When "Malcolm in the Middle" filmed its pilot episode, Frankie Muniz was, as his TV dad Bryan Cranston puts it, "a little 13-year-old with a squeaky voice."
Seven years have passed since then, and a lot has changed. "Now he's a little 20-year-old with a squeaky voice," Cranston jokes.
After seven seasons and 151 episodes, "Malcolm" will come to an end at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX. Malcolm (Muniz) and Reese (Justin Berfield) graduate from high school, and Malcolm can't wait to head off to Harvard and finally escape his family. Of course, given the power that mom Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) has exerted over him through the years, a clean break isn't really in the cards.
During filming of the graduation scenes at a Los Angeles high school in March, Zap2it.com sat down with the cast and asked them to recall some of their favorite moments from the series.
Chris Masterson, who plays Malcolm's eldest brother Francis, calls the series' first episode "our best one, hands down." In the episode we meet Malcolm, who discovers he's a genius and is placed in the gifted class at his school, much to his chagrin. "Around here being intelligent is exactly the same as being radioactive," he says.
It also introduces Francis in military school, setting up the series-long practice of giving Masterson his own stories, often separate from the rest of the family. It almost functioned like a show within the show. "One of the things I like about the show is that even if I wasn't in it, I'd still watch it as a fan," Masterson says. "I actually have conversations about episodes -- 'Oh, did you see that one?' -- as if I was watching 'Friends' or something."
Muniz, Masterson and Cranston all cite this first-season episode, in which roller-boogie king Hal (Cranston) teaches Malcolm to skate, as one of their favorites.
"There was some sentimentality and some pathos to it," Cranston says. "It's representative of what we do best -- every episode has a little bit of sentimentality, a little bit of craziness and physical comedy, and then we kind of wrap it up. And just when you think we might continue on with any one of those things, we turn."
The second-season finale finds Lois possibly pregnant again, leading her and Hal to recall the births of their four boys.
"We started out with Francis -- we were very wealthy and lived in this white apartment," says Kaczmarek, who cites this as her favorite episode. "With each subsequent child, our finances crumbled and the house got worse. It was, I thought, a very clever way of looking at family and children and everything."
Another of Muniz's favorites. Malcolm starts dating a girl named Sara, and he's over the moon -- until he becomes a "totally jealous creep."
"You never saw her face," Muniz says. "I loved that episode -- I had a fun time doing it because I actually had to act in that one."
Reese in the Army
The story arc in which Reese joins the Army and becomes the perfect soldier -- at least until he's put into a real combat situation -- is tops for Berfield.
"I actually had to shave my head for two episodes," he recalls. "Fortunately it grew back, and I didn't have an awkward shaved head -- there were not holes or indents or anything."