Malcolm in the Middle: The Best TV Family? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Malcolm in the Middle: The Best TV Family?

Comment Editor Alex Cirant-Taljaard poders if classic US sitcom Malcolm in the Middle is the best example of a TV family. Do you agree? Yes? No? Maybe? Can you repeat the question?

Who is the ultimate TV family? Many will say the Simpsons, others might argue it’s the Brockman’s of Outnumbered. Aficionados of ‘80s US sitcoms will say the Huxtables from The Cosby Show or the makeshift family in Full House. Some could even try to argue it’s the Griffin family from Family Guy, although I’m not sure why you’d want to. There are so many famous TV families, and everybody has their own opinions on who is the best. Unfortunately, I’m here today to tell you that if you named any of the above families you are wrong and your opinions are trash. So, who are the ultimate TV family? Well if you’ve read the headline of this article I’m sure you can probably piece together where my loyalties lie. Yes? No? Maybe?

It has been more than just a re-watch of one of my favourite shows, it has also been like looking back into my own childhood
Malcolm in the Middle is without a shadow of a doubt the best TV depiction of a family, and in my opinion the realest. It is a confusing and chaotic mess, a series of arguments, tantrums, and the occasional act of love. Maybe what drew me in to Malcolm in the Middle so much was the way it so eerily mirrored my own family, something I have only recently come to realise. Although the mirroring isn’t perfect (I don’t have in my family a Francis or Jaime parable), the core family unit, mum, dad and three boys, is reflected in my own life, with me taking the role of Malcolm. My mum is the de facto head of the house, I have a piano-playing younger brother, an older brother with whom I did battle constantly, and a dad who is in touch with his emotional side. My recent binge-watch of MitM has been more than just a re-watch of one of my favourite shows, it has also been like looking back into my own childhood. Although, I would at this point like to make it clear that I am not suggesting I, like Malcolm, have a genius level IQ. While I am the first in my immediate family to go to university, it’s less because of intellect and more because I didn’t really know what else to do.

Each character was fleshed out, with subtle nuances which let the characters drive the plot, not the other way around
But aside from my own emotional attachments, what is it that keeps drawing me into MitM a full 12 years after the series ended. One of the biggest reasons is how complex and endearing the characters are. It would have been so easy for the series creators to make the characters forgettable cardboard cut-outs, over-the-top stereotypes who serve no function other than as vehicles for a series of zany plots. This kind of writing can be seen in recent series of The Simpsons, where the goal seems to be trying to drop the titular family into the wackiest situations imaginable. Instead, in MitM each character was fleshed out, with subtle nuances which let the characters drive the plot, not the other way around. Take Reese for example. In the hands of lesser writers Reese could have easily been reduced to a dumb jock, a recurring antagonist and foil for Malcolm. Instead, Reese is a sensitive and emotional boy who hides behind his troublemaking persona. Take, for example, the episode where he watches pulpy day-time TV with Lois, and when Malcolm enters, rather than admit his penchant for soap operas, pretends he is being scolded by his mother. Lois, being the amazing mother she is, proceeds to tell Reese that plenty of manly man watch TV with their mums.

Malcolm in the Middle stuck to its roots, finding the joy in the quiet, mundane moments between family
These kinds of life lessons are peppered throughout MitM, and really underpin the point of the whole show. In fact, the biggest life lesson that you are taught is in the opening theme. Life is indeed unfair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be happy. Unlike other shows of a similar ilk that tried to go high-concept, MitM stuck to its roots, finding the joy in the quiet, mundane moments between family. A family whose surname is never properly (except for briefly in the pilot) disclosed, because they could be anybody’s family. They don’t live in a big house and go to exotic locations – they’re exceedingly ordinary. But it is this ordinariness which has endeared them to me so much. And while they bicker and argue constantly, one upping each other with (often disgusting) pranks, you can tell that theirs is a household full of love.

At time of writing I’ve only got the series finale left to watch, and I’ve been putting it off – I’m very keen to keep this nostalgia train going. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that, once I am done, I may find myself starting all over again a week later.

2nd Year Social Policy and Political Science student, Olympic pole-vaulting hopeful and massive liar (@alexjtaljaard)



Published

10th February 2018 at 9:00 am



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