Our mornings on workdays are not always fun and breezy. I usually don’t wake up until I had my first cofffee and we’re not always energised to get to work. Even if our desks are right behind us. But we found a way to make mornings fun. We watch an easy sitcom. Is Malcolm in the Middle an easy sitcom? Yes. But it’s also brilliant. Why do we watch scenes from a family’s life in the 2000s, when we don’t even live that kind of life?
The Dynamics of Brothers
It’s a coincidence, but neither of us (my guy and me) have brothers. I have observed sibling-relationships, but I’ve never had to deal with annoying brothers. Malcolm in the Middle shows us what it might have been like, and frankly: we laugh, but we’re also happy we did not have brothers like in the series. (Or kids like this…)
Malcolm being the middle brother is a bit of a red herring. There are actually four brothers: the eldest is off to military school. Then there is Reece, who is not so smart and Dewey, the youngest brother, who at first comes of as odd. Malcolm sits between Reece and Dewey. The three younger boys adore their eldest brother, a rolemodel who doesn’t conform. This may inspire them to do stupid things. And even Malcolm, the genius, can’t escape doing the stupid stuff kids do. But because this is a sitcom, their antics are larger than life. They burn down someone’s home in a hilarious way. Of course: it is never funny to burn someone’s home and endanger their pet. But this is tv, so we can laugh, in a horrified way.
It starts with the parents
So let’s talk about the parents who have to deal with all this. They are Hal and Lois, fallible and funny, but loving. It’s hard being a parent! And a partner! And do all the chores in the house! Then on top of this they have 4 boys who make their lives just that little bit more strained. There is one scene where Hall examines Reece’s report card and admires it. Not for the grades, but for the way Reece has altered it. So much better than the last time. They still end up grounding Reece. But they see something of an improvement and they like that.
This is where we find common ground, watching Lois and Hal. We just have a dog and a kitten instead of kids. Lois and Hal are just muddling through their busy lives. Even after all these years, they are still in love and attracted to each other. Is it their fault the kids are they way they are? I’m not sure. They provide a safe home and they stand up for their kids when they are threatened by an outsider. But it is their sweet little scenes that I like. Hal sitting naked on the sofa, waiting for Lois to come home, only to have her sigh and say that the kids will be home in 10 minutes. Hal is not put off, but sees it as a challenge. It’s adorable.
It’s not that long ago …
Most shows from an earlier decade (or two) feel like they are ancient. Friends got flack for Ross’s attitudes (which where equally wrong – thus funny – at the time of broadcast). And I guess today Malcolm in the Middle would not be made the way it was back in the 2000s. There is an episode where Reece, a minor, makes money by ballroom dancing with desperate older women. It’s on the edge, but it really makes you cringe a little bit. But it’s still funny, because of the cringe. It makes you realise that some things are not okay, even if they are funny. Or because it is funny!
There are 151 episodes to go through. We are practically binging this by watching one epise every day. We love the silly humour, the frankly intricate storylines and the clever way the story is told. In one episode we counted at least 5 storylines, woven together brilliantly in 22 minutes. Sometimes the humour is a throwaway line ‘No one goes to the park anymore since they fixed the lights’ – a short story in itself, as the parents look for their missing kids, who are presumably out to have fun, which could have been had in a park without lights. It’s dense and engaging. I’ll be sorry if we get to the end.