For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 4, 2013

The third season of "The Middle" (Warner, 2011-12, three discs, 24 episodes) has finally arrived. But it's taken longer than usual for some reason.

You know how the previous seasons of current TV series are released just as the new season starts? That didn't happen with "The Middle" last year when it began its fourth season. "The Middle" is now in its fifth season and here comes Season 3 on DVD.

This may not seem like a big deal. After all, "The Middle" is still on TV. And each year that becomes a question because it's not pulling in the numbers of other domestic sitcoms, such as the highly touted "Modern Family," which I have never warmed to.

"The Middle" is a hilarious sitcom that I find refreshingly honest in its portrayal of middle-class families in Middle America who nonetheless feel like they are living lower-class lives as they struggle to pay the mortgage and keep up with home repairs and new technology and the needs of children as they evolve into surly, ever-eating teenagers.

The oldest child, teenage Axl Heck (Charlie McDermott) is surly in the extreme, but not in an off-putting way. He's a riot. And also very recognizable if you've ever had a teen.

The middle child, also a teen, is, however, anything but surly. Sue Heck, played wonderfully by Eden Sher, is eternally, if deludedly, optimistic. And a dork. But she's the most lovable dork on TV, and perhaps the most endearing character on this show.

But then, so is Brick Heck (Atticus Shaffer), a developmentally struggling sixth-grader who is brilliant and quirky and socially inept and too narrowly focused. But he's also a charmer.

The parents of this crew are distracted and harried and occasionally hysterical Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), and her laid-back, easygoing, resigned-to-his-fate Mike Heck (Neil Flynn), and they are perfect, both individually and as a couple.

The actors performing as the Heck family have genuine chemistry, and a lot of rotating occasional characters are also perfectly cast. My favorite? Youth minister Tim Tom (Paul Hipp), who sings spontaneous songs to teens and comically helps them find their way. His rapport with Sue is particularly touching.

And best of all, it may just be the cleanest show on television right now.

Have I made this too much of a hard sell? If so, sorry. But I love this show. And if you were watching it, you would too.

So let's get Season 4 on DVD so that we're on track for Season 5 next year.