'The Hollywood Reporter' special issue celebrating the 100th episode of 'Malcolm'
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  1. #1
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    Thumbs up 'The Hollywood Reporter' special issue celebrating the 100th episode of 'Malcolm'




    Hi there!

    Our site administrator TJ (tjpeople) has managed to buy this wonderful special issue of the Hollywood Reporter magazine from February 18, 2004, celebrating the 100th episode of Malcolm in the Middle, and scan it.

    You can read it here.

    It includes very well written reviews and background articles, interviews with the main cast and crew, and a lot of nice adverts saluting its stars, producers, writers and technical staff,

    Here's the text of the main article, which you can of course also read in the scans:



    After four years, Malcolm is Fox's favorite 'middle' child
    By Ray Richmond

    One hundred episodes in, most sitcoms are showing significant wear and tear -- if they even survive that long. But Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle," which celebrates the century mark Sunday (9 p.m. ET/PT), is a considerable exception. For more than four years, it has been taking risks -- the introduction of baby Jamie this season, a potential "jump the shark" moment, has blended admirably -- but continues to retain its idiosyncratic wigginess and glorious archness of tone. That's a major relief for a network that, this season, has struggled to find popular footing again.

    "Even 100 episodes in, we still feel very good about this show creatively," says Sandy Grushow, the recently departed chairman at Fox Television Entertainment Group. "It still represents, in many ways, the voice of Fox."

    The ratings aren't what they once were (then again, few shows can make that claim four years down the road). After a 2000 debut that brought the highest ratings for a Fox series since "The Simpsons" debuted a decade earlier, "Malcolm" averaged a 7.4 rating/18 share during its first season. That has dropped during the fifth season to a 3.9/9 average, to go along with its bread-and-butter demo and its total-viewer average of 9 million.

    But "Malcolm" is a survivor, if an unlikely one. It's the little show that could -- and did propel Fox's primetime schedule to rarely seen ratings heights. But it surely has been a long, strange journey, requiring executives to go with their gut feelings (not focus-group reports), a creator with an original eye for the sitcom form and a cast with spot-on comedic instincts -- led by a talented fresh-faced kid named Frankie Muniz.

    Doug Herzog, a former Fox Broadcasting president soon to return to Comedy Central as president, rattles off a few of the many reasons he could have turned away Linwood Boomer's first script when it crossed his desk in 1999: "Research said that the kid would never work. They said having no studio audience and no laugh track would never work. They said that single-camera (on a sitcom) would never work. It was too quirky; it was too different. Oh, and by the way, it was written by someone who wasn't considered an A-list guy. Luckily, I had this great benefit of total na´vetÚ."

    Fox got all three ... eventually. First, the script landed at UPN, where Tracy Katsky (former senior vp comedy at Regency Television) fell hard -- first for Boomer's script, then for its creator (they eventually married), while shepherding "Malcolm" through the development web. But after hitting a speed bump at the network, the script languished until then-Regency Television president and co-founder Gail Berman -- now Fox Entertainment president -- picked it up again.

    "When we read the original script, we identified it as an incredibly good piece of material," Berman says. "We continued to work on that script at UPN. I didn't like everything we did to it; I liked the pilot the way it was. But we had to work with the needs of that network." When Fox expressed interest, UPN "graciously" let the property go.

    Herzog saw potential and gave it a green light, but focus groups gave it a thumbs down. Taking another stand, he pushed it forward. The final nod it needed came from Grushow. Promoted to his chairman position in late 1999, Grushow decided that "Malcolm" could be the key that would turn around Fox's then-plummeting primetime fortunes.

    Grushow remembers that the skewed visual stylings and distinctive voice of "Malcolm" were perfect Sunday night companions to the network's long-running favorite "The Simpsons." He hammocked the show at 8:30 p.m., between "Simpsons" and "The X-Files," asserting early confidence in the sitcom's potential. But that wasn't all: Fox hyped the show's January 2000 midseason premiere with a massive marketing and promotional campaign.

    Then, "Malcolm" surprised even its biggest supporters: The debut episode improved on the ratings of its "Simpsons" lead-in, generating a mammoth 11.1 rating and 24 share in the 18-49 demo (vs. an 8.9/20 for "The Simpsons." It wasn't a Fox record, but it was impressive enough.

    "I'm not sure if that's happened before or since," Grushow says. "When 'Malcolm' improved on a 'Simpsons' lead-in, we knew we had something special."

    It helped that critics as well as viewers immediately latched onto the unique storytelling and appealing cast. "It made my job a whole lot easier," Grushow says. "This was a rare example of a truly commercial television show that the critics embraced wholeheartedly because it attempted to expand the form."

    To wit: The show's rare single-camera format was the first, says Grushow, to "really pop." He connects its success to a flowering of the form on shows including Fox's "The Bernie Mac Show" and NBC's "Scrubs." "It's responsible for an entire genre springing up," he says.

    It also helps that the narrative voice of the show -- Boomer's -- has remained consistent. The actor-turned-writer/producer remains involved, even 100 episodes in. "The work that goes into this show is unbelievable," Berman marvels. "It's a grueling weekly process, yet we don't see any of the sweat. It's been one of the great privileges of my life to not only discover a great piece of material like 'Malcolm,' but to have my life enhanced by knowing Linwood. He's a remarkable, tireless man."

    For his part, Boomer feels equally fortunate to have been able to turn a semiautobiographical pet project into a surefire television classic. "It wasn't intended to be any sort of backlash against conventional family comedies," he says. "I certainly didn't want to be one of those really awful, really unfunny dramedies."

    Instead, Boomer has crafted a sitcom that turns the traditional comedy form on its head while taking an honest look at family dynamics and the small (and large) horrors of adolescence.

    And it's all true -- well, sort of. "The story of my childhood just seemed to lend itself to this kind of treatment," Boomer says. "That included keeping things ambiguous: not knowing exactly how old the kids are or what grade they're in, not knowing their last name, not knowing the city where they live."

    Boomer also campaigned to do the show free of a live audience and a laugh track -- and Fox executives agreed. Says Fox Television Studios president David Grant: "'Malcolm' was a very controversial show when it was being created. The conventional wisdom said you couldn't do a show aimed at teens and adults 18-34 that centered on a young kid. Fortunately, Gail and Doug got that it's the feel of the show that was central, not the character it was supposedly centered around."

    A pitch-perfect cast has, of course, also been central to the show's success, from the kids (Muniz, Justin Berfield, Christopher Kennedy Masterson, Erik Per Sullivan) to the parents (Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek). "Gail has a gifted eye for casting, and Linwood seems to have a special affinity for understanding kids' voices," Grant says.

    "Malcolm's" universe has expanded through the years to embrace eclectic recurring players, including Craig Lamar Traylor as Malcolm's pal Stevie, David Anthony Higgins as Lois' associate Craig, Emy Coligado as Francis' wife Piama, Kenneth Mars as Francis' boss Otto, Meagen Fay as Otto's wife Gretchen, Chris Eigeman as Malcolm's teacher Mr. Herkabe and Gary Anthony Williams as Abe, Stevie's dad and Hal's best pal.

    The twice-Emmy-nominated Cranston, for one, appreciates being on such a long-running and creatively rich project. (He also has directed several installments.) "It's astonishing to me that 100 episodes has gone by this quickly," he says. "I say when 'Malcolm' finally shuts down production, they'll have to pry my fingers off the dressing-room door. I won't be going willingly."

    Nonetheless, all has not always been peaches and cream behind the scenes. In February 2002, Kaczmarek left the set for an extended period, citing migraine headaches. Her departure shut down production, caused rewrites and shortened the season by two episodes. By that summer, she had renegotiated her contract and was ready to return.

    Today, she's happy in her spot. "There are days that I long for a four-camera setup so I can be home more," Kaczmarek says. "But then I remind myself that I probably only get one job this wonderful per lifetime, and getting it this late in my career really does help me appreciate it more -- as tough a schedule as it sometimes is."

    This season's introduction of baby Jamie concerned everyone -- Boomer included -- but the addition has been a boon. "In the hands of a lesser creative staff, a baby can ruin a show," Grant says. "Instead, it's given them more things to talk about and more directions to travel in. It gives me confidence in this show's long-term viability."

    What will continue to be interesting is to see how the show handles the now-18-year-old Muniz, no longer the wide-eyed little kid from the show's earliest days. The actor owns cars, has a girlfriend and worries about being typecast. Still, he says: "It's been a great ride. Everything in my life I have because of this show."

    Says Herzog: "I guess the confidence I had in 'Malcolm' has been borne out, even if it was probably just a lot of great pure dumb luck. It all just came together in the pilot: great writing, great casting, great directing. It was just too good to ignore."


    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Bei▀ mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richiepiep View Post
    The twice-Emmy-nominated Cranston, for one, appreciates being on such a long-running and creatively rich project. (He also has directed several installments.)
    That was totally new to me. I never realized that Cranston actually directed some episodes - e.g. "Billboard", one of my top ten.

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    Hi Morgon,

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, it's actually in our FAQ-section, but the information is outdated, because there are more than three episodes he directed. We need to update this at some point, of course!

    If we go by the information on the Internet Movie Database, which is usually very reliable, he directed 7 MITM episodes in all:

    • Stereo Store (2003) (4x13)
    • Vegas (2003) (5x01)
    • Dirty Magazine (2004) (5x09)
    • Experiment (2004) (5x19)
    • Buseys Run Away (2004) (6x02)
    • Billboard (2005) (6x10)
    • Malcolm Defends Reese (2005) (7x09)


    If you look at our Gallery section, subsection 'Behind the scenes', you can actually find high-resolution images of Bryan directing Stereo Store, Vegas, Experiment, Dirty Magazine and Buseys Run Away, such as this one from Experiment:


    Bryan also directed 3 Breaking Bad-episodes by the way, and we happen to have a picture of that too, where he is hilariously parodying archetypal old-fashioned silent movie directors like Cecil B. DeMille or Fritz Lang in this shot, monocle, jodhpurs and all:


    What may be even more surprising to you, is that Christopher Masterson (Francis) directed 1 MITM episode too, namely Hal Grieves (7x14)!

    Best,

    Rich
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Bei▀ mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richiepiep View Post
    What may be even more surprising to you, is that Christopher Masterson (Francis) directed 1 MITM episode too, namely Hal Grieves (7x14)!
    Yes it is :-)

    The wikipedia page also lists all the directors and the writers, but is there anything known about who did the editing?

    And while were at it I always wanted to know how they did the openings: As the opening sequences have nothing to do with the episode it would be conceivable that they did a whole series of them in one go - or did they do the opening individually as part of the production of an episode?

    Does anybody know?

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    Very good questions! I've never even thought of them.

    If you consult the full cast and crew on the IMDB, you'll find that Steve Welch edited most episodes of them, 43 in all, and that he even won an Emmy Award for "If Boys Were Girls", which was indeed a very cleverly edited instalment, which involved cross-cutting between the alternative realities, and some trick dissolves and morphing, if I remember correctly.

    He even graduated to directing 9 episodes, so he must really have been one of the most dependable and creative crew members.

    I don't remember Todd Holland or Linwood Boomer singling him out in one of their interviews, or him being interviewed on MITM, but I may be wrong. I just looked up an interview on our site where Todd Holland just mentions Ken Kwapis, Jeff Melman and Arlene Sanford.

    He does have a bunch of recent video interviews on this site:

    http://moviola.com/inside-hollywood/...steve-welch/#1

    but there's nothing specific on MITM there, only on the show New Girl.

    Yes, you may be right about a number of cold opens (or openings) being shot in one go, as they often have nothing to do with the main plot, as you say. The fact that there were unused cold opens, as we know from the S1 DVD extras, may be a case in point.

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Apr 16, 2016 at 11:39 AM.
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Bei▀ mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

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    Returning to the Steve Welch interviews I linked to, I do think he said a few things about the fine line of editing TV comedy that also apply to Malcolm:

    "In the edit, it's this very fine line of quirky, that is also smart, and that also feels real. Make sure these characters are funny, and interesting, and unique, but not crazy."

    Also in relation to the sound design he points out (sometimes really loud sound is funny, but also sometimes very soft), I think it's a constant challenge for comedies like Malcolm to be funny but not too frantic and over the top, because that would be tiring to viewers, and keep it real at the same time in the sense that audiences can relate to, but with a slight, unexpected oddball twist to it.

    Rich
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Bei▀ mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

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    Thanks for posting this Rich, you're right, the scans are really worth looking at
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