The first television show that ever spoke to me was Malcolm in the Middle. I mean that literally. That fourth-wall-breaking kid debuted in the year 2000. I was in sixth grade, and it seemed like anything was possible. I had never before seen a TV show that so exemplified what I thought was my home life. The chaos, the yelling, the pranks all felt so warm, inviting, and terrifyingly accurate.
And it wasn't just me who it had an impact on. Malcolm in the Middle was a massive hit when it premiered. Mostly because it never felt like your average sitcom. Malcolm in the Middle changed the landscape for what a sitcom could pull off in a half-hour time slot. Gone was the multicam and laugh track, and in came a new way to look at what sitcoms brought to the table.
Check out this incredibly informative video from Nerdstalgic, and let's talk after.
How Did Malcolm in the Middle Change Sitcoms?
Before Malcolm in the Middle, most sitcoms were multicamera affairs that shot in front of a live audience or used a laugh track. They were great. Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld all were able to conquer this medium. But as we moved toward the year 2000, it felt like television was about to break out of the normalcy it had settled into. It needed to be shaken up.
Enter Linwood Boomer, an actor turned writer who had staffed all over town and was famous for telling stories about his zany family. His agent eventually told him that he got so many calls about meeting with Boomer where he would crack execs up with stories about his family, that Boomer should write a script about it. He promised him he could sell it.
So Boomer went off and accidentally changed TV. He wrote a pilot that Fox bought and director Todd Holland came on to direct. It was a landmark show about a traditional sitcom family, but there were a lot of twists. The show broke the fourth wall, would be shot single-cam, and favored cinematic aesthetics.
It was visually interesting and had shots that required real execution.
Aside from all that, it was okay subverting the tropes we'd been fed so many times before. It allowed the mom to be funny, had a wild dad who was more of a shy lover, and the writing was always willing to reinvent the show season after season. The kids could grow and evolve, and the show would with them.
It took chances that were revolutionary at the time. From the season two blowing episode that used split perspectives of the mother and father, to the season four episode that imagined a gender swap for all the kids into girls, where Lois fantasizes of how much nicer girls are than boys.
They also were not afraid to tackle deep issues, with shows centered around what it's like to have a spouse that the neighbors hate, to guns, sex, and even the war in Afghanistan. All with comedy spliced into every shot.
Today, we see lots of these woven into TV shows, but none of it would have happened without Malcolm in the Middle.
Let us know what you think of the show in the comments.