Over the years, TV spinoffs have served as a tried and true method of continuing a franchise’s success and fandom long after the original series has ended. But these plans don’t always end up working out, which was the case for The Middle and the Sue Heck spinoff that was in the works back shortly after the ABC sitcom concluded its nine-season run in 2018. And while other failed spinoffs like The Farm had its pilot worked into the final season of The Office, there’s no way to watch Sue Heck’s next journey unless the shot pilot randomly appears on HBO Max someday.
You may be wondering what exactly was the Sue Heck spinoff and why did it never end up coming to ABC or any other network looking for a clever and family-centered sitcom. Below we will break down what the show would have been about, how far it got into production, and the events that transpired before it wasn’t picked up to continue the story started on The Middle all those years ago.
The Middle Series Finale Aired In May 2018
Before we get into what the Sue Heck spinoff was going to be about we first need to dive into how things played out for the Hecks during the series finale of The Middle back in May 2018. While preparing to set off for Africa, Sean Donahue (Beau Wirick) finds the snow globe Sue (Eden Sher) left for him and decides to the go back and tell her how he really feels. The family has already left on their road trip by then but Sean chases after Sue and finally catches up with her and the two share a long-awaited kiss.
The two-part series sendoff concludes with a flash-forward of Sean and Sue happily married but -- according to Frankie's explanation -- only after the two experience years of ups and downs with their on-again, off-again relationship. And this is presumably where the Sue Heck spinoff would come in and fill in the gaps.
The Sue Heck Spinoff Was Officially Announced In August 2018
Not long after The Middle aired its final episode, word began to spread that a Sue Heck spinoff was in the works at ABC. Besides the fact that the show would follow Sue, details about the spinoff or even when it would take place were essentially non-existent at that point, but that would change in a matter of months.
In August 2018, ABC revealed that the Sue Heck spinoff was in active development as well as the basic premise of the show, which would have followed Sue between the events of The Middle and the flash-forwarded that concluded the original show. The show would have been set in Chicago and centered on the Heck daughter as she pursued her career and a new life in the Windy City.
The Spinoff Was Given The Title Sue Sue In The City In October 2018
In early October 2018, the Sue Heck spinoff of The Middle was officially given the title Sue Sue in the City (a play on the character’s legal name in the original series) and would focus on the character as she worked at a Windy City hotel. But that wasn’t the only thing that was confirmed at the time, as Brad Bottig (Brock Ciarlelli), Sue’s former boyfriend-turned-bestie was also set to join in on the fun and play an integral role in the Chicago adventures.
Shortly after the reveal of the official title and inclusion of Brad Bottig, it was also announced that Saturday Night Live alum Finesse Mitchell had been cast in a series regular role, per TVLine. If the show would have been picked up, Mitchell would have portrayed a character by the name of Hudson, who was described by TVLine as a big-hearted bartender at the same hotel where Sue was to work.
The Sue Sue In The City Pilot Was Shot Around That Time
Although the Sue Sue in the City pilot has never seen the light of day (and who know if it will), those who worked on the episode written and produced by The Middle creators DeAnna Heline and Eileen Heisler, specifically Brock Ciarlelli, thought highly of the premise and tone of the show. During a June 2020 Instagram Live broadcast, Ciarlelli, who as you’ll remember was to reprise his role as Brad Bottig, described the project as fun and fabulous but that things just didn’t work out, stating:
The unfortunate thing is it was such a good pilot but the timing of it just wasn’t on our side. And that’s just what happens. I think it this industry a lot of times, no matter how good something is… timing and luck both have to be on your side, and unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t on our side for it to all pan out.
Despite that, Brock Ciarelli told fans of The Middle to rest assured as the spinoff series was going to be cool and that the pilot, which featured his character coming in to serve as Sue Heck’s emotional support in Chicago, was funny.
ABC Decided To Pass On Sue Sue In The City In November 2018
As Brock Ciarelli alluded to in the June 2020 Instagram live broadcast, Sue Sue in the City ended up not getting a season order from ABC when the broadcast network passed on the pilot in November 2018. No reason for ABC’s decision was given at the time, but Deadline reported that the network didn’t really have a major need for 30-minute comedy shows in late 2018 considering shows like Splitting Up Together and Schooled were filling up those spots, though both were later cancelled.
Warner Bros. TV, who produced the Sue Sue in the City pilot, reportedly approached other networks in hopes of selling the series, but nothing ever came of these discussions and the project died a quiet death in late 2018.
And that catches up with the short life and death of Sue Sue in the City, the continuation of the adored family comedy The Middle. And while we will probably never get to see the offshoot of the ABC series, we can always go back and watch the original on HBO Max, where it doesn’t seem to get the love as it deserves.