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DVD Review

DVD cover

Malcolm in the Middle
The Complete Second Season


Starring: Jane Kaczmarek, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Masterson and Justin Berfield
Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 12
Available 29 October 2012

There are some shows which, when they were first shown, seemed to be great television, but which suffer from the passage of time. Most of the time this is down to outdated cultural references or poor writing which, in retrospect, was always there. It takes a special sort of show to remain funny a decade or two later and Malcolm in the Middle succeeds where many have failed.

Malcolm in the Middle: The Complete Second Season has found its way on to DVD in a four disc set which contains all of that season's twenty-five shows. The last disc has a picture gallery as the set's only extra.

The multi-award winning show originally ran for seven seasons between 2000 and 2006, with the same central characters throughout. Although, given its title, the focus of the show would seem to be the child genius, Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) this is really an ensemble show. Malcolm is the third of four sons in an American dysfunctional family; because of his intellect he attends a special class at school, think The Big Bang Theory: the middle school years.

His oldest brother, Francis (Christopher Masterson) is sent away to military school leaving Malcolm as the middle son. Malcolm is also in the middle as much of the show is from his perspective and he would often break the forth wall talking directly to the audience.

Malcolm’s mother, Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) is like an exasperated wild lioness, scary in her forthrightness, she is a constant battle against the innate chaos the three boys exude and having to deal with her husband, Hal (Bryan Cranston), who is many ways more chaotic than the boys. Full of self-confidence and a deluded sense of his own abilities, many of the stories revolved around Hal's antics as much as it did the boys.

Of the remaining brothers left at home Reese (Justin Berfield), is small minded, dim and petty who gets his kicks out of torturing his younger siblings, the youngest Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan), character is initially bordering on the moronic, though as the seasons progressed the writers provided him with a level of animal cunning.

With this mix of very differing personalities and temperaments in one family is rich comedy soil, however, it only really works because of the sharp wit of the show’s creator, Linwood Boomer and the host of writers which worked on the show, who were always able to show the love the family had for each other regardless of the absurd situations which would occur in their lives.

Overall, the half hour shows were standalone stories, the only continuity the show had was created to cope with the aging of the young cast, which were moved to appropriate higher schools when they could no longer play a younger age. As for Louis and Hal, they remained locked in a relationship both deeply in love, even though Hal remained little more than a child in a man’s skin.

Thankfully the DVD has the show as it was originally broadcast, without a laughter track, a device which has ruined more than one show, if you don’t believe me try and watch MASH with the laughter track cackling at you.

The show created an everyman working class family, dysfunctional, living often on the edge of financial ruin. The show never gives them a surname or tells us where they live, extending their universal feel, so the show remains as funny today as when it was first show.


Charles Packer

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