Thursday, November 19, 2015

Malcolm In The End

Here's a pretty good discussion of Malcolm In The Middle at the A.V. Club by Matt Crowley.  The show lasted for seven seasons and never got the credit it deserved.  It was a family sitcom--an overworked genre--but was smarter, faster, sharper and filled with better sight gags than most.

My problem with the A.V. Club's piece, however, is the ending where it references Malcolm's finale.  Crowley thinks it perfectly caps the show, whereas I think it almost destroyed the previous seven years.. He quotes at length the big speech mother Lois makes to son Malcolm--about how his life has been hard because it was supposed to be hard.  No easy path for him--he needed to have a rough time so he can become President, and understand how people like his family have it tough, and do right by them.

The speech, by itself, is filled with stupid populist pieties--as if the problems we have are because politicians don't understand our plight.  But far worse, the idea that Hal and Lois actually had a plan the whole time, with Malcolm or any of their kids, rather than they were doing the best they could with what they had, is ridiculous. More than that, it makes the whole series a lie, and everything that happens a secret plot.  Every episode is weakened retroactively.

It also makes Hal and Lois cruel.  So they were torturing their smart son, and we're supposed to approve?  No, this show is about a hopeless family that can't do anything right, and takes it on the chin regularly, but keeps coming back for more.  For a fan there are only two choices regarding the finale: ignore it, or pretend that (once again) Lois is making up on the spot an absurd excuse for her actions.


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