Malcolm in the Middle: The Complete First Season (2000) – DVD Review

Malcolm in the Middle: The Complete First Season DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Series Created by: Linwood Boomer
Starring: Jane Kaczmarek, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Masterson, Justin Berfield, Erik Per Sullivan and Frankie Muniz

Features:

  • New-for-DVD Extended Pilot
  • Running audio commentary on the pilot episode and scene-specific commentary on other episodes by creator Boomer, directors Todd Holland and Arlene Sanford, writers Alex Reid and Michael Glouberman, actors Muniz and Cranston
  • Featurettes: Malcolm in the Middle: A Stroke of Genius, Malcolm Vision & Dewey’s Day Job
  • Season One Gag reel
  • Deleted Scenes with alternate show openings
  • Season One promotional TV spots

Released by: Fox
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Nope; appears in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1

My Advice: This is borderline purchase…at least rent it before you purchase

Malcolm (Muniz) is a member of a not-so-functional family. His older brother, Francis (Masterson), whom he idolizes has been sent away to military school because he was getting the reputation as a trouble maker. To make matters worse, Malcolm’s test results have shown that he is “gifted,” so he’s being taken out of the class with the “normal” kids and being placed with the “smart” ones. His reputation at school is at risk of being ruined! Can he survive this and get his life straightened out before he hits puberty?

Am I the only one that remembers a little show from the early 90s called Parker Lewis Can’t Lose? Well, if you are one of the few who can still remember that show, you might recognize the same feel in this one. The story is told from Malcolm’s point of view, so everything is skewed with the perception of a little boy who is on the verge of his early teens. He has numerous asides to the camera and the show is filled with lots of quick takes and extreme close-up shots of his family’s faces. Don’t get me wrong, the show is very well written and the humor, although extreme, is based in Malcolm’s version of reality. It’s a rather funny look at American family life at the turn of the 21st Century.

I have to admit that I had never seen this show until it hit DVD, and I’m honestly sorry I waited so long. I have no idea if the seasons following the first one are as strong as this one was, but they’ve made a convert out of me, so I hope that they are. All of the characters are very well cast, but if I think that there were standout members of the ensemble, they would have to be Kaczmarek and Muniz. Muniz has the unbelievable ability to make every take to the camera firmly ensconced in a reality, and Kaczmarek can pull off almost anything that the writers put in front of her.

The DVD is really good and what’s even better: the commentary track is excellent. You have the option to listen to the commentary with the names of the commentators flashing on the screen so you know who’s speaking when (which is good, because there’s a small army of people involved). It is very obvious all the way through that the creator feels very strongly about this material and pulled the idea from his own life experiences which, as we all know, is where the really good writing comes from. The commentaries seem to flow fairly smoothly across all three discs of this set and the cast and crew members meander in and out with as much ease. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t give you the option to see the pilot episode the way that it originally appeared on television. All you get is the new “extended for DVD” version. Not terribly put out, mind you, I just thought it a curious thing.

The rest of the special features appear on disc three of the set. Beginning with the featurette called Malcolm Vision, which is introduced by Bryan Cranston (who plays the father on the show). The featurette is basically the shots that they tried to make work for 16:9 widescreen HD-TV and how they’ve screwed them up from time to time. It is mostly shots with light stands and crew members in the widescreen shots so, it’s really only interesting if you are a filmmaking freak like I am. The next featurette, entitled Malcolm in the Middle: A Stroke of Genius is about the genesis of this series, how its creator got Fox to finally pick up the series and produce the pilot, and how (and why) they chose the actors they did to play the roles.

The last featurette is a look into the every day life of Erik Per Sullivan, who plays Malcolm’s youngest brother on the show. When he’s not working on the show or on his young acting career, he helps out with his father’s Mexican food restaurant in his hometown. What’s great about it is that it shows he’s just a normal little kid. Then you have alternate “cold opens” for the show. There are four alternate cold opens on the disc that were not used on the show. Again, these are introduced by Cranston, who explains exactly what a cold open is. On a show like this, the outtakes must be hilarious, right? Well, on this DVD, you’ve got a chance to find out: the gag reel is outstanding. The only thing wrong with it is that it doesn’t last long enough. Cranston and Kaczmarek have some hilarious moments on camera. As for the deleted scenes, there’s really nothing to them; they are too short to be able to make heads or tails of why they were cut. After all, there are only four of them.

If you’ve been watching this show from the beginning, and are a huge fan, you won’t be disappointed if you buy this one. However, anyone else will want to rent it before dropping the dough on it permanently. But regardless, the show bears checking out.

By | 2017-09-25T00:01:20+00:00 December 7th, 2003|Reviews|0 Comments

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