15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Malcolm in the Middle’
It was January 9, 2000, and the world was still exhaling with relief from the whole Y2K thing not happening when Fox premiered a brand new American comedy show that would change sitcoms forever. Malcolm in the Middle, the show about a brilliant boy and his very average lower-middle class family, was a surprise hit, and all the studios who thought it wouldn’t work ended up eating humble pie because, to this day, it’s still a blast to watch. And it took a lot of dominos falling the right way to give us Bryan Cranston covered in bees...
It’s An Extreme Version of the Creator’ s Family
As Linwood Boomer told the New York Times, back when the show first aired, it was “a gigantically exaggerated and self-serving version” of his childhood. He grew up with three brothers — he was the second youngest, like Malcolm (initially) — and had a strict mother who got him into a gifted program at school. Even the pilot’s opening scene, where Lois shaves Hal’s back, is taken from Boomer’s own upbringing. “My mother was very no-nonsense,” Boomer said. “Who could blame her? She was working while trying to keep up with four destructive and always hungry boys.”
That Wasn’t Bryan Cranston’ s Back Being Shaved in the Pilot
While Cranston performed most of his stunts and general shenanigans on the show, the glue used to add some extra hair onto his back caused havoc with the shaver. As a result, they had to do a casting call for “hairy backs” to get someone with a similar body size as Cranston.
The Parental Nudity Controversy
Boomer revealed to the L.A. Times that he was a bit shocked when some writers from the Television Critics Association in Pasadena were “bothered” by scenes in which the parents walked around naked in their own house. “I actually was stunned,” Boomer admitted. “It never occurred to me that you shouldn’t be naked in your own house. You spend all that money for a house, for crying out loud.”
RIP, Laugh Tracks
Unlike other sitcoms of the era, the show was shot single-camera style, broke the fourth wall as a narrative device, used slow-motion and digital effects (sparingly, we should note) and wasn’t filmed in front of a live audience. Most importantly, it flipped the bird at the insufferable laugh track — helping depopularize the hacky sitcom gimmick.
It’s the Only Show to Win a Grammy for a Ska Punk Song
Arguably one of the best theme songs in television history, They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me” was so successful that it won a Grammy, which is a pretty remarkable feat for a ska punk song.
‘ Malcolm in the Middle’ Influenced the MCU
Not only does episode six’s opening title sequence of Marvel’s WandaVision feature the same font as Malcolm in the Middle, but it also uses the sitcom’s fourth wall-breaking style and lets Wanda’s boys drive the narrative.
While folks were giggling uncomfortably at the quirky family and calling them hilariously dysfunctional, Jane Kaczmarek, who played the family’s fiery mother, Lois, disagreed with part of that assertion. In an interview with The Independent, the actress explained, “People would say, ‘They’re such a dysfunctional family,’ and I would think, ‘Are you kidding me? They sit down for dinner together every night! Those kids don’t get away with anything. This is a highly functioning family. They’re mean, loud and aggressive — but they’re highly functioning.’”
The Filming of the Final Scene Was Equal Parts Gross and Emotional
It’s the scene in the finale where the family gets covered in gooey garbage. Boomer, who directed the episode, said that the entire crew and even office members started “gravitating onto the soundstage,” and by the time they shot the last scene, there were 150 people standing around, watching. “It was like having a studio audience for the first time,” Boomer said.
Kaczmarek also remembered the absurdity of the moment: “I don’t know how to describe it, but we were literally covered in brown gunk while saying all these very emotional things to each other. That made it even more absurd and even more dear and just pure Malcolm.”
‘ What Won’t Bryan Do?’
As we’ve mentioned, Cranston did a lot of bizarre stunts during Malcolm in the Middle’s run, and it all sprang from a game the producers played where they would come up with the most colorful and physically humiliating things for Cranston’s character Hal to do. Calling it, “What Won’t Bryan Do?,” the game continued until the bees episode, at which point they pivoted to “What Can't Bryan Do?” — a new game where they got the actor to perform things like roller-dancing and painting using his not-so-hairy body.
Frankie Muniz Was More Focused on His Pizza Hut Commercial Than His Audition
During an interview, the actor recalled that he was in New York at the time doing five to six auditions a day. “I was supposed to be filming a Pizza Hut commercial and had to be on set at 12 o’clock,” Muniz explained, “but my audition was at 12 o’clock.” He said he “leapt through” his audition, barely even trying because he was “just anxious to get out the door to this Pizza Hut commercial because that was my big break.” Little did he know that he’d soon be able to buy his own Pizza Hut franchise if he wanted to.
Kaczmarek Had to Find Creative Ways to Hide Her Pregnancies
The actress told The Independent that two of her kids were born during the show’s run. “The favorite trick was laundry baskets,” Kaczmarek revealed. “They’d cut a hole in a laundry basket and put it over my stomach. It’d look like I was holding the laundry in front of me, but it was hollowed out to accommodate my girth.” They also tried to cover her growing stomach by putting her in a tub filled with bubbles, but that just ended up making her itchy.
Its Ever-Lasting Sociopolitical Relevance
It’s been pointed out that Malcolm in the Middle is in many ways a “socialist masterpiece” in its portrayal of meritocracy being BS, and wage labor under capitalism being brutal and corrupt. Indeed, the family’s general position is bleak, and it’s in no way your classic rags-to-riches story. The boys even have a poster of the early 1990s sitcom Dinosaurs in their room — the anti-capitalist show about exploitation and corruption.
Cranston Is Trying to Helm a Revival
Cranston seems adamant about the possibility of a revival: “I told Linwood this thing still resonates. I want to pull him out of retirement and have him write a reunion movie. If we were to produce a Malcolm in the Middle 20 years later show, we’d absolutely contact every single crew member to come back because that’s the family. I’m going to keep working on him. I think I can convince him. Like a good wine, it endures. It passes the test of time. It’s a classic story and series, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
An Emmy Award-Winning Episode Was Written By a 11-Year-Old Girl
Alexandra Kaczenski, the niece of the show’s costume designer Heidi Kaczenski, visited the set with her aunt frequently and ended up pitching and writing an outline for the episode in which Lois imagines her life with daughters instead of sons. She got a story credit, with the episode going on to win an Emmy for Best Editing.
If Aaron Paul Had His Way, the Famous Breaking Bad Duo Would Have Started Working Together on ‘Malcolm in the Middle’
Before Christopher Masterson got the role of Francis, Paul was pining for the part. In a Reddit AMA, he elaborated: “The funny thing about that is a lot of people thought I auditioned for Francis, but in reality, they never would see me. I read the pilot of Malcolm in the Middle because it was sent to me, and I desperately wanted to audition, but they kept passing me.”
Still, even without Paul, the show somehow managed to (unintentionally) dip its toe in the Breaking Bad universe.