Credit rating: 3
Characters: Frankie and Mike Heck
Show: "The Middle" (ABC)
Credit card role models: Mike Heck seems to be trying hard to be a good credit card user. Frankie is trying…less hard.
Reasoning: Two examples particularly stick out: In the episode "TV or Not TV," Frankie and Mike Heck cut their cable TV after deciding that they're spending more than they're bringing in and no longer can afford it. Very commendable. But after they win $1,000 in bingo, they face a dilemma: Should they do the responsible thing and pay off their credit card debt, or use the money to prepay their cable?
Misunderstanding each other, Mike sends $1,000 to the credit card company while Frankie sends the same thousand dollars to the cable company, prepaying their cable for a year. (And who prepays their cable TV a year ahead? If you're worried about being able to pay the cable TV bill every month, better to put the money aside where it can earn some interest for you, instead of for the cable company.)
But where Frankie really falls apart, and why the Hecks receive such a low ranking from us, is in another episode, all centered around TV, called "Royal Family." She realizes she could buy a $3,000 TV to watch the royal wedding and then return it to the store afterward, but since her credit is shaky, she can't get her own store credit card. So she opens a store credit card in her teenage son Axl's name. Axl is there and knows what she is doing, so at least she's not doing it behind his back, and she does intend to return the TV and not stick him with a $3,000 debt. Still, things that can go wrong often do, and you just don't mess around with your children's credit.