Looking back on the genius of 'The Simpsons,' 'Arrested Development' & more
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8. "Malcolm in the Middle" (2000-06)
Over 25 years, FOX made a habit of introducing shows that seemed transgressive at the time and seem positively quaint in hindsight. "Married... with Children" and "The Simpsons" both fit that mold, as did "Malcolm in the Middle." Look at it through 2012 eyes, and it's an extremely well-crafted family comedy with a quartet of strong kid actors and indelible performances by Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek as the parents, but it's practically traditional compared to many of today's comedies. In the spring of 2000, though, it was considered an accepted truth of the business that viewers wouldn't watch sitcoms without laugh tracks, and where live-action characters seemed to live in a cartoon world. Then "Malcolm" was a huge hit out of the gate, paving the way for "Scrubs," "Arrested Development," "The Office," "Modern Family" and every other single-camera sitcom of the last decade-plus. And legacy aside, "Malcolm" was just damn funny, early and often.
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