Though the connection between Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle is obviously Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White and Hal Wilkerson respectively, there are a lot more similarities than meets the eye. It’s no secret that has performance as Walter is one of best roles from the cast of Malcolm in the Middle, as it changed television forever and is responsible for the golden age of television audiences are living in today, but the multi-award-winning crime drama arguably wouldn’t be what it is without Malcolm.
There are the obvious similarities, such as a poor family struggling to get by and a father who keeps so many secrets from his wife, but there are a lot of deep cuts from Breaking Bad that are seemingly cut straight out of the family sitcom.
The Vamonos Pest Similarities
In what was one of Walter’s best schemes, he decides to cook crystal meth in houses that are covered by fumigation tents. It’s was an extremely precise and structured operation, and it was like a moving roadshow as the meth lab was packed into instrument boxes.
The way these episodes were expertly shot made the yellow and green fumigation tents pop off the screen, especially in contrast with the gas mask-wearing lab-rats. But as great as the scene looks, it’s suspiciously similar to a scene in Malcolm in the Middle, in which Hal and Lois put on gas masks and head into a very similar looking tent.
Frantically Running Around In Underwear
The delightful chaos is one of the reasons Malcolm in the Middle is the best sitcom, and for a family comedy, it might be the most chaotic and frantic of them all. One of the things that makes the series so chaotic is how uncontrollable the sons are, but sometimes Hal can’t even control himself.
One scene of Malcolm sees Hal running through the street in just his underwear, just like Walt does in the first episode of Breaking Bad. How often are people seen running outside in their underwear on TV? It isn’t a common trope, but what makes the similarity even more jaw-dropping is how the tightie-whities Hal is wearing are exactly the same as the ones in the crime drama.
Obviously, the whole story arc of Breaking Bad is how Walt builds a crystal meth empire, and though we never see Hal using any real drugs, he clearly has a sordid past based on his knowledge when he injects butter into rice cakes.
That might sound strange, but at one point in the series, Hal strangely grows a fat fetish, and he tries to fatten up Lois when she’s on a diet by putting dollops of sugar in orange juice and putting butter in rice cakes. He melts the butter in the same way addicts use heroin, by putting it on a tiny spoon and heating it with a lighter. For a family show, it’s one of the grimmest and darkest references in the series.
Being another joke that would have gone over most viewers’ heads considering most of those viewers were children, Hal’s garage was literally turned into a meth lab. When Francis briefly returns home to babysit while Hal and Lois go on a trip away, he invites his old school friends over for a house party, but it isn’t long before it gets out of hand.
All grown up. Francis’ friends have all turned in to drug dealers and addicts, and they use his house as a chemistry lab. It’s fascinating how different the two shows approach the subject matter, as Breaking Bad shows crystal meth for what it is, a life-ruining, teeth rotting drug, whereas Malcolm is more like, “well, boys will be boys.”
Being Terrorized By Insects
For a show in which every single episode is so highly rated, “The Fly” is a Breaking Bad episode that sticks out like a sore thumb. Being a bottle episode, it’s largely regarded as the worst episode of the whole series as the whole 45 minutes follows Jesse and Walt try to catch a fly in the meth lab, but there are some who believe it to be the very best episode.
Though it’s around 43 minutes shorter, Hal suffers a similar fate in which he’s terrorized by a bee. Though it isn’t as character-driven or narratively complex, Hal’s torment hilariously results in him literally trying to ram it with his car.
The fact the bullies are afraid of him is one of the things that doesn’t make sense about Stevie, but maybe those bullies know something others don’t, which is that he grows up to be the maniacal Gus Fring. Maybe that isn’t completely true, though there are fan theories that believe that’s very much the case, but it’s unarguable just how much the child genius looks like Fring.
It isn’t just the skin color, glasses, or innocent-looking face, but the colors Stevie tends to wear are so shockingly similar to the Los Pollos Hermanos uniform. The two have similar character traits too, as they are both incredibly well-mannered in public, but both have shocking dark sides too. Sometimes it feels like Vince Gilligan is Malcolm in the Middle’s biggest fan.
The Burning Man RV
Though it’s one of the Malcolm in the Middle episodes that has aged poorly, as it sees a teenaged Malcolm lose his virginity to a middle-aged woman, Hal’s story arc is hilarious. Hal and Lois are none the wiser when it comes to Burning Man Festival and believe it’ll be a fun family trip. Borrowing an RV, Hal is extremely protective over it, but he isn’t protective enough as it ends up setting on fire.
Obviously, Walter was no stranger to RVs, as it was his very first meth lab and it was the reason behind one of the times Hank almost caught Walt. Not only that, but the RV in Breaking Bad also gets set on fire, just as it does in Malcolm.
The Crystal Ship
At one point in Malcolm in the Middle, the titular character becomes the editor for the school magazine, which is called The Crystal Ship. And in Breaking Bad, Jesse calls the RV the same thing, obviously alluding to the fact that it’s both a crystal meth lab and a mode of transportation.
The similarity is resounding, but it could just be a coincidence. It’s also very possible that the people who made up the name of the magazine and the nickname of the RV could both be fans of The Doors, as they have a track titled “The Crystal Ship” from their debut album.
“Windy” By The Association
One of the things Breaking Bad does better than most other shows is it’s on-point musical cues, as there always seems to be the perfect song for any given montage. In season three, Wendy, the prostitute who seemingly lives in a hotel, gets her montage of various shots in which she provides her services in cars around the motel.
The song played over the top of the montage is “Windy” by The Association, and it’s a perfectly appropriate track. However, the song was actually heard years beforehand in Malcolm in the Middle, as the song played briefly on the radio before Lois turned it off. It’s another extremely specific similarity, as it isn’t any particular pop song or a track that is commonly played on TV, but a deep cut from the 196os.
Moving To Alaska
In what is the most glaringly obvious similarity of them all, when Francis, Hal and Lois’ oldest son, finally graduates from military school, he runs away to Alaska. This is exactly what Jesse does in the Breaking Bad spin-off movie, El Camino, as he completely changes his identity and the movie ends when he’s driving through the snowy mountains. Though Jesse isn’t technically Walt’s son, the science teacher clearly acts as a father figure to him and they have a lot of father/son bonding moments. The similarity must be more than just a coincidence and maybe, just maybe, Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle are parallel universes of the same story…