Thought people might be interested in hearing the origin of MITM. Linwood Boomer originally wrote the pilot episode as a writing sample. Hollywood TV writers routinely write what are called "Spec Scripts" to use as samples when they're looking for work. Sometimes the scripts are written as episodes of existing shows, and sometimes they are original material. But they are almost never produced.
Linwood Boomer had worked as a TV writer for some time but felt that he needed a fresh sample, so he wrote a pilot script based on his childhood. He never thought it would be produced, but when his agent read it, he said, "Why not try to sell it?"
Most TV shows are not created on spec. They come about when an established writer with a development deal with one of the major studios pitches an idea to his/her studio. If the studio likes the idea, they pitch to networks. If a network likes the idea, it hires the writer to write a pilot script. If they like the script, they fund the production of pilot episode, and if they like the episode they put the show on the air.
But at every stage of this process, the network and studio give the writer notes. They give notes on the pitch and notes on the script. They may push the writer to cast certain actors or to hire a certain director. The script goes through multiple rewrites, even once the episode is in production. All of the notes are given by people who are not writers, actors or directors, but businesspeople. And as a result, the script often gets steered more and more towards the lowest common denominator. This is why there is so little truly original content on television. A writer friend of mine who has gone through this process once described it as being like a meteor coming into the atmosphere. You're lucky if even one pebble remains by the time it hits the ground.
But MITM managed to avoid most of this. The script drew the attention of Tracy Katsky, then a development executive at Regency Television, who would later go on to high-ranking jobs at HBO, Fox, and Nickelodeon - as well as marrying Linwood Boomer. MITM became Tracy's pet project and she successfully sold it to Fox TV. She also shepherded it through the production process with minimal tampering. The show had a relatively low profile and Fox paid little attention to the project. As a result, Linwood was able to shoot his pilot virtually as written, with almost no notes or changes by the network.
The result is what was widely considered one of the best pilots of all time. I personally remember viewing the pilot shortly before a meeting with Tracy Katsky, not long before the show was to begin airing. I was blown away. My writing partner and I were certain that the show would be a hit, and it was. Unfortunately, we didn't get hired on the staff at the time, but we did get a chance to contribute several years later, when we pitched the episode that would become "Future Malcolm."
It's just amazing to see what happens when you actually let a creative person see his vision through with minimal interference. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often in Hollywood. But when it does, you often get a gem like "Malcolm in the Middle."