How come they don't actually torture Jamie? Because for most of the series, Jamie's an infant or a toddler. The boys have a standard that they don't torture babies and infants. This also can be taken as maturity; since Francis tortured Malcolm and Reese the way they tortured Dewey; but as the boys matured, they decided to stop torturing their brothers.
Not to mention, in "Baby" they say they want to be better siblings.
The Red Dress shows Hal smoking. Except later episodes establish that they quit. Early Installment Weirdness? Actually - Hal was doing it when he knew that nobody else was around. He could have easily been sneaking one or two in or just near the end of quitting at the time, since he's never shown smoking again. He just replaces it with coffee.
I forgot the name of the episode but remember when Malcolm accidentally injured the racist and abusive old woman over a baseball? She at one point asked him: "What are you? Swedish? Apache?" and Malcolm responds "I really don't know". This is a reference to how the director at one point tried to come up with a surname for the family but decided to try to make them as culturally ambiguous as possible.
Episode 2 has Lois catch the boys doing something embarassing. As she video records it as part of a punishment, she claims that "[their] grandma and all [their] friends" would love to see the tape at their next birthday party. The brilliance kicks in when we remember how vindictive, cruel, and hateful towards her family Ida is. Of course she'd love to see the boys embarrassed in front of all their friends.
The Dysfunction Junction may have made Malcolm miserable, but on the other hand if his life was easy, he'd probably be a jerk. So basically the show is a rather sentimental commentary on the modern family and is still funny.
But he is a jerk (especially in later seasons).
I think the above troper was pointing out he'd be a bigger jerk as an adult instead of (eventually) mellowing out and deciding to use his talents for good.
Hell, the episode "Future Malcolm" gave a glimpse at how big a jerk he may have become.
The finale told us what he was destined to become: he would grow up to be the best president of the United States after living a tough life that made him genuine and honest in the long run.
Or that was just the delusional whim of his mother.
But his family lives a hard life and they're manipulative, irresponsible jerks! -Original Fridge Brilliance by some troper, arguments provided by Peteman.
Yes, but they're rather unintelligent, have no high-range marketable skills, and come from unsupportive families, so their jerkiness festered for decades in their stagnant situation with no opportunities to get ahead. Malcolm, on the other hand, is a genius — and a socially adept and streetsmart genius with common sense at that — who got into Harvard and whose family, while dysfunctional, will support him come hell or high water, and can therefore probably accomplish anything he sets his mind to. It's actually common (I think it's actually a named psychological phenomenon) for very driven and passionate of adults to have started as angry whiny teenagers before they got their hands on an opportunity to pursue their goals, since being angry and whiny (more than usual for a teenager, that is) is often a sign of being unable to act on one's desires due to being repressed or boxed in by one's environment or relationships.
In the episode "Polly in the Middle", when Polly was being forced to choose between Abe and Craig as a boyfriend, she said "If society wasn't so strung up, I wouldn't need to make this decision." This implies that for her, it'd be ideal to have an intimate relationship that consists of three people, a practice also known as a "Polyamory". Could her name, "Polly" be a stealth pun on her romantic tendencies?
In the finale, Malcolm goes along with his family's plan to try and install him as president, in the hopes of getting someone there who knows a life of hardship and can do something about it. It is pretty sweet... until you realize that Malcolm's family's hardships are largely due to their own self-destructive tendencies and irresponsible behavior. They believe screwing over their son's best chance for a happy life and then guilt-tripping him into saving their asses from themselves instead of being more responsible is a good thing. It's like a Stockholm Syndrome sufferer helping his drug addicted former captors who kidnapped him for drug money keep up their terrible habits after escaping them.
It gets worse when you figure out that Lois will not relent in controlling Malcolm and pushing him towards this goal. Given how incredibly difficult it will be to achieve and not factoring the endless number of potential obstructions, Malcolm will likely be left with feelings of extreme inadequacy and deep resentment towards his family, Lois in particular, who will likely see him as a disappointment. Who's to say that a clock tower and high powered sniper rifle are not in Malcolm's future? Or worse, what if he wins and has that same insanity? Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Adding to the nightmare? Malcolm lacks a long-form birth certificate, meaning that even if he TRIES to run for high office, this will create massive hurdles that prevent him from achieving this goal his mother is determined to force him to achieve.
This troper had to order a new birth certificate because of reasons and all it cost me was 25 bucks and two forms of non-photo ID or one form of photo ID. Is there a reason he couldn't get a birth certificate??
At one point, Lois and Hal find out that since Malcolm tests so high on college aptitude tests, some credit card companies offer him free cards and accounts. Malcolm has enough sense to not use them. Hal then steals the cards to pay for a family skiing trip, without Malcolm's knowledge or permission. And he'll never be able to pay it off.
Not really. With very limited exceptions, a minor cannot legally enter into contracts, and that would include the terms of a credit card. Not to mention that if once the judge found out that the credit-card company had just opened the accounts and given him the cards without even determining his eligibility or getting a signature, they'd be laughed out of the courtroom. (There is precedent for this; Amex ended up losing a court case where it turned out that they'd kept giving additional cards to a woman who lived in a trailer with no visible means of support. Every time she maxed out her card, they gave her another one, and the judge ruled that they should've known better and that they'd have to just eat the loss. And this was someone who could legally enter into contracts.)
Malcolm wants to keep Dewey out of the Krelboyne class so he has Reese do Dewey's tests. And this gets Dewey in the 'emotionally disturbed' Busey class. So if Reese's answers landed him there, does that mean Reese needs serious psychological help (moreso than the rest of the family)? Presumably, that class was for kids with some serious special needs (even though they weren't getting anything good out of the special class until Dewey joined it).
It has been hinted Reese does have serious problems, for instance his love of causing mindless destruction and inability to see any consequences of it on even himself.
It's more that a child of Dewey's age was having Reese like thoughts. If you saw a 17 year old drawing a picture of someone being stabbed with lots of blood coming out, you'd think it was odd, but nothing more. But if you saw a 10 year old drawing the same picture, you would assume there was something wrong with the child.
Actually, school systems these days will send you into all sorts of counseling and may even suspend or expel a kid who's past the age of 17 for drawing those kind of pictures. Though, that's besides the point. The previous troper is right... only when it comes to anyone looking at the picture who isn't a teacher.