The Success of Malcolm in the Middle

What makes a TV show “The most successful show of all time?”  It could be measured in the TV show having the most produced episodes.  It could be measured in which show created the most income. How well the show provides entertainment along with information. It could be measured successful by having the highest ratings from the general public due to the Nielsen Ratings or to reviews on IMDb. It could also be measured with having the most awards, how well the show engages the audience and how easily detachable the content is.  Malcolm in the Middle is one of the greatest shows  because it provides all of these features of success.

Malcolm in the Middle matched the standards of all successful television shows with running for seven seasons from January 9, 2000 to May 14, 2006 with 151 episodes produced. Continuing to stay on the air for seven seasons is a remarkable milestone for most sitcoms. As Malcolm and his family started to become less of a popular show its network, Fox, shuffled the shows air time repeatedly to make room for other shows. On January 13, 2006, Fox announced that the show would be moving to 7:00 pm on Sundays which would be happening on January 29, 2006. After the ratings started to drop as the seasons went on, the network decided to make a change. The 151st and final episode aired at 8:30 pm (the show’s original time slot) on May 14, 2006. Where the show finally came to it’s end and was viewed by 7.4 million.

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 Nielsen Ratings of Each Season

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 4.40.47 PMMalcolm in the Middle wasn’t a cheap and easy show to produce which provided to the unbelievably successful ratings the show received. Picking up the young star, Frankie Muniz, after seeing him air in one episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer  earned him an audition for the show. It easy to see how profitable the show was during the first few seasons with just the salary cap of its cast.

 “In 2000, when the first episode ever aired, Muniz was earning around $30,000 per episode. He was only 14… Over the next six years and seven seasons of the cult comedy, Frankie Muniz would see his wages rise to more than $50,000 per episode in seasons two and over the $100,000 per episode mark by season five. It is widely believed by season seven, Muniz was earning $150,000 per episode. He wasn’t even 20…” – The Lad Bible

Another reason the show was so successful was because of the entertainment provided due to the fact the show was also filmed in single camera style. This was a new and effective look for sitcoms in this age, but came with a price. It provided a clean, more movie-like look; fewer standing sets meaning more mobility between shots with things like panning; light can be changed each shot and the show can more easily handle visual effects. The show also has a more realistic vibe to the way it’s filmed making you feel more absorbed in the scene. The bad parts about filming with a single camera is a higher expense which means a greater chance of cancellation. As said by TV.com“Current(-ish) multi-camera comedies include How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, and pretty much everything from the ’80s. Multi-cams are also infamous for incorporating laugh trackScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 9.01.05 PMs.” Malcolm in the Middle was a lot different than those multi-camera shows including the fact that it never included a laugh track. Who wants to be told when to laugh ? It not only saved the production company money from using an audiences laughter every time a joke is presented but allowed the audience to have their own perception of the extremely hilarious dialogue.

Malcolm and his family set out to capture the hearts of every viewer through audience involvement and personal identification. Closely relating each character and their growth through each season making the audience respect the show. This high involvement in Malcolm in the Middle is what made for the success of the show.  Trying to create a relationship with the audience through consubstantiality. Creating substance that every family can relate too like bathroom habits, gross brothers, ridiculous parents, sibling fights, and horrible/fun ideas kids come up with when they’re bored making up the humor of this show. A place for personal identification is with any members of a lower middle class family. Even for parents where Lois and Hal struggle to raise their boys and they don’t hold back in doing just about anything to control them. It aired for families that were starting to feel the affects of the down falling economy and for families where the lower middle class was starting to become the way of life. Malcolm in the Middle was a precursor to the recession which sprung only a year after the show ended. The sitcom did things that no other show had ever done before to relate to viewers.

The character development inside Malcolm in the Middle is what drew the millions of viewers to keep watching season after season. The Wilkersons as a family grow individually to give viewers a sense of relation through the stages of what the family is going through. Each character gave a specific viewer a certain way to feel involved in the show and feel identification to the actions of them. This only helped prove the accomplishments of the show when it started to gain a Cult following after new episodes stopped airing in 2006. Fan forum pages started to pour in along with episode guides and interviews with the cast. The show even developed its own fan site from the immense amount of viewers still interested in the show. The fans even developed a video game where you can play as Malcolm and try to stay “in-the-middle” using the left and right arrow keys while the characters say hilarious dialogue. The game is just an example of the high audience following of Malcolm and the other characters from the show even after seven seasons.

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Even Bryan Cranston was asked by IFC.com about why people should tune into Malcolm in the Middle?  His response was “It’s just good story telling. It’s funny, but it’s also poignant. It has heart, but then it goes absolutely insane. I truly believe that Malcolm is one of those rare shows that make people laugh and feel good. It’s honest. I have such pride connected to Malcolm I just feel so pleased and fortunate to have been on that show and I hope people really enjoy it.” Malcolm in the Middle will be one of the most remembered situation comedies of all time from the continuing success of the show. Bryan Cranston was able to continue his career from the famous role of Hal, who he played in Malcolm in the Middle, and move on to win an Emmy for his next role in the show Breaking Bad.

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In the end Malcolm in the Middle averaged fewer than 3.5 million viewers a week making it FOX’s lowest-rated show. It was done justice in the end when for final season they moved it back to Sundays so it can have a decent departure. Personally, I feel like that Fox and the staff decided to go out at the right time. “In fact they announced the cancellation 12 days before they moved the show back to Sundays, so really that was only done to give the show a proper farewell.”

Malcolm in the Middle was successful due to the combination of having high ratings for a long period of its seven season , 151 episode , career on television. It created enough income to feed the growing stars of Frankie Muniz and Bryan Cranston. It also created a fan base through such a deep viewer relationship with the show that it developed a Cult following. Personally, growing up watching the show Malcolm and his brothers taught me life lessons that I would have never been able to learn on my own. The show provided a cast of brothers that gave almost all of the lower middle class families something that they could find substance with. The real question for viewers like me is…Why did a show that had a high connection to its audience in such a relatable time have to lose its high ratings?

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