I think I like The Middle a tad bit more than Modern Family. Even though eccentricities abound, The Middle isn't trying to be perverse or "wink, wink". While Modern Family has The Office as its idol, The Middle seems to be looking up to Malcolm in the Middle. Not only are the titles pretty much the same, but one of the kids, Atticus Shaffer, seems to be an imperfect clone of Erik Per Sullivan. Of course, The Middle is a much gentler version of Malcolm. The mom is sweet and earnest, played to perfection by Patricia Heaton, the children more normal. Although, the writers seem to be determined to have at least two abnormal, Aspergey kids: Sue is a clueless loser (literally a loser as she can't seem to get in on any reindeer games) and Brick is that weird kid in class you must avoid at all cost. Brick is so weird (just in case you don't get it), he whispers words to himself. Sorry, writers. That just ain't working. The whispering thing is so forced, it instantly reminds you that you are watching a TV sitcom instead of just enjoying yourself.
What does work is Eden Sher's Sue. I have to agree with everyone that Eden is a genius. In someone else's hands, Sue would be like Brick, totally unbelievable. But Eden makes Sue's defects so natural, so endearing, so real. And it's nice not to have a smart aleck teenager. I mean, Sue actually asks her mom for advice! She actually likes her mom!
I also like the writing. More often than not, the stories develop in an unexpected, fun way that keeps you on your toes. It's a mature kind of writing, written by people who aren't enamored by their own writing or feel obligated to do back flips off cliffs. They just know how to write and I really love the nimble way they avoid the usual sitcom pratfalls.