'The Middle': Patricia Heaton on ABC's little comedy that could

the-middle-70s-style.jpg Zap2it: How do you assess the longevity "The Middle" has had?

Patricia Heaton: I think we've always done pretty well, but it's been great to have the critical support. We started the same year "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town" started, and "Cougar Town" was the [then-new ABC sitcom] that was sort of getting all the buzz, and "Modern Family" was the one that sort of shot to the top.

We were just chugging along like the little engine that could, and it reminds me a little bit of "[ Everybody Loves] Raymond," that sort of slow and steady and upward trajectory. And that's been helped a lot by critics recognizing the show and saying, "You should be watching this." We've been really appreciative of that.

Zap2it: Creatively, what do you think the strong suit of "The Middle" is?

Patricia Heaton: The writers have done something that's very tricky, which is to do a show with funny adult humor that also has stuff for kids. There's nothing you'd ever feel really uncomfortable watching with your kids, so I think we're doing a great service for families that want to sit and watch something together.

Zap2it: Do you take the caliber of your guest stars as another measure of the show's success?

Patricia Heaton: I know! I mean, we've had amazing people. Brooke Shields was just on again, and Jane Kaczmarek and I have known each other for a long time, so it was really fun to work with her. We love having everybody.
Photo/Video credit: ABC