Billboard is the tenth episode of Season 6 and the 117th episode overall of Malcolm in the Middle.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

The boys see a billboard advertising a strip club and decide to vandalize it. When Lois catches them, Malcolm makes it look like they're protesting the strip club. As women's rights groups descend on the billboard, Lois tries to find a way to get the boys down without incurring the wrath of the media. Meanwhile, Hal has an awkward run-in with an ex-girlfriend of his.

Plot[edit | edit source]

In the opening scene, Hal finds a piece of paper in Jamie's crib and is astonished by how Jamie now knows his letters and even though it's chicken scratch he's spelled actual words phenomenal for his age deducing Jamie is a genius. Reese walks in and states that the papers are actually his homework telling his parents that he does his homework every once in a while.

The episode begins with the family in the van driving home from an Malcolm states that once a month Lois wakes everybody up at 5 AM to go to the outlet mall to buy clothes for the boys, something which they hate. Lois loves shopping at Value Village and loves how. Dewey asks his mom if his new shirt was made in a country where people aren't symmetrical. Lois tells him to stop complaining and be thankful for Value Village if it wasn't for them they would be running around naked and it's what separates them from the apes.

On the way home, they spot a new billboard with a stripper on it advertising a strip club leaving all the males with their mouths agape. Lois is too distracted by a deal on paper towels offered by the store by the billboard and doesn't pay any attention to it.

On Saturday, as the boys watch TV, Lois turns it off claiming that television is turning their brains into mush since they've been watching it for hours already. Malcolm states they are bored and there's nothing better to do. Lois tells them that so much TV has killed their imaginations. Hal is aghast that the boys are spending a Saturday doing nothing and suggests that they take a walk, roll a hoop or start a rock collection. He tells them to go out and find something enjoyable to do because when they are grown up and have careers and children of their own they won't have time to do fun activities or to be bored anymore. Only regret for not doing anything exciting when they had the chance. They reluctantly agree to go outside and find an activity to stop their parents from lecturing them.

Unfortunately, their idea of something to do is to vandalise the billboard. Malcolm claims that Lois was practically challenging them to use their imaginations, Dewey suggests vandalizing the woman with immature doodles but Malcolm claims them as too juvenile. Reese kicks things off by creating a speech bubble reading "I Want Re" (intending to write 'I Want Reese') with Malcolm emphasizing how leaving his name will blow their cover. It a massive turn of bad luck for the boys, Lois is shopping in the store at the foot of the billboard for the deal on paper towels she saw in the van and sees them. Fuming, she orders them to come down that instant.

Reese questions where the back door is, Dewey is certain they are dead before Reese questions why billboards have to be so visible. Panicking, Malcolm locks the hatch and writes more in the speech bubble Reese knows he is using his brain and has an idea. Malcolm finishes the speech bubble but now so it says "I Want Respect" and claims that the graffiti is a protest against the strip club. Some other women at the foot of the billboard shout support, and soon several media outlets turn up to report on the supposed protest. With the police refusing to remove the boys (as they want to keep the female vote with it being an election year for the police commissioner), Lois has no way to get them down without causing a media storm.

After a couple of hours Hal finally turns up (finding a babysitter for Jamie is getting harder as he is already on several blacklists) but turns out to be no help as he enjoys the attention of the media... at least until a woman he recognises turns up after seeing him on TV at which point he starts doing everything to avoid her. When she catches up to him, she reminds Hal of his 'commitment'. Hal responds by throwing her in the news van. Lois decides to negotiate and makes the boys an offer; if they come down now she'll settle for confining them to their room for three weeks but warns all bets are off if they refuse. The boys can't believe Lois is actually attempting to reason with them and decide to wait her out until she agrees not to punish them, since they're now getting food and supplies from their supporters. Lois makes it clear she's not going down easily. She tries to manipulate the boys into turning on each other by ensuring only one of the cupcakes they're sent has a cherry, but they see through this and just throw it down at her feet.

Soon the boys are enjoying their time on the billboard, as the protesters are catering to their every need with food, water and feminist reading material. However Malcolm and Dewey scold Reese when he casually insults the women and disparages the cause. That night, Reese has a dream where the woman on the billboard talks to him and makes him realise that the woman he's seeing on the billboard isn't real but just an image created by a strip club. Lois is approached by Wendy who has been stalking Hal and she tells him why she's after him; they were once co-workers and she loaned him $400 some years ago and he has done everything he can (including blowing up a phone booth to fake his death) to avoid paying it back.

Lois gets an idea at this point and makes a public statement to the cameras praising her 'brave' boys, and especially Dewey given his medical condition and that he could fall into a diabetic coma and die at any moment. The police commissioner overhears and orders the boys be brought down at once. The police them storm the billboard and drag the three down, although while they descend Reese makes a speech on how he's learned the woman on the billboard isn't 'real' and shouldn't be thought of as such, Lois silently shows how impressed she is with Reese for learning from his experience. Once down, Lois finally gets a hold of Malcolm and Reese and promises Malcolm that he's got many punishments coming although she isn't too sure about what to do with Reese since he actually learned a lesson from the experience. Dewey is rushed to an ambulance, where Hal joins him. Dewey begs Hal to get him released, but when Hal sees Wendy approaching he instead pretends Dewey is dying so he can be whisked away before closing the ambulance door.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • In the crowd of protesters, many people were holding up signs. One of which said "GOD HATES STRIPPERS" This is a reference to the Westboro Baptist Church protesters and their infamous phrase "GOD HATES FAGS".
  • Hal mentions his mother in this episode while being interviewed on the news, saying that she used to work in the kitchen a lot when he was a child. It is unknown if the information he gave about her was true, or if he just said that for the cameras.
  • Dewey reads a feminist version of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, in which Cinderella turns down Prince Charming and lives on her own and creates her own Matriarchy.
  • The billboard is located at 12801 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605.

Errors[edit | edit source]

  • In the first scene of the boys up on the billboard, Reese's vandalism in it's entirety is already seen on there. Later, Reese is heard spray painting the billboard off screen, and for the camera to then cut to the billboard again, with the same vandalism on there, with no changes made. The characters also all acted as though Reese had just now spray painted that on there, meaning that it wasn't intended to be there before.
  • The ambulance at the end of the episode was seen with flashing lights on it. However, in the shot where it drives off, the lights were shut off.
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