic show.  Brad could have been a one note joke – Sue doesn’t realize that her boyfriend is probably gay. But he has become so much more than that. The Middle thrives because it’s a very funny show with humor based in truth and characters we know. I always say there’s a little bit of Sue in anyone who has ever been a teenage girl. And I definitely had friends such as Brad when I was in high school. He’s simply a fantastic character.

Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley) on Glee: O’Malley provides some of Glee’s best moments. He is my favorite television dad.  Here’s hoping there’s a holiday episode in our future where Kurt goes home to see his dad.

Who are some of your favorite tertiary characters? Talk about it below.

Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B ____ in Apartment 23 and Nashville

Here’s my three-part TV viewing assignment for the week:

There are times when I truly believe an episode of television was created just for me. It’s like television’s way of saying “thanks Amy. We’re glad you’re here.”  And the premiere of Don’t Trust the B____ in Apartment 23, which returns for its second season tonight at 9:30 p.m. on ABC, is one of those times.  James Van Der Beek, who continues to hilariously spoof himself, reluctantly decides he will do a Dawson’s Creek reunion.  I don’t want to ruin the jokes by telling you any more than that. But any show that can reference The Facts of Life Goes to Paris and stage a fame intervention is my kind of show. You must watch.

I have championed Happy Endings since it premiered. Dave writing thank you notes after being left at the alter is one of the funniest television moments ever (“Darkness reigns. Hope gurgles out its dying breath. Thank you for the beautiful crockpot.”).  As it returns for its third season (tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC), Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Elisha Cuthbert (Elisha Cuthbert) are back together but keeping it casual. They’re this decade’s Ross and Rachel if you didn’t think Ross and Rachel should actually be together. The show has become more Scrubs-like as the seasons have progressed (more totally out there flights of fancy humor) but the writing remains razor sharp. What other show has hilarious lines such as “You two have fun talking like Scott Caan’s groomsmen.”  Again, you must watch.

People, people, people. What is going on? Why oh why is Nashville (Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC) on the bubble? Why aren’t you watching the best new show of the season? This is starting to remind me of Lone Star. Talk to me.  Why aren’t you watching?

That’s all for today. Remember to follow my blog so you will know every time I have a new post. And on Thursday I’ll have this week’s best familiar faces and quotes so if you’re heard a great quote or seen a familiar face email me about them through my contact page.

The TV Gal Character Relocation Program

Photo by: Timothy White/NBC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

We are a few weeks into the new television season and I believe it is time to activate the TV Gal Character Relocation Program (CRP). In the CRP, I sweep in and pluck good characters from bad shows and relocate them to a new series where their talents will be put to the best use. Really, it’s a public service.

Here are the current candidates:

Shania (Bebe Wood) on The New Normal to Glee:  The New Normal makes an Aaron Sorkin show look subtle. But aside from all the pontificating,  my main problem with the show is that it’s not funny. And, you know, I like my comedies to be funny. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I missed something and the The New Normal is actually supposed to be a half-hour drama.  But Wood is fabulous. Her impersonation of Little Edie from Grey Gardens was one of the best things I have seen on TV this year.  Let’s send Shania to Glee, another Ryan Murphy show which sure is uneven in quality but at least when it’s good, it’s very, very good. Shania could be a child prodigy who becomes the newest member of New Directions. Sure that’s a bit of an outlandish plot but is it anymore outlandish than Kurt landing a job with Vogue.com? I don’t think so.

Louis (Michael Urie) on Partners to New Girl:  Urie is trying his best with material he’s given. But honestly if you close your eyes and just listen to the show, it’s as if you’re watching a really bad version of Will & Grace. Same set-up (My analogy: Ali is to the jewelry design business as Grace was to the interior design business). Same jokes. Same elevator, even. Just a lot less charm. Louis could move into the apartment on The New Girl. He could talk fashion and, more specifically belts, with Schmidt while Nick and Winston could convince him to take his shtick down a notch or two. Now I would love to save Wyatt (Brandon Routh) too but, unfortunately, the CRP only allows me to save one character per show.

Miles (Billy Burke) on Revolution to Homeland: I’m exhausted by the fact that Revolution has been picked up for a full season.  I was really hoping the show would just go quietly to that great TV season pass manager in the sky. But no, now I’m going to have to keep up with its gaping plot inconsistencies and bad acting. Bill Burke is a great actor who has done a number of wonderful guest arcs (most recently as the nefarious Phillip Stroh on The Closer). The man deserves to be on an Emmy winning drama. On Homeland he could play a CIA agent who believes Carrie and helps bring Brody down. And then he could win an Emmy for his performance. See how well this could work out?

Dr. Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford) on The Mob Doctor to Grey’s Anatomy:  Seattle Grace needs a few new doctors and, given The Mob Doctor’s ratings, Dr. Robinson could be available very soon. Here at TV Gal, we leave no one from Friday Night Lights behind.

Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) on Guys with Kids to The MiddleI’m delighted to have Vanessa Huxtable back on TV again. Now let’s get her on a show that’s actually funny. Marny could be one of the Heck’s new neighbors. She and Frankie could become friends. Maybe she could even help Frankie find a new job.

Which characters would you enter into the CRP and where would you relocate him or her? Talk about it below.

Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge

Last week, two shows totally tried to fake out viewers. On Revenge, the nighttime soap tried to convince viewers that Victoria Grayson was dead. While I believed there was no way that the series would kill off a character as great as Victoria, it was a very nice touch to not list Madeleine Stowe in the opening credits. It didn’t fool me, but I appreciated the effort and attention to detail.

I’m kind of disappointed that the alliance between Victoria and Emily was so short-lived. I loved the idea of the two former frenemies being in cahoots together. I do want everyone to know that Revenge is currently in my “Could So Easily Go Off the Rails” file. Revenge is great because of its over-the-top line delivery and plot twists. The show is so much fun. But I’m concerned it could start racing through plot twists and character reveals. (We’ve seen this happen before on many shows including Heroes). If Daniel is going to be evil, let him be evil. And please find some way to make Ashley useful to the plot. The show hasn’t seemed to know what to do with her since the beginning.

On Grey’s Anatomy, the show spent the entire hour trying to convince us that Arizona was dead but we’ve all watched TV long enough to know that unless there’s a funeral, he/she is probably not dead. (Unless, of course, you’re a show like Revenge when they can say you’re dead,hold a memorial services and you’re still not dead).  I knew we were going to see Arizona in the closing seconds of the episode. I holding out judgement of the Arizona as an amputee story line until I see tonight’s episode. The premiere didn’t really work for me for three main reasons:

  1. I simply can’t get too worked up about Mark Sloane dying. I never really bought Mark and Lexie as some great star-crossed couple and I’m really not that sad that McSteamy is gone.
  2. It’s annoying that now Meredith is the one terrorizing the interns. Medusa? Really? Another sign that it’s time for a show to end is when they pull an old plot line out of the bin and try to recycle it.
  3. I’m saddened by what’s become of Miranda Bailey. I’m glad she now knows that her nickname is Booty Call Bailey but the Miranda I knew would never have let it get to this point.

That’s all for today. Make sure to follow my blog so you know every time I have a new post.  And if you see a familiar face or hear a great quote of the week, definitely email me about it through my contact page.