Malcolm in the Middle had its series finale tonight. It was a good show, but it's hard to categorize. I think what kept it from being a great show is that it tried to appeal to everyone, leaving it with stretches of time where it's definitely targetting an audience that doesn't include you. There was definitely a lot of clever writing there, and Bryan Cranston, the actor who played the father Hal, did an excellent job throughout the series. He should have an award.
One thing that I found interesting about the show is the fact that the main family is definitely hovering around lower-middle class. I found that very identifiable. In TV and movies, you tend to see people who are either very poor and that's one of the central themes of the film, or people who are at least reasonably affluent, even when they pretend not to be. Take the examples of The Simpsons, Friends, and Seinfeld. The main characters in all three of those shows have massive homes. Making ends meet has been the plot of several Simpsons episodes, but as Grimey notes, their home is practically a palatial mansion by comparison. When an outside shot of Malcolm's home is shown, the grass is dead, it's not kept up, it's small, and it's messy, but it's done very realistically, establishes the tone of the series, and reminds me a lot of home when I was younger. It was never intrusive, and walked a line between interesting backstory and an important part of the plot. I just find that appealing, because it's so rare that I actually identify with the characters or setting of stories that I watch.
Oh well. The show was good, perhaps not great, and if there's any show on TV that I watch consistently that I could afford to lose, it's Malcolm. But, I've seen every episode, and if I had missed one, I'd certainly go to the effort of tracking it down. It's still consistently funny.
A few of my favorite Malcolm in the Middle moments:
“If we only looked at things we could afford, we’d never look at anything but crap.” —Lois
“Piyama, I want to make sure I have the right pastels. What color are your nipples?” —Otto
“They say we’re stubborn; they say we’re closed-minded. But I say there’s nothing closed-minded about shunning ideas that make you scared and uncomfortable! And who cares if they say we’re afraid of life? Life is scary! Life is things… eating things. Well, I say, let everyone out there go ahead and eat each other.” —Hal