[aimage=left]http://www.cybersplat.co.uk/cms/fox.jpg[/aimage]LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Although it hasn't exactly set the Nielsens afire in the past couple of years, "Malcolm in the Middle" will return for a seventh season in 2005-06.
FOX announced the pickup Friday (April 1), and as other news outlets have reported on it as well, it's a pretty safe bet the network isn't playing an April Fool's joke on the show's cast and crew. Separately, "Malcolm" creator Linwood Boomer has signed a new two-year contract with Regency TV, which produces the series.

"We couldn't be prouder and happier to have one more year to annoy people," Boomer says.

Like a lot of comedies, "Malcolm" has struggled in the ratings this season. The show draws only about 5.8 million viewers per week, down significantly from the 8 million-plus viewers it averaged last season. A good portion of that drop can probably be attributed to the show's shift to an earlier timeslot, but its audience is now smaller than that of the network's other single-camera comedy, the perpetually fretted-about "Arrested Development."
Reports in the Hollywood trade papers hint that next season may be the last for "Malcolm in the Middle." Boomer's new deal with Regency calls for him to develop new projects while continuing to oversee the current series.

The series has won five Emmys since debuting in January 2000, including one for Boomer's pilot script and two for director Todd Holland. It also won a Peabody Award in 2001.