Malcolm in the Middle is an American animated television sitcom created by Linwood Boomer for Fox Broadcasting Company. The series was first broadcast on January 9, 2000, and ended its six-and-a-half-year run on May 14, 2006, after seven seasons and 151 episodes.
The show is about a boy named Malcolm and his dysfunctional family in the fictional town of Star City, California. The show stars Frankie Muniz as Malcolm, the third of four (later five) boys, his brothers and their parents, Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) and Hal (Bryan Cranston). The oldest, Francis (Christopher Masterson), was sent away to military school, leaving at home his three younger brothers, Reese (Justin Berfield), Malcolm and Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan), Malcolm being the middle child still at home (hence the show's title). In season four, the character Jamie (James and Lukas Rodriguez) was added to the show as the fifth son. The show's early seasons centered on Malcolm dealing with the rigors of being an adolescent and enduring the eccentricities of his life. Later seasons gradually explored the other members of the family and their friends in more depth, including others such as Craig Feldspar, Stevie Kenarban, and Stevie's dad Abe.
The series was different from many others in that Malcolm broke the fourth wall by talking directly to the viewer, all scenes were shot using a single camera and the show employed neither a laugh track nor a live studio audience, and there was no studio set for locations, but everything was shown in the real-life places. Emulating the style of hour-long dramas, this half-hour show was shot on film instead of video. Another unique aspect of the show is that the cold open of every episode is unrelated to the main story. Exceptions were episodes which were the conclusions of "two-parters"; each part two episode opened with a recap of its part one episode.
Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is the title character of the series. Malcolm is a genius, and because of this, is placed in a class for gifted students (or Krelboynes as they are known at the school). His intelligence, as well as feelings of not fitting in, and his ego are the primary causes of most problems he faces throughout the series. As the title suggests, Malcolm is the middle child of the family, third-born of four at the start of the series, later of five after the birth of Jamie and apparently six after the last episode. His best friend is Stevie, a wheelchair-using fellow Krelboyne with a severe breathing problem. Malcolm is shown to be going to classes in Harvard in the last episode, earning his way by holding down many part-time jobs.
Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) is the hot-headed and stubborn mother of Francis, Reese, Malcolm, Dewey, and Jamie, and wife of Hal. She struggles throughout the series to keep her badly behaved boys in check while maintaining a job at a Lucky Aide drugstore. She is seen by her sons as a somewhat tyrannical figure, a crazed control freak, and indeed she is, but her behavior was caused by Francis's bad behavior as a toddler.
Hal (Bryan Cranston) is the somewhat childish but caring father of Francis, Reese, Malcolm, Dewey, and Jamie and husband to Lois. He has a lighter touch with the boys than Lois, but can still hand out discipline when necessary. Hal seems constantly on the edge of some kind of breakdown; when things get to be too much, he often goes into a howling, wailing state of panic and frustration.
Reese (Justin Berfield) is the most impulsive member of the family and has little common sense. He is the older brother of Malcolm, Dewey, and Jamie and younger brother to Francis. Throughout the series, he is shown to be a bully, getting much enjoyment from the misfortune of others and handing out beatings to students at school and to his younger brothers at home. Despite being unwilling to think, he enjoys cooking and baking—which he is shown to be very talented at on many occasions—and a natural born soldier.
Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) is the youngest brother of Malcolm, Reese, and Francis. His role is usually that of the victim to his brothers. Dewey is very intelligent, like Malcolm and he is even able to fool and manipulate Malcolm in later episodes. However, his real talent lies in music. Among other accomplishments, he has composed his own opera for his classmates to perform. Despite his intelligence, he is placed in a remedial class for slower students (or Buseys) due to a misunderstanding. This does little to affect his performance, though, and he actually makes the best of the situation by acting as their self-appointed teacher. By the seventh and final season of the show, it seemed to be implied that he was no longer in the Busey class. He was the youngest for several seasons, until Jamie was born.
Francis (Christopher Masterson) is the oldest brother. Due to his extremely bad behavior, he is sent to a military school in the state of Alabama in the U.S, run by the strict Commandant Spangler (Daniel von Bargen). He is there when the series begins. Francis remains at the school until the beginning of the third season, when he has himself legally emancipated and travels to Alaska to work at a logging camp. Here he meets and marries Piama (Emy Coligado), a woman of Inuit heritage. When the camp closes, he later moves to a Wild West-themed hotel and ranch in the western U.S. called the Grotto, run by kindly but eccentric German Otto Mannkusser and his wife Gretchen. According to Hal, Francis' first words were directed at Lois: "You shut up.". He is really stubborn, and blames Lois for every bad aspect of his life and the life of his brothers.
Jamie (James and Lukas Rodriguez) is the youngest brother until the very last episode. Despite his infancy, he is already shown to have some of his brothers' habits such as stealing and rudeness to his mother. He is also the only brother who tried to kill her (by throwing down shelves to her, but she managed to roll out in the last second). His only words in the whole series were "shut up" and "Francis".
The show entered local syndication one month before the sixth season premiered on Fox. When the show entered syndication all of the TV-14 episodes had to be changed to TV-PG since they did not meet the syndication standards for a TV-14 rating. The show was launched on Nick at Nite on July 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm with an all night marathon. However, Nick at Nite used the changed ratings to keep the show family friendly and remove adult content from the episodes. When Nick at Nite pulled Malcolm it began airing on TeenNick from November 26, 2010 and continued until December 2010. On July 18, 2011, the show returned to TeenNick's line-up. On September 26, 2011, Malcolm in the Middle began airing on IFC.
In the UK, the show was originally aired on Sky1 from October 24, 2000 until December 2010, and was also shown on BBC2 from April 6, 2001 until around 2009. As of January 3, 2011, it is currently being shown on Fiver (now 5*) (at 6:00 pm and again at about 7:30 pm).
In Canada, it airs on MuchMusic on weekdays at 7|6 Central.