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'Malcolm's' brood growing

But new baby will just add to family's travails

HOLLYWOOD — After hiding the fact that Jane Kaczmarek was pregnant during filming of "Malcolm in the Middle" (Sundays, 8 p.m., Ch. 13) earlier this season, the show's producers have gone and gotten the actress's character pregnant. How weird is that?

The show's creator/executive producer, Linwood Boomer, said Kaczmarek was already "pretty far along" when they began filming this season. (She give birth to a daughter on Dec. 2.) "And, also, we didn't quite have enough time to really plan out great episodes.

"Our lead time on scripts is so far ahead of time. It's almost like 'The Simpsons' — we have to write these things so far ahead of time. And we didn't have enough time to really make them great. So we figured we'd let her become pregnant for February sweeps, which is always nice, and we took that time to plan how to do it and how to make it fun."

Not that Kaczmarek is complaining about going from real-life pregnancy to TV pregnancy.

"The great blessing of that is, of course, usually in Hollywood everyone is in such a race to get their weight off because they have to get in front of the camera again," Kaczmarek said. "I go back to work after a very luxurious maternity leave, and I get to put on a fat suit."

"Then she also gets the added luxury which, just for Jane, is most of her scenes are sitting down or lounging on a chair or something like that, which is just a personal favorite of Jane's," Boomer said.

"I'm probably the laziest actress . . . I love to sit and act," Kaczmarek said with a laugh.

Boomer did say that the writers were inspired by Kaczmarek's real-life pregnancy. But, he added, it was more a function of "trying to figure out, well, pregnancy in this family is probably the most horrible thing that can happen. . . . We went from the thing of the sadistic enjoyment of how much we could torment these characters until it came out funny."

Don't be surprised if the baby finds itself in some interesting circumstances. Boomer said he thought the movie "Addams Family Values" was "hilarious" when that baby "was being shot out of cannons" and so on. And that Swee'Pea in the old "Popeye" cartoons "was pretty funny up on the girders and coming out unscathed."

Which seemed to take Kaczmarek back a bit. "Oh, no," she said. "Can we do that? Don't they have agencies . . . ?"

"Well, we won't put a real baby up on a girder, Jane," Boomer assured her.

Perhaps a bit unpredictably, "Malcolm" won't end its season with a May sweeps birth of the baby. "We want to actually write and shoot two or three episodes with that baby there so that then if it works out that it can be a hilarious addition and a hilarious new complication for the family, then we'll use it a lot. And if it isn't, we'll probably minimize its impact," Boomer said.

And he didn't rule out the possibility of more additions to the family. Oldest brother Francis (Christopher Masterson) is, after all, married now. "It seems like that (becoming a father) would be something really horrible to foist on (the character), and so far we haven't missed an opportunity."

Although Francis hasn't gotten leprosy or been through an earthquake. Yet.

"It got so bad," Boomer said with a laugh, "the writers, at one point, we got so invested in, 'What else can we do to torture this family?' that we had a card up on the storyboard that just said, 'Hurriquake.' We were going to do that to him.

"Thankfully, we never came up with a story to justify that title, but . . . "