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Played by: Frankie Muniz
- Adorkable: More so in early seasons.
- And Starring: "And Frankie Muniz".
- Anti-Hero: Classical Anti-Hero
- Big Brother Worship: For Francis.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Being the ultimate subversion of the TV Genius, Malcolm hates being in an advanced class because he has to do twice as much homework as the regular kids when he'd rather be scheming with his brothers, playing games, or watching TV.
- Brutal Honesty
- Butt Monkey: "Life is unfair", after all. Bad things never stop happening to him and his family.
- Calling the Old Man Out: To Lois.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Becomes suspicious, neurotic and obsessive over his first girlfriend to the point of beating up a foreign exchange student for talking to her. When he realized he was becoming this, he gets her a pager so he could know where she was every second of the day, thinking that would make them be able to trust each other more. She breaks up with him because of this, causing him to have a complete breakdown.
- Deadpan Snarker: Always, always snidely fuming at everyone and everything.
- Flanderization: Malcolm became more of a whiny jerk as he got older. Justified as he is going through puberty.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Reese's Foolish.
- Gender Bender: In "If Boys Were Girls".
- Good with Numbers: Incredibly so. His act at a talent fair demonstrates just how good he is: two audience members show Credit Card numbers to Malcolm who then memorizes them within seconds and does math with them. Up to Eleven, he takes crowd suggestions and churns out the answer within a second flat, and everybody looks at him like he's on fire.
- His Own Worst Enemy: a mild version, but Malcolm self sabotages frequently. This is present even from the first episode, when Malcolm strongly resists being put into the gifted class in spite of his obvious high level of intelligence. He later claims he lost all his friends when he was put in the class, but these mysterious friends are never named and other characters say things that indicates he was always smug and neurotic. Until becoming a Krelboyne and meeting Stevie, Lloyd and Dabney, he doesn't seem to have had many friends. He also creates new problems for himself socially whenever he gets a break, and destroys any chance he has to advance academically. When he has the opportunity to go to the best prep school in the world on a full ride, his father says 'you don't get to leave!' And makes a case for him staying with the family because they need him to solve their collective problems. His decision to stay is admirable in its familial charity, but it's another instance of him sacrificing his own opportunity and happiness because of some hypothetical struggle his family may experience in his absence.
- Hollywood Dateless: Malcolm has plenty of dates and girlfriends in the show, (though none of these usually last more than one episode), but he's still always referred to as a pathetic loser with no social life.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: While he acts condescending and smug about his intelligence, Malcolm is well aware that his genius intellect makes him an outcast, and is actually insecure as a result.
- Insufferable Genius: Especially after he Took a Level in Jerkass. Downplayed in the earlier seasons, where Malcolm viewed his intelligence as something that made him a freak, and was extremely self-conscious about alienating his friends and family if he demonstrated it. Played straight in later seasons when he shows Smug Snake tendencies often overlapping with his petulance and selfishness.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Makes this the focus for the first few seasons, before getting past it.
- It's All About Me: He's extremely self-absorbed, though this was emphasized more due to Flanderization in later episodes.
- Jerkass: Much like his two brothers.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Shown in many episodes. He can be self-serving and hypocritical, but he's also able to be a decent, caring person (even towards his family), depending on his mood.
- Karmic Trickster
- Middle Child Syndrome: Malcolm gets some form of this. He's frequently ignored/abused in favor of the older and younger siblings.
- Money Fetish: Spoofed when Malcolm realized he was rubbing money against his face.
- Never My Fault: Malcolm puts much, if not all, of the blame on his family for everything wrong in his life.
- Not So Above It All: He's not always the voice of reason. He often joins his brothers in their antics.
- Only Sane Man: To his delinquent, dysfunctional family, his impossibly nerdy, neurotic, and socially inept friends, his nasty, petty, stupid neighbors and classmates, and the entirety of the shallow, unappreciative, unfair society around him. Deconstructed, as being this trope for too long and going through too much frustration as a result of his sane-ness turns him cynical and bitter enough for his OSM-cred to start slipping in the last couple of seasons (thought the finale strongly hints that he earns it back once he dares to live up to his potential).
- Smug Snake: Especially in the later seasons.
- The Snark Knight: A couple episodes try to tackle this directly (with him trying to suppress his desire to grumble and condescend for various reasons) but ends up blowing up in his face (he gave himself an ulcer once by swallowing down too much snark).
- Stepford Snarker: He does this to hide his insecurity and loneliness over his Dysfunctional Family, the fact that his only peers are sheltered rich nerds who don't understand how poor peoples' lives work, and the fact that almost everyone else ostracizes him for being smart. In his words, "I pretend it doesn't bother me and then lash out at people who don't deserve it."
- Teen Genius: A somewhat realistic one, in that he is not very stereotypically nerdy. He only hangs out with the nerds because other kids find him abrasive and condescending.
- This Cannot Be!: Malcolm displays this attitude any time he tries to tackle the arts and fails. One of the earlier examples is when he buys a guitar and his mother explains to him that he'll end up returning it, because he takes after her and his mind just doesn't work that way. Although she turns out to be correct (his magnum opus is the melody from a cat food commercial), he doesn't remember this and tries again a few times. He takes a music appreciation class in the expectation that it will be an 'easy A', but it becomes evident that he's totally inept when he fails the first assignment and the teacher writes 'it's obvious you didn't even listen to it' when in fact he did. He's unable to connect emotionally to music or even understand what the music is attempting to provoke in its audience. What would otherwise be seen as basic jealousy toward his brother Dewey, who is a musical savant, seems more like a tantrum when compared to the considerable gifts he already has. It seems that he just can't stand the idea that there's anything he's not good at, and he devalues Dewey's talents as less important (and deafens him temporarily out of vindictiveness). It's partly jealousy but also disbelief that he could fail at something of any value. He seems to appreciate the arts only when he is successful, as he was with dancing.
- Too Dumb to Live: He's a genius but, like his brothers, often does moronic things. In a flashback he hangs his head over an open pair of scissors while Reese stands behind him, about to pop a balloon.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: In later seasons, he became more arrogant and selfish.
- Unreliable Narrator: Not exactly a narrator but many of his asides just prove how lacking in self awareness he is.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Sometimes, especially in later seasons.
Played by: Jane Kaczmarek
- Abusive Parents:
- Aside from the well known Financial Abuse, she is also implied to be physically abusive, given what Francis commented on what things his brothers should resist in regards to possible methods of extracting who burned her dress, and his resistance to a hazing from a cult on the military school resulted in their adopting Lois's methods. Of course, then again, given his obvious hatred for his mother, it's possible that he either lied about it or led himself to believe it.
- She originally intended to subvert it, as she intended to make her household lax of rules specifically because she didn't want to have her children go through the life she herself had to put up with Ida. Unfortunately, Francis as a child proved how faulty that line of thought was when he did several bad things which came to a halt when he attempted to douse his teddy bear with gasoline and set it on fire.
- In addition, she herself was a victim of parental abuse via her mother. It is implied to be far, far worse than anything she puts her own kids through, and unlike Lois (who as described below acts this way in order to keep her boys safe), Ida doesn't do it to protect Lois, she's just a horrible, spiteful old woman.
- Action Mom: Not a perfect mom by any means, but she's definitely this. Best example of her badassery is "Lois Strikes Back".
- Anti-Hero: An Unscrupulous Hero at her best and a Nominal Hero at her worst.
- Anti-Villain: Type II, her mother and her first son eventually led her to this.
- Ax-Crazy: Not to Francis's or Reese's level, but she does have her moments.
- Berserk Button: do NOT mock or humiliate her sons!
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Though viewers almost always see the "Bitch" part she's very good at hiding her true self from people outside of the family. It's implied that she does this to the department of child services.
- Character Development:
- Mostly revealed through flashbacks, it's apparent that she wasn't always such a harsh or abrasive person. In flashbacks she's shown occupying more traditionally feminine roles - while always opinionated and strong-willed she was apparently a cheerleader in college when she was dating Hal, and initially was quite sweet and tender about their growing family. Likewise he was apparently very reckless and self-destructive as a young man, drinking and smoking and getting into fights, but she eventually beat that out of him. Parenting seems to have changed both of their personalities in a noteworthy way, it made Hal bewildered and hapless, where it made Lois volatile and vindictive.
- There's also some of this later in the series, when she starts examining her parenting and relationships with her children. This is primarily focused on Francis. The first time she acknowledges her negative influence is after her mother is injured and she's leaving Francis to care for her mother, and she apologizes to Francis about not being a good enough mother to him, and that he deserved a more patient parent. She said she hopes she's been a better parent to the other boys, but it's unclear whether she was really worse toward Francis or if she just tends to feel guilty once the child in question starts to fly right. At a later point Piama calls her out, saying "no one is as useless as you think I am!", to which Lois stares for a moment and then agrees. This shows some self-reflection totally lacking in earlier seasons.
- Control Freak: To the point where a random police officer calls her out on it, along with a Resident Advisor at a school she was visiting with Malcolm, though the RA admitted he was one too.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- Determinator: After Reese is sent to Afghanistan she crosses half the earth in order to bring him back home.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Played frequently and famously as a major character flaw, such examples would be in Evacuation (She grounds Malcolm for being late home from studying at the library, while insisting on continuing the punishment during a neighborhood-wide evacuation) and Health Scare (where Lois grounds Malcolm and Reese for a week for simply tracking mud on the kitchen floor, even after they promised to clean it up, though it's somewhat justified as she was distracted by a potentially terminal condition Hal had).
- Establishing Character Moment: In a flashback she is seen as a meek mother that a young Francis walks all over due to her desperation to not be a horrible mother like her own mother. This continues until she definitively becomes the Lois we know today when she notices Francis playing with lighter fluid and matches.Lois: (Taking away the matches and a teddy bear Francis spilled fluid on) Fire. Is. Dangerous. (Takes the teddy bear and thrusts it into the fireplace, holding it there as it burns) Fire can hurt you. Fire can kill you. I will not let that happen. Let me make one thing clear: I love you, and I will do whatever I have to to take care of you and keep you safe, and happy, and alive. I don't care if you grow up to hate me, but you will understand this: I. Will. Do. Anything. That is how much I love you.
- Evil Matriarch: Not to Ida's level, but she does have her moments.
- Freudian Excuse: Her mother.
- Financial Abuse: Towards Malcolm.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: She's easily provoked and often yells at her kids.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: In "Lois Strikes Back".
- Hypocrite: In the episode she gets Malcolm a job at her store, in a variety of different way. Malcolm calls her out on it repeatedly given how strict and principled she is at home, but she is utterly remorseless about it, spinning it as him learning harsh lessons about life.
- In "Grandma Sues" she blows a fuse when her kids are upset about the new baby when she and Hal were just as upset
- Jerkass: The biggest one in the family.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In earlier episodes, then she started to become more like a Jerkass in season 3, and reserves it to Reese in seasons 6 and 7.
- Karma Houdini: Usually, but there are other times (i.e. Evacuation) where she gets her comeuppance.
- Karmic Trickster
- Knight Templar Parent
- Lack of Empathy: Towards Malcolm, to some extent.
- Mama Bear: Toward Reese. She also ripped off her boss's wig for insulting Dewey.
- Manipulative Bitch
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Masculine Girl to Hal's Feminine Boy.
- My Beloved Smother: To Malcolm and Francis.
- Not So Above It All: Sometimes she ignores or condones the rest of her family's behavior because it benefits her. Like the time the boys framed Craig for a motorbike injury and Lois let them do it to get him out of their house.
- Oblivious to Love: Lois was oblivious to Craig's obvious crush on her during the first few seasons.
- Parental Favoritism: Somewhat, towards Reese. She explains that this is because she knows Malcolm is smart enough to get out of difficult situations and Reese is the one who needs help.
- Pitbull Dates Puppy: The "Pitbull" in her relationship with Hal.
- Psychopathic Womanchild: Considering how frequently she throws a temper tantrum.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: She's usually right about something but her line of reasoning for something being wrong is that things can't be that way because that would require her doing something wrong.
- Sanity Slippage: Happens in the "Reese Joins the Army" trilogy, but gets over with it at the end of the second part.
- Sociopathic Hero
- Took a Level in Kindness: Towards Reese, and only Reese.
- Tsundere: Type A.
- The Unfavourite: Ida always liked Susan better.
- The Unfettered
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
- Verbal Tic: Tends to use the word "always" a lot. Susan calls her out on this.
Played by: Bryan Cranston
- Angrish: Hal is reduced to furious incoherence on a few memorable occasions.
- Babies Ever After: Confirmed in the finale, much to his chagrin.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Bumbling Dad
- Butt Monkey: Things never seem to work out for him.
- Calling the Old Man Out
- The Cast Show Off: The writers started up a game called "What will Bryan Cranston do?" which led to them writing in plots of him doing roller disco and other bizarre and increasingly dangerous stunts just to see if the actor would ever say no. Not only did he not object, he also kept pulling them off. After this culminated in Bryan being covered in live bees in one episode, the name of the game changed to "What won't Bryan Cranston do?"
- Chubby Chaser: While Lois is pregnant with their youngest son, Hal discovers a strange fascination with his wife gaining weight. Until the end of the episode, he purposefully makes Lois gain weight while she is trying to lose it. This is mostly Played for Laughs, but it is kinda sick.
- Cloudcuckoolander: For example, when he and Craig Feldspar are obsessed with an arcade dance competition, Lois reminds him that can pursue this as far as he wants as long as he follows the rules he has agreed on with her in the past, such as that he has to continue to remain employed and she gets to freeze their joint checking account for the duration of his obsession.
- Competition Freak: To go along with his manias, Hal will bust his ass and drive himself half mad trying to be the best at them, whether it's jogging the fastest, winning a board game, or having nicer yard ornaments. And when he finally wins, he will rub it in and then some.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He has his moments.
- Dark and Troubled Past: In "Billboard", a woman reveals to Lois that years ago, Hal faked his death and blew up a phone booth in order to get out of paying her some money he owed her.
- Financial Abuse: Towards Malcolm.
- Henpecked Husband
- Laser-Guided Karma
- Man Child: Will often pursue his own interests for fun.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Feminine Boy to Lois' Masculine Girl.
- Naked People Are Funny: Quite frequently seen in his underwear or naked for this reason.
- Nervous Wreck
- One-Hour Work Week: Mostly averted though he is later revealed to have not worked on a Friday in fifteen years. Possibly justified by how corrupt the company is and unimportant Hal's contribution is.
- Papa Wolf: In the episode dealing with an alternate timeline where Lois had daughters instead of sons, Hal, although overweight, is also extremely protective of his daughters, although his daughters aren't appreciative of his efforts.
- Pitbull Dates Puppy: The "Puppy" in his relationship with Lois.
- Screams Like a Little Girl
- Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: His exact job is somewhat vague though it is known that he works for a large corrupt company and works out of a cubicle. He views it as unimportant and notes he could be replaced easily.
Played by: Christopher Kennedy Masterson
- Aesop Amnesia: In season 6, after being fired from the Grotto, he's back to the way he was during the first few seasons.
- Anti-Hero: Nominal Hero.
- Anti-Role Model: His brothers think otherwise, though.
- Ax-Crazy: Before being sent to military school.
- Big Brother Bully: He admits to Dewey that he tortured them, stole their toys, locked them in a closet, and apparently cut Reese on the shoulder deep enough to leave a scar with a Bayonet.
- Big Brother Mentor: He assumes more this role throughout the series, though he can still have his Big Brother Bully moments from time to time.
- Blond Guys Are Evil
- Calling the Old Man Out: Frequently rebels and insults Lois, and it is heavily implied that it is for no other reason than just to spite her.
- His female equivalent, Frances, is similar, although her hate is more directed towards her dad, blaming him for none of her marriages working out.
- His obsession with doing to Lois this is well illustrated in the episode Bowling, which follows two versions of the same night. One of the differences between the nights is that, when Francis calls and asks for some money, he gets a different parent in each. He asks the same question the same way for both, gets the same basic answer from both (though Lois' is a bit more polite about it), but only blows up at Lois.
- Character Development: He becomes a lot more responsible as the series progress. In fact, many later episodes deal with how he fights his insane impulses (like when he warned Reese against collecting toilet rings from a dump like he did as a teen but ended up trying to beat Reese's record.) By the end, he is married and in a stable office job that, unlike Hal, he likes. It's possible though that Hal did like his job when he was the same age as Francis, but grew to resent it.
- The Chew Toy: Especially in earlier seasons.
- Cool Big Bro: He's seen this way by Malcolm, Reese and Dewey.
- Enfant Terrible: In the episode Lois fights Jamie, in flashback form, we learn that Francis was absolutely horrible as a toddler. Probably the worst act he committed was using the last of the china to pour a flammable substance (lighter fluid) onto his teddy bear, and then set it on fire, which also resulted in Lois becoming the mother she currently is. It's also hinted that Lois's attempt at loving Francis (by placing the already burning teddy bear in the fireplace, burning her hand in the process) was a painful memory for him, given his reaction when he tells Lois this.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He refused to fight against his boss, Lavernia, because she is a woman — until she ended up mocking his mother. He then fights back and the fight ended with a draw.
- Fourth Date Marriage: He and Piama knew each other a very short time before getting married. Slightly deconstructed when there are several moments where they wonder whether their relationship can work out, but ultimately they remain together.
- Gender Bender: In the episode where Lois imagines if his four sons were girls. Notably, Christopher also plays girl Francis while his brothers all got different actresses to portray them.
- Generation Xerox: In the final episode it turns out that Francis's life was very similar to Hal. Including the Enfant Terrible, Lackluster parents, (Hal's dad was worse then Lois and Hal), and the Fourth Date Marriage.
- For the Evulz: Francis basically committed his delinquent behavior either to spite his mother (who told him not to do them) or just for the heck of it. In one episode, Francis has Malcolm and Reese attempt to determine who is the "better brother" by having them do his chores and schoolwork. When they realize that getting the other brother grounded is a much more effective way to win than doing Francis' chores, Francis notices this and finds it equally as amusing. The kicker is that Francis reneges and takes a girl he just met instead.
- High School Hustler
- Jerkass: Before Character Development in later seasons, he was disrespectful, selfish, and rebellious.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He eventually emancipated himself and became a generally nice person (although he seemed to go back on being a Jerkass after he got fired from the dude ranch).
- I Just Want to Be Normal: In the finale he's working a dead-end career as a wage slave in an office somewhere. And he loves it.
- Lack of Empathy: As evidenced in the Big Brother Bully trope, he did several heinous things, and he implies that this is what being a good brother is all about. Also, he does very terrible and destructive things during his revolts against his parents and is implied to have absolutely no remorse for any people he hurt as a result, and he actually ends up in emotional pain when he has to tell Lois how much she actually shaped his life in a memory that should be a pretty heartwarming memory.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Suffers from this regularly.
- Mr. Fanservice
- Never My Fault:
- He tries to pin (almost) all of his faults on his mother. In fact, he was legitimately stumped when his C.O. told him to think of one thing that he did wrong that he doesn't blame on his mother. The only time he actually did admit to wrongdoing without blaming his mother or anyone else was when he admitted that it was his fault that his brothers turned out the way they did.
- In the final season we discover that he's a recovering alcoholic and that he has been blaming Lois for his problems in his AA meetings. Then Piama accidentally reveals that Francis is not a drunk but that he's just using AA to vent and Lois gives him a rare form of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. She tells him that he needs to grow up and stop blaming his mistakes on her or on the alcohol, and leaves him to take a look at himself in the mirror, which he does... Until he sees Piama in the reflection, then he starts blaming her.
- This trope comes full circle in that the majority of at least Malcolm and Reese's personality problems are most likely copied from him, not necessarily because of anything Hal and Lois did.
- Not So Different: From Lois.
- Only Sane Man: Shows shades of this in Alaska when he's the only one thinking there's more to life than drunken revelry...and stolen totem poles.
- Out of Focus: In the last two seasons.
- Rebellious Spirit
- Ridiculous Procrastinator: Resorts to making bugs race each other and completely unravelling his shirt to put off having to do his share of a history project. His partner even has to take a soda can away from his because of how easily he is distracted.
- Screams Like a Little Girl
- The Sociopath
- Too Dumb to Live: Shown in a flashback throwing a knife up in the air then extending his hand out to catch it.
- Too Kinky to Torture: While attending military school, he was forced into a hazing ritual by the other students. NONE of their humiliations or scare tactics had any effect on him. He cites that being on the receiving end of Lois' child raising-tactics him is the reason for this. The students then decide to use Lois for inspiration.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: As a toddler, Francis attempted to douse his teddy bear with gasoline and then set it on fire before Lois intervened. Later, as a child, he had locked his parents out of the car while his mom was going into labor, and he also frequently tortured his brothers, stole their toys, locked them in a closet, and at one point scarred Reese with a bayonet.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Played straight, then subverted. See Even Evil Has Standards.
Played by: Justin Berfield
- Ambiguously Bi: Reese has many girlfriends and crushes, but also shows a certain...interest in his own sex. Note that his actor is openly gay in real life.
- Anti-Hero: Nominal Hero —> Unscrupulous Hero
- Big Brother Bully: To Malcolm and especially Dewey.
- Big Brother Instinct: He beats up anyone who insults or makes fun of Malcolm at school. See Hypocritical Heartwarming.
- Big Brother Worship: For Francis.
- Book Dumb:
Malcolm: It's weird. Reese is one of the worst students at school, but he's invented like fifty games, and they're all fun.
- He's shown, more often than not, to be an ingenious planner, and it's sometimes implied that he's much Smarter Than He Looks, but just doesn't apply himself.
- He once intentionally got 0% on a 50 question True/False quiz. This is just as difficult as getting 100%. However, he did do it the hard way i.e. working out the right answer, then putting down the wrong answer, instead of just giving no answer.
- Break Them by Talking: Instantly turns sad when reminded that he has no friends.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: He's good at cooking but doesn't want to do anything with it. He seems to be very content on being a janitor.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center: His sensitive side was always there, but it becomes more obvious in later episodes.
- The Bully: Especially in early seasons.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer
- Butt Monkey: Even more than Malcolm. Although, considering that he's a brainless, obnoxious bully and very mean to everyone, he deserves it most of the time.
- Chaotic Stupid: But explicitly NOT Stupid Evil.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Became this in later seasons after Character Development. One episode has Malcolm prepare a stunt for him as he's filmed to be featured on a website, and he's happy about it.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
- The Ditz: After Malcolm give him a book report guaranteed to be an A, his (then) girlfriend, Alison, realizes that she forgot to do hers, lamenting on how she can't afford another F. Reese's solution? Tearing the report in half, insuring that "now [they'll] both get Cs".
- Dumbass Teenage Son
- Dumb Muscle: Despite his skinny appearance, he's violent and aggressive enough to be the most feared bully in his school, at least in early seasons.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Yeah, he's a bully, but he being the "alpha-bully" he declared the disabled Stevie off-limits for bullies (including himself, unless Stevie partakes on the abuse of his own volition). In fact, making sure the other bullies respected his standards eventually became his reason to retain his alpha-bully status.
- Even when he finally snaps and decides to beat up Stevie because he keeps humiliating him, Reese completely numbs and weakens his own legs to make it a fair fight.
- Also, while he makes other nerds do his homework for him, he doesn't want to interfere with their weekends, and apparently protects the nerds who work for him from the other bullies.
- When Richie (one of Francis's deadbeat friends) encourages him to embezzle, he does the right thing and sneaks the money right back into the register. Malcolm was surprised by this, he even asks Reese if he did take the money.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Foolish to Malcolm's Responsible.
- For the Evulz: He likes to cause chaos and destruction just for the fun of it.
- Friendless Background: While everyone in the family is heavily disliked by most people, Reese is the only one with no friends at all throughout the show. The only exception is Abby, his former female army buddy who appears in an episode named "Army Buddy".
- Gender Bender: The female counterpart of him that Lois imagined in one episode was a shallow Alpha Bitch who also was pregnant.
- Genius Ditz: He's Book Dumb, but he's a great chef.
- Hearing Voices: He has mentioned hearing voices on more than one occasion. One time he told Dewey that the voices are not his friend, and another time he comments about how the voice in his head that tells him to do stupid things was getting quieter while the one that tells him not to do stupid and dangerous things is getting louder.
- Hidden Depths: He's secretly ashamed that he can't do math.
- Hollywood Dateless
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: He mocks and beats up Malcolm and bullies Dewey all the time, but if anyone else calls them names or tries to pick on them, he takes it as his duty to kick the offender's ass in retaliation.
- Jerkass: The biggest one in Seasons 1 and 2.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Started to get better as shown in Took a Level in Kindness below.
- Lack of Empathy: In a cooking contest, despite being the clear winner, he joyfully sabotages the other contestants dishes For the Evulz.Lois: How would you feel if you were that woman whose quiche you salted?''Reese: ...Fat?Hal: Reese, do you know what empathy is? Empathy is putting yourself in other people's shoes so you can feel what they do. If you hurt someone, empathy makes you hurt as well.Reese: Then why would you want empathy?
- Loving Bully: Reese tries this with a girl he has a crush on, and then doesn't understand why she hates him as a result. Not surprising, since bullying is his go-to approach for everything.
- Morality Pet: For Lois, at times.
- Nightmare Fetishist
- Pet the Dog: He helps Stevie flirt with a girl that he wanted to get with, only because it let him lie about something. It's implied he was doing it so he could watch them fool around.
- He once talked a man out of suicide. Unfortunately subverted when it was really a ploy to get him to buy something from his telemarketing company.
- The Prankster
- Real Men Cook: He's quite good at it too.
- Screwy Squirrel
- The Sociopath
- Supreme Chef: Would have won the cook off hands-down if he hadn't decided to cheat anyway. And let's not forget his Thanksgiving spread.
- Too Dumb to Live: His bread and butter. Dewey claims, "He almost killed himself with Bisquick once."
- Took a Level in Dumbass: He always had below average intelligence, but as time went on, it went from failing school to his homework being mistaken for something Jamie made.
- Took a Level in Kindness: He starts to be a more decent person in later seasons.
- He actually describes a voice that has been getting louder telling him not to do stupid things.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Malcolm, eventually.
- We Want Our Jerk Back: When he temporarily gives up bullying, the resultant Evil Power Vacuum makes everyone's lives ten times worse.
- Would Hit a Girl:
- His response to wrestling a girl for a tournament was "I get to beat up a girl. Cool." She hands him his ass.
- Averted in one episode where he refuses to hit a little girl who continually bites him. He even points out that she is using this to her advantage.
Played by: Erik Per Sullivan
- Annoying Younger Sibling: To Malcolm and Reese, mostly in early seasons.
- Anti-Hero: Knight in Sour Armor <—> Pragmatic Hero: Depends on the episode.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Big Brother Worship: For Francis (well, sort of. They barely interacted before he was deported to Military School, so he doesn't have as much personal worship as Malcolm and Reese).
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He's possibly the most devious family member.
- Butt Monkey: In early seasons he gets bullied a lot by Reese (and sometimes Malcolm joins in with bullying Dewey). Averted in later seasons where he's probably the only character who is not a Butt Monkey.
- Calling the Old Man Out: He frequently manages to get revenge against Hal and Lois whenever they neglect him or treat him unfairly. Hal forgot his birthday led to Dewey publicly shaming him in front of every single attendee at a Bridal expo. Lois saying she couldn't get a vital component to a science experiment (which led to Dewey failing) resulted in Dewey Gaslighting her. And for the most part, he actually gets away with it.
- Character Development: Undergoes this more than any other character (with the possible exception of Francis). Over the course of the series, he evolves from a ditzy Cloudcuckoolander with an overactive imagination into a Wise Beyond His Years child prodigy who is just as smart as (if not moreso than) Malcolm. Justified, given that he ages through the most critical period of child development during the time course of the series (going from a pre-adolescent child in the pilot to a young teenager in the finale).
- The Chessmaster: He shows shades of this in later seasons.
- Child Prodigy: He's a musical genius and was able to build his own piano because his father wouldn't buy him one. He also shown to have a talent for magic even performing his own magic show in front of a shopping mall.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Early in the series. Comes back a couple of times in later seasons when he loses himself in his own fantasies while telling stories to Jamie. Also, when Hal opens up a hair boutique in the kitchen, he arranges to keep the hair.
- Creepy Child: He always has shades of this throughout the show, due to his slightly manipulative ways. Justified when you look at his older brothers.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
- Deadpan Snarker
- Deliberately Cute Child: Malcolm and his brothers often accuse Dewey of being this.
- Ditzy Genius: Dewey is known for his quirky Cloudcuckoolander behavior, but he's later revealed to be almost as intelligent as Malcolm.
- Guile Hero
- For the Evulz: One episode has him use mind games to tear apart two different bands before they perform in a concert because he was bored.
- Ignored Epiphany: Tried to explain one to Reese and Malcolm in Buseys Run Away. After finally being put in a normal classroom, Dewey lacks the drive to commit heinous pranks with his brothers like he used to. Therefore, he starts bonding with Lois while Malcolm and Reese keep getting punished. They don't understand what's going on, and Dewey tries to explain that the reason Lois is acting so nice to him, is that he hasn't done anything stupid or destructive, so she hasn't needed to punish him. "It's not her, it's us." His brothers didn't get what he was saying and automatically assumed he's become Lois' spy. The epiphany turns out to be wrong when it turns out Lois is treating him differently only because he managed to move back to the regular class.
- Karmic Trickster
- Manipulative Bastard: Is a master at playing head games; even manages to drive Lois of all people insane in one episode. His favorite victims are his father and Reese though.
- Mouthy Kid
- Mr. Imagination: When his brothers are each imagining what they'd do with a motorbike they found, Dewey is meanwhile imagining having six arms to eat six cookies at once. Just to name one of many Imagine Spots he's had. It's revealed in one episode that whatever his mom is really saying in earshot of him, he just hears "Dewey Dewey Dewey...".
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He seems to play down his genius in order not to be forced into things as Malcolm is. Even the viewers didn't know he was a genius until season 4.
- Only Sane Man: Later in the series.
- Papa Wolf: Dewey will do everything in his power to protect and nurture the kids in the special classroom, because no one else is willing to. Also to his younger brother, even tricking his own parents to ensure that the younger brother gets the attention from his parents that he himself never got because they were always to busy dealing with their more troublesome kids.
- Parental Neglect: Despite being the youngest child, he is often neglected by his family and receives the least amount of attention from his parents.
- The Stoic: In the last season.
- Too Dumb to Live: In a flashback: while one of his brothers is cranking the pedal of an overturned bicycle, he takes a bite out of the spinning wheel. He grows out of this much quicker than his brothers, and starts to take pleasure in hurting and manipulating others instead.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Was willing to do anything to ensure that his brother got even a decent childhood, even if it meant tricking or humiliating his parents in the process.
- Wicked Cultured: Dewey is the most cultured, sophisticated and artistically inclined member of his family (and clearly the second most intelligent), and arguably the most devious. Lois realizes it's likely Dewey that was Gas Lighting her because she knew Reese couldn't possibly have kept it a secret for so long and Malcolm didn't have the patience he did.
- Wise Beyond Their Years
Played by: James and Lukas Rodriguez
- Enfant Terrible: He's so bad that he actually manages to break his mother's spirit. Subverted as this behavior was because of Reese giving him energy drinks.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: From stealing from the neighbors, to nearly killing his mother, he's proven himself to be as big as a threat as his brothers. Subverted with nearly killing Lois, as that was because Reese was giving him energy drinks.
Friends And Classmates
Played by: Craig Lamar Traylor
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Black and Nerdy
- Black Best Friend: To Malcolm.
- Corrupt the Cutie / Took a Level in Jerkass: Starts off the series as a rather innocent kid (thanks to over protective parents), but then he started hanging out with Malcolm and his family. Downplayed somewhat, however—from his first appearance he's willing to use his disabled status for a Wounded Gazelle Gambit
- Disabled Snarker
- Genius Cripple
- Handicapped Badass: He started out as quite innocent and helpless but as the series progresses he becomes much more confident. He joined the schools wheelchair basketball team, uses his wheelchair as a weapon against bullies (by running them over) and was revealed as the badass street racer in one episode. Interestingly, a lot of this takes place after his Mom leaves, suggesting it was her over-protectiveness that made him under confident.
- Missing Mom
- Only Sane Man
- Teen Genius
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Malcolm.
Dabney Hooper and Lloyd Jensen
Played by: Kyle Sullivan and Evan Matthew Cohen
- Ambiguously Gay: Both are effeminate (Lloyd moreso) and are hinted at being attracted to men on a few occasions.
- Alcoholic Parent: Dabney mentions that his mom will drink to the point of passing out.
- Abusive Parents
- Break the Cutie: Taken Up to Eleven in "Emancipation".
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Both disappeared after season 4.
- Chew Toy
- Ditzy Genius: Lloyd
- Drama Queen: Lloyd's often purposed solution is group suicide.
- Fragile Flower: Lloyd, who can burst into tears for almost any reason.
- Feud Episode: "Cliques"
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Lloyd loves these. He even offered to e-mail Malcolm a whole list of them.
- In Touch with His Feminine Side
- Large Ham: Both of them, but especially Lloyd.
- Poke the Poodle: When they attempted to haze Malcolm, which consisted of not saying "bless you" when he sneezed. Naturally, Malcolm didn't even notice.
- My Beloved Smother: Dabney's mom. As Malcolm puts it "Mama's boys are laughing at you with their mothers!"
- Nerd Glasses: Dabney.
- Perky Goth: Lloyd briefly becomes one in "Cliques".
- Those Two Guys
- Teen Genius
- TV Genius: In contrast to Malcolm, who subverts the trope, they are stereotypically nerdy and uncool.
- Took a Level in Badass: Dabney, after venting out his Mommy Issues with paintball.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Meat.
Played by: Tania Raymonde
- Badass Israeli: She has been trained in IDF defensive combat at some point in the past and is able to beat up Reese with little effort.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Like Dabney and Lloyd, she disappears after Season 4.
- D-Cup Distress: In the episode "Cynthia's Back", she develops large breasts, which she immensely dislikes and tries to hide by wearing large sweaters.
- Ditzy Genius
- Genki Girl
- I Just Want to Have Friends: She constantly tries to fit in with her peers, even going so far as to plan a party for socializing.
- Informed Judaism
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She is this to Malcolm in her original appearance.
- Missing Mom
- She Is All Grown Up: In "Cynthia's Back."
- Teen Genius
- Took a Level in Jerkass: In "Cynthia's Back," she became noticeably more sardonic and jerkish, particularly towards Malcolm. It is later implied that her personality change may be caused by mood swings due to her undergoing puberty. She Took a Level in Kindness by her next appearance.
Played by: Hayden Panettiere
- The Chessmaster
- Karma Houdini
- Manipulative Bitch: Her defining trait, at least to Malcolm and his brothers. Lois, who is herself a Manipulative Bitch, is often able to see right through her. However, she likes her anyway because she is one of the few people who can effectively force (or at least trick) the boys to get along with each other.
- Parental Neglect: Her parents divorced, and her father is a drunk who regularly gets into trouble with the law.
- Ship Tease: With Malcolm, although it is often made ambiguous whether her feelings are genuine or simply more manipulations.
- Wise Beyond Their Years
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: One of her favorite techniques.
Played by: Eric Nenninger
- Butt Monkey: Somewhat, but not nearly as much as Francis.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Aften Lavernia fires both of them, Francis eventually gets a job at the ranch, but we don't know what happened to Eric.
- Has Two Mommies: Has two dads, and is very defensive of them.
- Only Sane Man: Much more level-headed than Francis, and he often has to put up with his antics and irrational behavior.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue Oni to Francis's Red.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Francis.
Played by: Karim Prince
- Black Best Friend: To Francis, initially.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears after season 1.
- Scary Black Man: His reputation, anyway. He's Francis's "bodyguard".
Played by: Todd Giebenhain
Played by: Cloris Leachman
- 0% Approval Rating: Literally nobody in her family likes her even a little bit.
- The one exception, however, is Reese in her first and final appearances.
- Abusive Parent: To Lois.
- Evil Matriarch: To Lois so very, very much.
- Evil Oldfolks
- For the Evulz
- Heroic Sacrifice: She does do one thing that's selfless and awesome, when she pushes Dewey out of the way of an incoming truck and loses her leg in the process.
- Jerk Ass: Easily the meanest character on the show, as she's an even more abusive mother than Lois.
- Might Makes Right: Holds physical strength over intelligence every time, hence why she favors Reese.
- The Old Country: Ida and Victor apparently immigrated to the US from an unspecified Ruritania country in Eastern Europe, possibly Poland.
- Parental Favoritism: Towards Susan.
- Pet the Dog: She had some sociopathic examples of esteem and self-sacrifice which help explain why Lois still cares more than she should about her. Her biggest moment however came when she saves Dewey from being run over.
- Racist Grandma: To the point where Lois and Francis make a plan with their (African-American) friends to get Ida out of their house so Lois could not have her there when she gives birth. It works too, until her waters break.
- This trope seems to be subverted when Ida reveals she's engaged to a man from Hong Kong, but it turns out she just wanted his money.
- Screw Politeness Im A Senior
- The Sociopath
- Your Cheating Heart: She had a secret affair with a man named Radu Gogorsky, who was Lois' real biological father.
Played by: Robert Loggia
- Abusive Parent: To Lois.
- Evil Oldfolks
- I Am Not Your Father: In the episode "Victor's Other Family", Ida confesses to Lois that she had cheated on Victor numerous times and that Lois' biological father was a man named Radu Gogorsky.
- Jerkass: He was just as bad as his wife.
- Killed Offscreen: By Ida's second appearance, it was mentioned that he had died of unknown causes.
- The Old Country: Where he had fought in "the war".
- Parental Favoritism: Towards Susan. And towards his second family over the one he had with Ida.
- Grandparental Favoritism: While Victor showed great disdain for Malcolm, considering him to be a "sissy", he took a liking towards Reese, largely because Reese shared his jerkish and violent sociopathic tendencies.
- Screw Politeness Im A Senior
- The Sociopath
- Wicked Stepfather: To Lois as it turned out, although it is left ambiguous whether or not he was aware of this fact.
- Your Cheating Heart: In "Victor's Other Family", it was revealed that he had married a Canadian woman (played by Betty White) and started a second family with her.
Played by: Christopher Lloyd
- Abusive Parent: Not in the physical or verbal way, but the fact that he never accommodated to Hal's emotional needs, instead dodging any uncomfortable topics with humor and tickling.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Hal eventually does this while wearing a thick layer of coats so that Walter could not simply stop him by tickling him.
- Cool Old Guy
- Killed Offscreen: In "Hal Grieves."
- Large Ham: Keywords: Christopher Lloyd.
- Parental Neglect: See the Abusive Parents section.
- Wacky Parent, Serious Child: To Hal.
Played by: Emy Coligado
- Ax-Crazy: At times.
- Berserk Button: Do NOT try to evict her from her home.
- Fourth Date Marriage: To Francis.
- Happily Married: Again, to Francis.
- Hair-Trigger Temper
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Her mother left the family when she was only 3 years old, and her father kicked her out when she was 14 for throwing away his liquor.
- Mistaken for Cheating: In one episode, Francis becomes suspicious that she has been meeting with another man while he was at work. It turns out the man was her father, whom she was meeting to chastise for his past Parental Neglect.
- Not So Different: Despite their animosity towards each other, she and Lois share many personality similarities. And Francis loves her with the same passion and single-minded devotion Hal has for Lois.
Played by: David Anthony Higgins
- Abhorrent Admirer: To Lois.
- Acrofatic: He plays softball, and is shown to be very good at it. Until he gets a phone call mid-game, that is.
- All Love Is Unrequited: For Lois.
- Asshole Victim: There are times he deserves the crap he goes through. Some of it, anyway.
- Butt Monkey: Arguably the biggest one in the series.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Until he finally confesses his love for Lois when the store is being robbed. She delivers a "You're Not My Type" speech to him, and they remain friends.
- The Chew Toy: Suffers various injuries throughout the series, usually caused by the boys' antics.
- Fanboy: Of comic books and various sci-fi.
- Friendless Background: During his childhood.
- Generation Xerox: After meeting a kid that looks and acts exactly like him, it's revealed that he's the son of a woman he's been having an affair with.
- Hollywood Nerd
- Identical Grandson: His mother looks like him in drag.
- Just Friends: With Lois.
- Man Child
- Stalker with a Crush: Displays shades of this towards Lois. Although this was somewhat decreased over the series in favor of increasing his "annoying co-worker" characterization.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: When he gets put in charge of the Lucky Aide during night shift.
Abe and Kitty Kenarban
Played by: Gary Anthony Williams and Merrin Dungey
- Beware the Nice Ones: Kitty is initially extremely meek and mild-mannered. After spending a night at dinner with Malcolm's family, she begins to emulate Lois' personality and becomes more vocal and confrontational. She then takes this Up to Eleven after the third season when she snaps and abandons Abe and Stevie to become a porn star.
- Black and Nerdy: Abe. Like father, like son.
- Black Best Friend: Abe to Hal, much like Stevie is to Malcolm.
- Bumbling Dad: Abe.
- Easily Forgiven: Kitty, when she returns to the fold after having left two seasons prior. Ironically, Lois is the only one disgusted by the idea that someone could simply abandon their disabled child then return two years later as if nothing happened.
- Extreme Doormat: Kitty before meeting and being influenced by Lois.
- Henpecked Husband: Abe was one to Kitty before she Took a Level in Badass.
- My Beloved Smother: Kitty to Stevie initially. Followed later by...
- Parental Abandonment: When she divorced Abe and abruptly left the family after the third season. She eventually returns.
- Put on a Bus: Kitty before the beginning of Season 4.
- The Bus Came Back: In Season 6.
- Stacy's Mom: Kitty. Lampshaded by Malcolm and Reese in one episode after they accidentally walk in on her naked.
Played by: Catherine Lloyd Burns
- Cool Teacher: Especially to Malcolm, she tries very hard to be one. She genuinely cares about him.
- Demoted to Extra: Main character in season 1, special guest star in season 2. Later replaced by Herkabe.
- Hot Teacher: She's very good-looking.
- Who's Your Daddy?: It's implied her pregnancy was the result of an affair with the school janitor.
Played by: Chris Eigeman
- Insufferable Genius
- Dean Bitterman: He gets promoted to Dean of Discipline at the high school.
- Pet the Dog: He was genuinely happy at the picture the class made for him after the Child Prodigy he was going to make his apprentice left.
- Sadist Teacher
- Self-Made Man: He made himself a fortune, which he invested in dotcom.
- Smug Snake
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Unlike most examples of the trope he sticks around for the long run.
Commandant Edwin Spangler
Played by: Daniel von Bargen
- The Bus Came Back: In "Dewey's Dog."
- Dean Bitterman
- Drill Sergeant Nasty
- Eyepatch of Power
- Hook Hand: He ends up with two thanks to Francis.
- He later becomes a Jerk with a Heart of Gold in the episode when Francis leaves the academy, acknowledging that he has developed a level of respect for his adversity.
- Jerkass Fašade: Later on in "Dewey's Dog," it is revealed that he is actually an extremely depressed and broken man and that tormenting the cadets at military school was the only joy and purpose he had in life. Francis runs with this and gets him a job at a retirement home in Alaska, giving him free reign to torment the elderly in the same way he used to torment the military school cadets, complete with a Call Back to when he punished everyone for something one person did.
- The Neidermeyer
- Not So Different: He too had an over-bearing mother. Subverted where unlike Francis, he doesn't blame all of his misfortunes on her.
- Old Soldier: Subverted. Despite his numerous amputations and scars, he has never actually served in a war (all of his injuries were non-combat related).
- Unrequited Love: Ends up falling for Lois after she snaps at him for giving Francis homework after surgery.
- Worthy Opponent: He eventually comes to see Francis as this.
Played by: Brenda Wehle
- Absolute Cleavage: She wears an extremely low-cut shirt and never misses an opportunity to tell the males around her to stop staring at her cleavage.
- Bad Boss: She not only works all of her employees like dogs but also charges them high fees for rent and other basic amenities (such as bedding and hot water) and will deduct money from their paychecks when they fail to keep up with it. She does this on purpose so they have to stay and work for her until they pay her off, which she makes sure they can't do until the logging is finished
- The Baroness: Of the Rosa Klebb type.
- Ice Queen
- Only One Name
Otto and Gretchen Mankusser
Played by: Kenneth Mars and Meagan Fay
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign / Gratuitous German: Both are prone to this from time to time.
- Benevolent Boss: Otto is extremely accommodating to his workers. Francis once refers to him as "the best boss he's ever had."
- Consulting Mister Puppet: When their estranged son was a child, Otto would discipline him with "Schlupi," a sock puppet. In Gretchen's words, "Schlupi could say all the things that Otto couldn't." Francis eventually gets Otto to reconnect with said son using Schlupi, and later uses it himself to call Lois and tell her that he realizes that she always had his best interests in mind.
- Europeans Are Kinky: Francis rewrites a scene from a porno he mistakenly allowed to be filmed at The Grotto to keep it clean for their sake, only to find out they were disappointed that the scene contained no sex.
- Funny Foreigner
- Happily Married
- Horrible Judge of Character: A Running Gag was Otto's painful gullibility and naivetÚ. He would likely have fallen for numerous cons if not for Francis intervening and stopping him.
- Ironically, Francis was eventually fired from The Grotto after being duped by one of these cons himself and losing the ranch's deposits.
- Nice People: They're very helpful to Francis, and Otto is a Benevolent Boss.
- Pet Heir: Otto included a cow at his will.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist