'The Middle' Season 4 premiere recap: Summer fun memories with the Heck family

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"The Last Whiff of Summer," the charming, smartly written and acted Season 4 premiere episode of "The Middle," rang a familiar and very funny story.

Not-so-amazing summer

Desperate to make this an "amazing summer," the Heck family embark on a series of family adventures that everyone can enjoy.

Feeling sentimental to share all the cool things they did for entertainment when they were young (or as Axl smart-mouths, "the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth"), Heckie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn) plan their big-time with the kids.

Big-time sprinkler fun

The allure of "running through a sprinkler" or attending a drive-in movie was lost on Sue, Axl, and Brick. When mom and dad brought up the idea of a triple-feature in a "parking lot" to watch the eclectic film selections of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Serpico," and "Fiddler on the Roof," the youngsters were not impressed. Only when dad said "imagine a giant iPhone that you drive up to," did they perk up.

When mom pranced back and forth to show her little darlings the thrill of summer under a sprinkler, the "Is that all there is?" comments, along with Heaton's pathetic attempts to convince them of the sprinkler's greatness, was pure gold.

Oh, no, you didn't, Dad?

When Papa Heck did the parental unthinkable and actually told his children that one of them was his favorite (Axl), Frankie was shocked and appalled while Sue decided it was time for full-on sibling warfare.

Throughout the program, Sue (the delightful Eden Sher), did everything she could think of to get daddy's attention, including planning girlie trips, acting rebellious, getting lost at a festival, and all kinds of foolishness. The young lady was determined to make this the "summer of Sue and Dad."

Nice tomato, sonny boy

Brick, who has been exploring the wonderful world of gardening, asked to take a family road trip to a fair that was three hours away so he can enter his prized tomato in a competition.

Naturally, just like the previous events, this one was another summer bust for the Heck family. The most hilarious moment was when Axl (Charlie McDermott) tried to park his old, disgusting beater. He soon realized that the reason why other cars were smashing into his was the jalopy had been mistaken for a demolition vehicle, and he was right in the middle of all the action!

Heck family love

The finale to the hour-long premiere was satisfying with plenty of reasons to love this show. The writing and characters are realistic, and the five lead actors consistently deliver quality performances.

It was great to see the last scene wrapped up with a montage of Sue's "Dad and Me" photo memories, while the beautiful '60s classic by Chad and Jeremy, "The Summer Song," played in the background. Very nice touch and a lovely ending to the first episode of a first-rate show.

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