Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: March 24, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.435 million viewers, 4.5 rating in Households, 2.888 million viewers with Kids 2-11, 2.340 million viewers with Kids 6-11 (9.6 rating), 2.324 million viewers with Tweens 9-14 (9.4 rating), 1.251 million viewers with Teens 12-17
Disney+ is up and running, and while I am still finishing my run of LIV AND MADDIE, I have decided that the adventures of a pop star and her normal alter ego shall be the second show I am watching. I have a bit of experience with HANNAH MONTANA way back when, but when I did watch the show some time in 2008, I didn’t watch all of it (I think I remember a Halloween episode and one that had Dolly Parton in it). But now that Disney+ exists and I have found a liking for Disney Channel shows, why not trying to make my way through the entire run of Miley Cyrus’ television adventure, before she became a real pop star and probably someone who could easily mingle with Emma Watson and Kristen Stewart in what is going to be called the first legal threeway marriage between three women. They are what Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne were for kids in the early 2000s.
Disney Channel television products from halfway into the first decade of the new millennium seem incredibly old these days. There is a reason to studio was able to buy all the things it could get their hands on (Marvel Comics, Lucasfilm, ABC, 20th Century Fox), and I think one of the reasons might be that their TV shows were successful while also being produced on the cheap. It’s 2005 and HANNAH MONTANA was conceived as a show that did not have to comply with the unwritten rules of high-definition television, and the very soundstage-like setting makes this episode seem like it was produced during a time the studio was not allowed to shoot anything under an open and blue sky. This is generally I have a problem with when it comes to Disney Channel shows (they never seem to be allowed to use exterior settings), but maybe it’s just because they are sitcoms, and that’s what the genre is all about: Exterior sets are forbidden and you better look as cheap as possible, where the audience could think that the entire thing was produced on video. It sort of is unbelievable to say that about a TV show that found its premiere date in early 2006, but then again, not every broadcast television show was airing in high-definition back then, so maybe the Disney Channel was just straggling behind?
While I’m hilariously wasting an entire paragraph about the fullscreen quality of this episode, I must say I had this episode kind of worse in my memory banks. There were a few moments I chucked during, and it turns out that Miley Cyrus and Emily Osment are good-enough actors and a well developed team to carry the entire show with just their chemistry, no more regular or supporting characters needed. Maybe it was just this episode, which needed to go through the premise of Lilly finding out about Miley’s greatest secret, but the way their friendship went from its normal status at the beginning to a crash-landing midway through to the new high they shared close to the end of the episode made for an intriguing start to the show and a promising way to start off a new friendship between two characters who maybe have been close to each other, but in reality they haven’t really. Not only did this episode of a sitcom television show deliver an actual premiere episode, in which the characters changed the status quo of their lives a little bit (shouldn’t that be the case for every character in any television show, no matter the genre?), but it also made good work of its two main attractions and they way they acted. Who would have known that, when Miley became a little insecure and didn’t know what to do, her Southern accent comes popping out and the scene gets at least a little funnier? And I was definitely not expecting that the friendship between Miley and Lilly would be defined in this episode and even make me care if they get back together by the end of the episode (which was an obvious guarantee, but I still worried for a hot second). In that way, the episode did good, although we’re allowed to ask the question now if future episodes will develop that friendship, because when it comes to the Disney Channel, barely anything gets developed — characters usually stay the same over the course of three or four seasons of sitcoms.
What I appreciated about the premiere is how the nature of the show’s comedy is not grounded and is allowed to go nuts every once in a while. Jackson isn’t in pain when shown in his sister’s clothes twice during these 23 episodes, and generally speaking there is something very crazy about Lilly “landing” in the Stewart house with her skateboard, which usually shows she has no restraints — that’s great for a sitcom. In addition, Miley won’t be held back having a crush on Johnny Collins (when Corbin Bleu probably still thought he could be a Hollywood superstar), who happens to be black, and Miley and Lilly’s random best friend Oliver finds time to be the prick of Seaview Middle School, because when you write a sitcom that does not want to bore you with emotional stuff, then there is always an asshole who makes things a little difficult for the characters, although it’s guaranteed that Oliver will remain best friends with the central characters, no matter how much of an idiot he is. HANNAH MONTANA is essentially the best Disney Channel sitcom: A few characters I care about, ridiculous comedy, some hot teenage pop music I don’t mind every once in a while (Miley Cyrus making the extra dough while shooting the show, as the songs she sings were probably released for the viewers to buy and listen to like this is the soundtrack of FROZEN), and the Southern accent that comes shooting out of the Cyruses that makes things more hilarious that the show has any right to be. It’s almost like the Disney Channel could work towards a revival season, like they are doing with LIZZIE MCGUIRE.