Craig Sjodin/ABC
Sandra Gonzalez
November 02, 2011 AT 11:51 PM EDT

At just around 10 million viewers per episode this season, ABC’s The Middle is certainly one of the network’s most quiet hits.

But docile as fans of show might be (it doesn’t blow up Twitter during every episode), the show’s youngest star, Atticus Shaffer, says that doesn’t mean the comedy’s blue collar, heart-filled humor doesn’t hit close to home for many. “It’s something kids and adults can relate to because it is so real,” he says. “People can relate to being tight on money and then the dryer just got destroyed or the dishwasher just exploded.” And it’s what The Middle does well. “They’re not some family that lives in upstate New York and they’re magically making money from something. It’s completely different from that. It’s real and it has heart and feeling.” 

Tonight’s episode continues the trend. In it, Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Shaffer) find themselves in possession of their aunt’s cell phone after it accidentally ends up in a bag of old knick-knacks she gives the pair, and they quickly abuse their new gadget. “They kind of go on a phoning/texting craze and rack up the phone bill, of course. And then they try to cover that up and fix that,” he says.

The experience will carry equal parts lessons and laughs, a mix that’s enables the show to address growing up in a subtle and realistic way, he says. It’s a process he’s enjoyed seeing in Brick, who is already wise beyond his years. “With age comes wisdom, and I feel like [Brick] was intelligent to begin with and he’s become moreso throughout the years. As I have learned, he has also learned. So what’s cool is each season, it’s not just a giant ellipses, it’s in-time,” he says. “I’ve just seen him be more wise about life, if you will.”

Speaking of beyond his years…

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @EWSandraG

(Erin Strecker contributed to this report.)

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