How original is 'Malcolm'? Eerie, Indiana
Malcolm in the Middle Voting Community Forum Episode Guide Gallery Watch & Download Episodes Home FAQ About Contact Home Store




Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 15

Thread: How original is 'Malcolm'? Eerie, Indiana

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default How original is 'Malcolm'? Eerie, Indiana




    Eerie, Indiana (NBC, 1991-92)

    More first-person narration by a teen character, weird situations and creepy characters. Postmodern, 'anything goes' leader. Very cinematic, single-camera too. But it was a horror/thriller comedy, like 'The X-Files' or 'Twin Peaks' for kids.



    Customer's comment on Amazon.com:

    "Very much in X-Files territory for kiddies [although Eerie preceded that show by two years] plus a little 'Malcolm in the middle' type sitcom as well, this was an entertaining and 'different' series in its day (1991 to 1992)"

    Episodes of Eerie, Indiana were directed by Joe Dante (the pilot shown here), director of the Gremlins movie, and ... frequent MITM directors Todd Holland and Ken Kwapis!

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 19, 2009 at 04:57 PM.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default

    MITM never did such radical deconstruction of the series as what happened in Eerie, Indiana. In this episode, Reality Takes A Holiday (1992), directed by frequent MITM director Ken Kwapis (!), the whole illusion created by the series is shattered .... or is it? Of course, the joke is the alternative reality is as constructed as the illusion.

    All actors are suddenly called by their real names, like Justin and Omri. Imagine Hal turning to us for a moment, who, despite Malcolm's protestations, shows us the whole set and crew, and tells us: "I'm really Bryan Cranston, don't believe any of this crap about Malcolm and his family"!! Very weird, but totally fascinating stuff. Hard to believe this was supposed to be a kids' show. I guess this was why it was cancelled so soon.

    Note that this predates the movie The Truman Show and all Big Brother-type reality shows by a number of years.



    Rich

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Age
    34
    Posts
    603

    Default

    Looking online it seems this is the final episode aired for the series, but 1 more episode was produced but not in the original run

    I am guessing they did a script like this because they knew it was going to be the last episode aired.

    This slightly reminds me of a part of the show Justin Berfield was on before MITM, Unhappily Ever After, where his character Ross, once sit at the dinner table with his back towards the camera, and then says "Why do I have to sit with my back to the audience?" Had nothing to do with the plot, i just always thought that was so funny/random.
    Follow Malcolm in the Middle cast members on Twitter: twitter.com/MITM/cast

    Be fans of Justin Berfeild's (Reese) new production company, Virgin Produced on Facebook and Twitter

    and while you are at it, add me on facebook and twitter

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlexTheMartian View Post
    Looking online it seems this is the final episode aired for the series, but 1 more episode was produced but not in the original run

    I am guessing they did a script like this because they knew it was going to be the last episode aired.

    This slightly reminds me of a part of the show Justin Berfield was on before MITM, Unhappily Ever After, where his character Ross, once sit at the dinner table with his back towards the camera, and then says "Why do I have to sit with my back to the audience?" Had nothing to do with the plot, i just always thought that was so funny/random.
    Hi, Alex, great deduction! You are quite right. Joe Dante was supposed to direct this final episode, but had other obligations, so just appears as "the director" in the episode. I now realize that other series also had a finale that didn't just break the fourth wall, but smashed all walls, by having the crew appear to take the set apart, the cast thanking the audience and other stuff completely obliterating the illusion. The Cosby Show comes to mind.

    The example you cite of Justin Berfield connecting with the audience, in this case in Unhappily Ever After, happens in numerous movies and series. I remember Errol Flynn in one pirate movie from the Forties or Fifties (and then I mean 'serious' entertainment, not camp like Mel Brooks or Scary Movies), declaring his eternal love and devotion to the woman he adores, then briefly turning to the camera, and adding "what I am saying!" or words to that effect, playing on his reputation as a notorious womanizer in real life!

    (Oh yes, and in the theatre, the classic Greek playwrights did it way before that, not to mention Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht).

    The final episode of Eerie, The Broken Record, broadcast more than 18 months after the series has ended, and having been on the shelf for that time, was directed by Todd Holland, of all people!

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 21, 2009 at 02:04 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    359

    Default

    Talking to the audience because of recognition that one is a 'character', is really something different. It does not bring any of the same honesty. I'm reminded of Bernie Mac who always pulls himself out of the show and talks to "America". He is tailoring his comments to the audience with any bias, deception or B.S. that might involve.

    In the classic Greek playwrights and Shakespeare, talking to the audience has an impartiality and a way of revealing a characters true thoughts. It was like a narration or what a character would say if they were talking to themselves. Malcolm is pretty unique in using it on TV

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default

    I agree with you that an 'aside' to the audience as a throwaway joke or something to break the tension, is something very different from a soliloquy which you can find in Shakespeare and other classic plays. Yes, you correctly state that these were used to reveal the character's innermost thoughts to the audience, as if s/he was thinking aloud for a moment.

    I just want to say that, while MITM fluently integrated lots of elements brilliantly, like (dis)likability of characters, smart script writing, breaking the fourth wall, slapstick, pathos, weird camera angles, flashbacks etc., Malcolm's personal bond with the audience through direct address, revealing his thoughts, doubts and motives, has been used a lot, at least since Ferris Bueller's Day Off and all the TV-sitcoms and dramedies that were sort of inspired by it.

    Apart from the ones I mentioned, there's also Saved By The Bell, which was a more conventional sitcom, but which used a number of surreal conceits.

    I think it's a bit sloppy and unfair really, to call MITM 'unique' in that respect, while just a bit of research (and working back through my memories) reveals that there were other groundbreaking shows way before that which did it.

    Here's my aside: I should also mention It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986-1990), which broke the illusion continuously, but which is not a single-camera 'cinematic' show, is not about a teen and does have a laugh track:



    A quick recap:

    Code:
    1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
           |
           V
    1988: The Wonder Years
           |
           V
    1990: Parker Lewis Can't Lose
           |
           V
    1991: Eerie, Indiana
           |                             1991: Clarissa Explains It All
           V                                            |
    1993: The Adventures of Pete & Pete                 |
           |                             1996: Bailey Kipper's P.O.V.
           V                                            |
    2000: Malcolm in the Middle <-----------------------|
           |                                                             
           V                                                             
    2003: Oliver Beene/The Pitts
           |
           V
    2005: Everybody Hates Chris
    Honourable mentions: The Gerry Shandling Show, Saved By The Bell.

    P.S. Jeff Mellman, who directed 21 episodes of MITM, also directed episodes of Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Saved By The Bell, and Oliver Beene. But the guy is extremely prolific anyway.
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 23, 2009 at 01:22 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    359

    Default

    In the clip you posted of Gary Shandling, note that he is specifically referencing the proceedings as a work of fiction. He is acknowledging the audience and that he is a character. It was the same in Saved By the Bell and most of the other examples. That is breaking the 4th wall. I would describe that clip as an aside where he breaks the 4 th wall.

    You can also have aside's or soliloquy's where the character still does not break the 4th wall. I would call this what Malcolm does. He never ever acknowledged that he is a character or this is a work of fiction. It was not Frankie talking to us, it was Malcolm. Perhaps there are other examples of this, but it is certainly rare.

    I don't think this distinction is trivial. The first is a method of almost cheap comic relief. It is poking fun at the art of theater (or filming). It is appealing to the audience as a reminder that this is supposed to be entertainment - so hey don't be too critical.

    The second is a more serious attempt to get inside the characters head. An attempt not to remind the audience this is fiction, but the opposite, to get them to better identify with the character as having real motivations and psychology.



    I looked at some of the other examples you posted and the closest thing I see to Malcolm is Parker Lewis. But notice even that, he is often really doing what amounts to a narration of events that are happening. That mechanism is little more then a substitute for not having to film additional scenes showing why things are happening. In the same situation, Malcolm would instead "whoosh" to another scene and show us. Malcolm always talks about his motivations, his beliefs or his thoughts - not events in general, not an omniscience about what other people think, and definitely not breaking the 4th wall acknowledging the audience or that this is fiction. There is one example which I mentioned a long time ago in another thread around here of Malcolm talking to the camera about events in the Beginning of episodes Lois' Birthday. I had mentioned this specifically as an anomaly for the show in which the writer seems to have messed up or sort of lowered the standards of Malcolm's asides into just mundane narration.
    Last edited by MalcolmFun; Aug 25, 2009 at 01:26 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default

    I think I now understand what you mean, but also how complex the matter is. I agree with you now about how 'Malcolm' is different, but it is a very tough distinction to make, so one that is hard to explain. Note that I found a number of critics who just said they didn't think MITM was original and exciting because we'd seen all that in Clarissa Explains It All or Parker Lewis Can't Lose.

    So there's narration on the one hand, which is the spoken equivalent of showing title cards or the 'scrolling texts' of Star Wars movies, and which is mostly voice-over (with the narrator unseen), but could be on camera. Then there's the soliloquy as in Shakespeare, which is all about thoughts, doubts and motives, and is what MITM does, though not like long monologues we get to see in plays. Finally we have mostly comical asides to the audience, which boil down to "Hey, I'm only a character and you're watching a show". They are mostly brief and inconsequential like what Alex said "Oh, I'm sitting with my back to the audience, so I'd better turn around", after which it's business as usual, or could be a consistent joke, as we see in Garry Shandling, which is more like running commentary on how such a show is written and staged.

    As I've said, it's hard to maintain this distinction, because there are hybrids. In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, it was narration, sometimes on camera, sometimes voice-over. Even early on in The Wonder Years, there was the typical introductory narration ("In 1968, I was twelve years old. A lot happened that year. Denny McLain won 31 games, The Mod Squad hit the air, and I graduated from Hillcrest Elementary, and entered junior high school."), but what was most striking was the intrusive narration used throughout, in such a way that the dialogue seemed to be written around the narrated leading character's thoughts - and which gave rise to the joke that, without the narration, it was 95% people staring at each other.

    Clarissa Explains it All had on-camera introductory narration, but constantly broke out of the normal sitcom situation of the rest of the show to address the audience with 'updates', graphs, computer graphics and comments. In this way, Clarissa and Bailey Kipper served as blueprints (10-15 years before the fact) for the best YouTube vlogs and skits, which use a combination of normal or staged footage, (on camera) commentary and added graphics.

    Well, it was just my way of showing the great creativity of sitcom creators well before MITM....

    P.S. I didn't mind the 'narrative' bits of Lois' Birthday.

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 25, 2009 at 09:39 AM.
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Beiß mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    359

    Default

    I think the distinction is clear. It is if these devices are being used to try to actually enhance the story, as they might be used in say a novel, versus using them as a novelty or a sort of shortcut or even a distraction. In recent years these devices have become a replacement for the laugh track on TV. Just a crutch for what is a less then ideal production in the first place. Anytime the narration or aside is telling the audience something mundane or something which could have been revealed by dialogue or shown, then there was nothing value added about using these devices. It is when you use them to communicate ideas which really cant be shown or doesnt make sense to have them as dialogue, that is something being added to the performance by its use.

    In some examples you might say it is 50/50 weather these devices are something value added or are they a shortcut or gimmick. Thats fine. I just don't see another example like Malcolm where it is 99% value added and most definitely not a plot shortcut or gimmick ( I only have the one example in Lois Birthday).

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands (i.e. 'Holland') ;)
    Age
    45
    Posts
    6,360

    Default

    Fine! I'm done! I really appreciated your comments, MalcolmFun, so I just wonder what others may think of this - if anything!

    I watched another Wonder Years episode yesterday, I picked one, Growing Up because it was ... about a company picnic, just like the MITM episode!

    Although there were some striking MITM-like moments (obnoxious Reese-like older brother Wayne destroying his car and bumping into the family car, driving dad nuts, a company employee clowning around at the barbecue, a matchstick tomboy who's suddenly bloomed into a buxom young lady), as you can gather from the title, the prevailing tone was very serious and nostalgic. The final song of the eppy, Forever Young, a Bob Dylan number, sung with stunning clarity and beauty by Joan Baez, actually brought tears to my eyes! I wasn't prepared for that!

    I read on the 'Net that many viewers remember this as a bona fide weepie, and that great song is the clincher (and one of the reasons why this show will probably never be released on DVD)! I'm amazed how extremely powerful this series still is, but it may just be my perception - I'm biased!

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 27, 2009 at 09:36 PM.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •