The Wilkerson’s Narrative Structure

Malcolm in the Middle has a narrative structure that is unique to its genre and it provides a character to viewer relationship like no other show. Featuring the Wilkersons through their dramatic lives that involve problems and situations that an average American family would share. The genre that suits this TV show would be a Family Sitcom. Viewers anticipated Malcolm in the Middle every week for the 30 minutes of slapstick humor that the family brought while the show aired. The show always presents a minor enigma or problem for Malcolm and usually for another member of the family which is resolved by the end of the show. Creating a “warm” feeling for families watching when a lesson or moral is learned from each episode. Carl Reiner, the writer/director of the The Dick Van Dyke Show, said ” The successful key to a situation comedy is to create warmth which transfers to the audience” (O’Donnell, 1996).


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Character development of each member of the family is one of the main reasons this show was so popular for 151 episodes.The beginning 3 seasons really focus on Malcolm and his situations that evolve through the episode, but later in the series Malcolm’s family starts to become more important with lead roles. This becomes very evident in the start of season 5 in episode 1 “Vegas“. Before the opening credits started rolling in, the show gives a lead into the story. The lead is usually a problem presented where it creates a lack for a certain character or even the whole family. For example in Season 1 Episode 5 “Malcolm Babysits” where the whole family is forced to live in a trailer owned by Lois’s coworker, Craig, while their house is being fumigated. In Vegas, the lead has to do with Jamie since he was just born in the end of the last season. Enticing the viewer to come back from last season with questions soon to be answered about the new born baby.

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The show follows Aristotle’s narrative theory where the plot is the most important part of story. Malcolm in the Middle includes characters that are key to the plot of each individual episode which also follows Aristotle’s view of eliminating everything that doesn’t help the viewer understand the beginning, middle, and end. In some episodes there is a Hermeneutic Code, or a mystery “that is unexplained and which creates an unanswered question, often appearing at the beginning of the story, thus creating a tension that engages the audience”. The first scene after the intro is the lack where Reese keeps feeding Gordo his afternoon bacon making the rabbit way too fat for even its cage.While Dewey has to take care of Gordo, bringing him to the Junior Farmers of Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 3.30.38 PMAmerica meetings where everybody makes fun of his fat rabbit. Another lack simultaneously presented is Francis having a hard time working at the ranch. He is unable to handle all his duties even after spending a year at the farm. Hal continues to keep dreaming about a gambling slot machine where he continues to win the jackpot every time he has the dream. The show hops back over to Dewey’s dilemma at the dinner table, the farmers nationals is in Las Vegas where Dewey wanted to participate in the show until Reese ruined his chance to win. Yet when Hal hears any opportunity to get out of town and to chance his dream of winning big on the slot machine there’s no stopping the family. The main lack being presented from Malcolm. He isn’t being anymore modest than usual but he just recently got presented a state science award from the mayor which he doesn’t tell Lois about. At the dinner table when he’s getting questioned about it and Reese spills the beans about how important the award is; Lois freaks out. Malcolm fires back with “Mom it’s because you embarrass me !!!” The show slows down time and puts an emphasis on embarrass giving the feeling that all mothers would have if a son was trying to push away a mom. Malcolm even identifies with the camera yelling “ abort abort !!” like he knows what he just said is going to put him in the dumps. Giving you the subtext of Malcolm’s feelings but direct to the viewer. Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 4.27.17 PM

The middle is the continuation of these lacks presented which is very easy for the viewer to see in this series. In “Vegas”, Lois see’s Boon Vincent her favorite artist is playing in Vegas and Malcolm hates waiting for his mom to stop giving him the cold shoulder so he gets them VIP tickets for just them to go see him. Francis was supposed to fence of a well on the ranch. Otto his boss is getting frustrated with Francis’s job. On his way to the fence it, he has no idea where his boss is or where the well is so of course Francis falls through the well in the ground unexpectedly. Only to find his boss already trapped down there…While that is going on at the ranch back in Las Vegas at the Junior Farmers National competition when the judges get to Dewey and Gordo they disqualify him immediately. Reese wants to make up for disqualifying Gordo in the Pet’s competition part of the nationals event and decides to move Gordo into the market competition. Where he ends up getting first place and sold to Chez Richards, a 5 star restaurant.

The end presents a solution to the problems and enigmas of the episode. Reese has to help Dewey get Gordo back before he’s eaten. Reese and Dewey go on an excursion to get Gordo back from the kitchen of the restaurant. Reese has to pretend he’s choking where he gets pummeled by half the restaurant trying to get the food out of him which is nonexistent. Malcolm is dealing with making up for calling his mom embarrassing by seeing Boon Vincent. Lois gets to go backstage and talk with Boon for hours in his dressing room where Malcolm has to wait outside the door with Jamie. Boone teaches Lois a lesson about having sons be embarrassed by their parents and that she has to let him be free. Hal ends up finding his dream slot machine on the way home from Vegas inside a cheap 1 star casino where he wins and gets to take home a big prize of a free 2 night stay at a… motel. The prize for Hal spending half his life insurance on this trip to Vegas. Finally the last resolution is Francis learns a valuable lesson from Otto that even if he makes mistakes, working hard and learning from them is more important. The only one who makes out from the trip with a smile on their face is Lois who learned the main lesson.

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