Episodes in standard screen or widescreen?

As Bryan Cranston explains in the season 1 DVD extras, all seasons of Malcolm in the Middle were shot with the most common TV screen format in mind, the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, where the width is 1.33 times the height. However, to prepare for the more recent transition to high-definition widescreen TV, all episodes were actually shot in widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

The US season 1 DVD release from 2002 (Region 1) only has episodes in the traditional 4:3 format. But later TV broadcasts, and all the later DVD releases in Region 2 (UK, France, Germany) and 4 (Australia), have the episodes in widescreen. This obviously offers more viewing pleasure, as it expands the screen to fill more of our field of vision. However, because the Malcolm film crew concentrated more on the standard format than on the widescreen version, the wide image reveals lots of widescreen goofs. We see equipment like light stands on the sides, or screens to block or reflect the light from outside. Arms or heads of crew members show up, and sometimes even body doubles substituting for the regular actors. This can be very distracting.

The German DVD releases are unique, in that they offer the widescreen versions, but with optional black masks to block the left and right sides of the image, thus imitating standard format. They also have the original English language track, and are sold at Amazon.de (available for import to other countries).

Netflix has also recently, since October 13, 2015, shown modified widescreen episodes, where they have carefully zoomed in on and cropped the image to hide undesirable equipment.