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Every Malcolm In The Middle Season Ranked Worst To Best

On January 9, 2000, creator Linwood Boomer introduced a new kind of family to TV with his sitcom, "Malcolm in the Middle." The show was unlike any sitcom that'd come before it in both its technical aspects and its storytelling. Families everywhere were seeing themselves reflected on their 4:3 at-home screens. Lois and Hal do their best, working humble jobs and raising four, soon to be five, eccentric boys. The show's title character, Malcolm, charmed us all as the brainiac outcast, but he's not your typical nerd like the rest of the Krelboynes in his gifted class. With older brothers, Francis and Reese, Malcolm has always had to keep up with their destructive behavior. Then there's little Dewey, the youngest, until baby Jamie comes along in Season 4. Put them all under the same roof, and you get the highest-functioning dysfunctional family unit in all of suburbia.

Up until its premiere, sitcoms commonly used multi-camera setups and laugh tracks. "Malcolm in the Middle" used neither, and instead substituted this formulaic style with a single camera setup, fourth wall breaks, zany camera compositions, and fast-cut editing. It would go on to win numerous awards, including a Peabody Award and seven Emmys. By the time the series finale aired on May 14, 2006, viewers everywhere were singing "life is unfair" to the tune of the show's catchy theme song. But even a beloved show like "Malcolm in the Middle" has its ups and downs. Here are all seven seasons ranked worst to best.

7. Season 6

When the second-to-last season aired on November 7, 2004, the show was experiencing a decline in ratings. In June 2003, "Malcolm in the Middle" drew an average audience of 10.7 million viewers (via Entertainment Weekly), but by May 2005 that fell to an average of 5.6 million (via The Hollywood Reporter). While there are still some highly memorable moments in Season 6, it's ranked worst on the list because of its obvious lack of story ideas. Although "Malcolm in the Middle" never truly jumped the shark like so many other shows with multiple seasons, the storylines were running thin and coming out of left field more and more. The show had already hit 100 episodes at this point, so this slow decline was not exactly shocking.

There's nothing overtly horrible about this season, but there's also nothing spectacular about it. The season premiere wraps up a three-parter in which Reese returns home from combat after enlisting in the army. Throughout the season, Dewey is a standout character while Francis takes a back seat in most of the storylines. One of the only memorable episodes from this season includes "Dewey's Opera" in which Dewey uses his musical talents to put on an operatic masterpiece based on his parents' quarrels. The song in the episode, "The Marriage Bed," scored an Emmy nomination for outstanding music and lyrics. Unfortunately, the next season would be the last.

6. Season 7

The final season of "Malcolm in the Middle" premiered on September 30, 2005, and ended on May 14, 2006. This season would see some of its lowest ratings, potentially due to its timeslot change from Sundays to Fridays (via BBC News).

The last half of the season would be moved back to Sundays and end on a high note with the series finale, "Graduation," where the show was tied up nicely with every character getting a satisfying ending to their stories. Malcolm graduates and gets into Harvard. The youngest boys, Dewey and Jamie, bond over being the only two left in the house. Francis holds a steady job. Lois and Hal avoid another pregnancy scare. And Reese is still Reese.

The New York Times puts it best, saying, "'Malcolm in the Middle,' a sitcom that lasted too long, made a point of ending without tears, but padded the finale with a long, silly joke about excrement that was just as painful." Season 7 was a far cry from perfection, but the nostalgic goodbyes make it worth something. Right?

5. Season 5

Although a pretty forgettable season overall, many pivotal moments for the characters take place in Season 5. Malcolm gets his first job working with his mother at a drug store in "Malcolm's Job," Dewey is put in a special education class, nicknamed the Busey class, in "Dewey's Special Class," and finally, Reese enlists in the army in the final two episodes, "Reese Joins the Army," Parts 1 and 2.

Like its title character, this season lands right in the middle of the scale of worst-to-best. It's also the season in which the show reaches its 100th episode milestone. People is quoted in a review of the episode, saying, "No one's saying this boisterous sitcom has to slow down with age. But Malcolm's 100th episode hurts itself by hopping from storyline to storyline instead of sticking with the strong central situation." Not the highest praise, but we can still appreciate its charm up to this point.

4. Season 3

The kids are slowly growing up in Season 3, and soon they'll no longer be lovable, snarky kids, but instead, awkward, snobby teens. For now, we can still bask in the show's rooted family dynamics before things go off the rails. Wholesome family highlights this season include Malcolm and Hal sharing a moment together out on the water in "Houseboat," a family Christmas celebration in "Christmas," and the iconic line — "the future is now, old man" — is born in "Lois' Makeover."

But nothing holds a light to Episodes 11 and 12, "Company Picnic." In this two-part episode, Hal's company hosts a picnic that involves multiple plotlines. Memorable guest stars make appearances including Terry Bradshaw, Tom Green, Stephen Root, Christina Ricci, Heidi Klum, and Magic Johnson. It's the kind of episode that reminds you why you loved the show so much in the first place.

This episode would go on to be nominated for two Emmy Awards. Susan Sarandon was nominated for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series, while Bobby Porter was nominated for outstanding stunt coordination. When you get through the rest of the episodes, it's clear a promising season is to follow.

3. Season 4

In Season 4, we get one of the best character arcs in the entire series. As Dewey grows up from a cute, little kid to a slightly older kid, he gets a well-overdo character arc that establishes him as his own person among his eccentric family. Like his brother Malcolm, Dewey proves to have some abilities of his own as a musical prodigy. This characteristic is cleverly built upon throughout the season and the rest of the series.

This is also the season when Lois discovers she's pregnant. With the conception and birth of Jamie, motherhood becomes an even deeper-explored theme in the show. Francis and Lois also share a rare bonding moment when he helps his mother give birth to his fourth sibling. This season does a phenomenal job showing sides of these characters as we've never seen them before, while also making us laugh with its signature relatable absurdity.

2. Season 1

The "Malcolm in the Middle" pilot was a promising premiere for the Fox network, with the episode garnering close to 23 million viewers (via The Los Angeles Times). This almost perfect first season proved the show had a bright future, securing four Emmy nominations and two wins for outstanding writing for a comedy series and outstanding directing for a comedy series. It proved to be a great success from the beginning, and anyone who revisits it today will be delighted to see just how well it holds up. But like any show just starting out, the first season is reserved for the show to find its footing and for viewers to become fully acquainted with its characters and storyline.

It was truly Malcolm and his family against the world, and many other households who tuned in could relate to their struggles as a lower-middle-class family. This realistic depiction of this type of family life was new to the world of television, making this a standout first season.

"Red Dress" sees Lois trying to find out which of the boys burned her red anniversary dress. "Krelboyne Picnic" is one of the first examples viewers see of Malcolm's true genius during a class picnic. Then there's the season finale, "Water Park," the first of a two-parter, where the family leaves Dewey behind with a babysitter while the rest go to a water park. This episode is the perfect lead-up to the best-ranked season.

1. Season 2

Season 2 is by far the best season out of the seven. When the show came back on November 5, 2000, it had established its sense of self and a permanent place in the hearts of viewers. It was getting more recognition than ever. Back in 2001, Chicago Tribune was quoted as saying it "is certainly a family program, and a first-rate one, but it's not at all traditional. Viewers accustomed to sitcom conventions will have a hard time with 'Malcolm's' breakneck pace and lack of laugh track or theatrical stage."

Some of its most notable episodes include "Traffic Jam," "Hal Quits," and "Bowling." "Traffic Jam" picks up where "Water Park" left off. The family is trying to get home after getting kicked out of the water park, but a traffic jam holds them up. We see Lois hitting her breaking point, as this is the first time she has no control over a situation. In "Hal Quits," Hal does just that. He tries out a passion for painting, only for his dreams to crumble in one of the show's touching moments where the whole family comes together. "Bowling" is highly regarded as one of the show's best episodes. This episode uses technical creativity, rarely seen in network sitcoms, to pull off a parody of the 1998 film, "Sliding Doors." As one of the show's most noteworthy episodes, it would go on to win two Emmy Awards for outstanding directing and writing for a comedy series.