Malcolm in the Middle: Larry Watson/FOX
November 01, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B+

Watching Malcolm in the Middle: The Complete First Season reminds you why the show seemed so original, and, unfortunately, how conventional it has become. Creator Linwood Boomer conceived Frankie Muniz’s Malcolm as a gifted child in a gloriously anarchic yet loving family; Jane Kaczmarek’s mom (ferocious and protective) and Bryan Cranston’s dad (dim but dedicated) were nuanced and original characters. Now the series is much more strident, and Malcolm’s intelligence has been deemphasized; so enjoy these 16 subtler, frequently hilarious episodes. Extras? Boomer and director Todd Holland don’t offer anything particularly amusing or revealing in their commentaries, and the gag reel is lame. Still, episodes like the one in which Cranston’s Hal teaches Malcolm to skate are small marvels.

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