Hannah Montana (“On the Road Again”)

Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: July 28, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.704 million viewers with Kids 2-11, 2.987 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 2.888 million viewers with Tweens 9-14, 1.616 million viewers with Teens 12-17

In which Billy Ray Cyrus was allowed to play a musician on a television show he stars in and probably took the opportunity to flash back to those times where he was the heartthrob of the 1980s, where he was the country superstar who could have had any woman in the world. It is almost two decades later and this episode is pretty much a depiction of a former country star who has forsaken his music career for a different one, and it turns out he was happy about making the decision to switch careers from music to parenting. Not only was I glad that the writers shipped around the usual genre cliches of a superstar turning their back from a superstardom career to raise children, but the episode generally delivered a great message about how music should not be the only thing that thrives people in their thirties or forties who may have children. This episode could clearly be a message for those folks as well, instead of being a sitcom for the t(w)eenage audience sitting in front of the television, making HANNAH MONTANA show that transcends generations — even if just for this episode.

Look who showed up in this show to be a huge fan of the Stewarts.

Okay, I wasn’t happy about the entirety of the episode, since most of the second act was wasted by having Roxie helicopter-sitting both Miley and Jackson to desperation. I would have loved getting some more screentime of Robbie during his tour, smelling the days and nights of being a music superstar again, realizing what that life has been like for him back in the day and how it’s for Miley now. Robbie going back on tour could have given him an insight on how his daughter is doing, but the writers did not want to make this story about Robbie, because it is not his alter ego name that makes the title of this television series. No, we had to go back to Malibu and see Miley and Jackson fail getting rid of their babysitter and to develop the emotion of missing their father, which pretty much turns HANNAH MONTANA into a family sitcom that pushes the value of loving your parents onto the viewers, when probably a surprisingly large part of the target demographic of the show do not like their helicopter-parents very much. But hey, the show is already unique in the regard that Robbie is a single father of two teenage kids — something the Disney Channel usually never bothers with.

Plus points for Ashley Tisdale showing up to bookend this episode. I have no idea if she was already a star midway through 2006 (right now I could not tell you if she ever starred in her own Disney Channel sitcom before her hit appearance in the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL franchise, or if she found a way out of that dangerous bubble filled with child-grooming sharks), but her appearance gave me joy, and I remembered how crazy she can portray her characters, all while staying in the realm of comedy the entire time. Tisdale would be perfect for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but apparent someone found her for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL before she ever had the chance to be a real comedian. And this was me trying to find a way to write about Ashley Tisdale, because there is not much else to say about this episode.

The look of a bored country rocker during a reunion tour.

Okay, maybe there is, but I almost forgot about it: Something about Robbie’s performance when Miley and Jackson joined him as audience members bothered me. In fact, it was Robbie’s bored and shy, anxious, “I wanna get out of here” facial expression when he was performing his song. The man was not excited to be on this stage, which could be for two reasons. For one, maybe that was just Robbie not enjoying the experience much and wanting to go home to his kids. Or it is the second option, but that would mean Billy Ray Cyrus is a terrible actor and he was unable to find a way to just perform on that soundstage, because this Cyrus was only known to be a musician before he decided to star with his daughter in this TV show. It is like he forgot how to act while acting out his musician character as he was singing.

Hannah Montana (“Oops! I Meddled Again”)

Season 1, Episode 11
Date of airing: July 15, 2006 (Disney Channel)

This episode is proof that Miley is sometimes not able to separate herself from her alter ego. Blurting out that she read emails for and from Hannah Montana was a pretty stupid thing to do, and I was quite surprised and shocked that Miley would even go so far and almost blow her secret in front of a random character who will most likely be retired after this episode, except of course Becca Weller will be a recurring character for another episode or two and show us all that Oliver can keep a girlfriend for more than one episode and HANNAH MONTANA can be a serialized show sometimes. Well, so much for my nitpicking section of this review, because the rest turned out to be quite entertaining.

Look at this beach gangsta’s cute face!

Or maybe just ridiculously weird at times, when it comes to Jackson and Rico’s story. First of all, I would like to know who the owner of the beach-side store is — is it Rico, which would make him the youngest owner of a store ever, or is it Rico’s father whose name is also Rico, which makes Rico Rico Jr.? Secondly I would like to know why Rico does not like Jackson and where the origins of this conflict is, let alone why it is free of any clever humor and comedy. The thing with the chicken wings and hot sauce all over Rico’s face was eyesroll-worthy, but then a solid sketch happens and Jackson suddenly is in the chicken costume, getting buried in bodies and faces who were snatching up some free chicken wings. It was almost like the comedy parts of the episode were written by the entire writing room, which shows that some writers were hired because of their comedy skills, while others were here to find the story and character development that comes with the morale of the story. But because HANNAH MONTANA does not have a lot of character development and morale, it almost seems like that particular writers room has not been filled with actual writers. Jackson’s story depicted what shows on the Disney Channel regularly suffer from. At least he was brought into a more funnier C story about the toilet paper — I was amused by Robbie yelling for Jackson from the bathroom. By the way, the Stewarts have a huge house, so why don’t they have a cupboard in the bathroom that could house a few rolls of toilet paper?

Miley Stewart as Hannah Montana as a chicken.

So, Miley wanted to be cupid and couple up a cute girl with a ridiculous and maybe sexist boy. Not only am I shocked that Becca even had a crush on Oliver to begin with, but continued to have one even after hanging with him for a day. Fora moment it seemed like an interesting or worthwhile story, but the back and forth few boring after a while — first Miley was pushing Oliver and Becca together, and then her mission was it to keep them apart, followed by her mission to stop each other from ending this relationship. Let’s just hope Miley learned something from this experience and helps out by writing emails, instead of actively pushing two people to deal with each other who conveniently have no idea how to deal with each other, because it is funny for the young viewers. Although, I was impressed by the line “My Robbie name is hi” and how it became a pretty big joke when Oliver said it to Becca. I would probably act as foolish in front of women, since my anxiety would take over, so I cannot even blame Oliver for not knowing what to do when standing before a girl.

Hannah Montana (“O Say, Can You Remember the Words?”)

Season 1, Episode 10
Date of airing: June 30, 2006 (Disney Channel)

Miley almost proved herself to be a great friend to the creepy character that is Oliver Oaken, but then Oliver had to mess it up again by being part of a television sitcom, instead of taking the morale of the week to heart and be a friend to Miley after she has kind of been a friend to him after he had been a friend to her after she failed to be a friend for him. Oh boy, now that I have written it out like that, the story is a wild back-and-forth, in which neither Miley nor Oliver managed to be best friends to the other, let alone helped to pull the other logically out of the funk they were in. Oliver never got out of the funk, because his Shakespeare performance was still wild and over the top. And Miley never got out of the funk, because not for a single second I believed she was actually in a funk. I get that stage fright ruins you and all the knowledge of the piece you were supposed to perform on stage, but Miley developing stage fright as Hannah Montana after having gone through her superstardom without damaging herself is not just illogical, but also very much a construed premise for an episode of a television show that does not care about consistency and continuity. The same can be said about Jackson who had a full set of hair again the episode after Alison Brie cut it off of him.

Chocolate addiction is cruel and painful.

With that in mind I could barely enjoy this episode. A premise was developed for the sake of filling 23 minutes of the Disney Channel’s airtime, but let’s not ask if said premise even made sense with hoe the characters have been established before, and whether or not we should even care about a show that does not care about previous establishment. It might sound like I’m just nitpicking here, but since Miley should never have had stage fright as Hannah Montana, the entire episode didn’t make sense and all I had to rely on was this weird story of Jackson on a sugar rush, which when you think about it a little harder was a parable and metaphor of how drugs can ruin you more than stage fright can. Because Miley and Jackson had to live with their quickly developed fallacies, it gave the episode a theme and some issues to go through, which is a positive, but Miley barely learned something out of her newfound stage fright which she got rid of again before the episode ended, while Jackson was allowed to follow his addiction to sugar without anyone ever stopping him. No intervention. No medication. No, instead he sounded like a falcon when he buried his pretty teeth into one of the chocolate bunnies at Rico’s bar.

Acrobatics and singing only fit together when you’re Britney Spears.

Jackson’s story is one of those that never had me appreciate HANNAH MONTANA as a show that takes its stories seriously. Maybe later episode will be a bit more thoughtful with its premises, as this half hour is still part of an era during which HANNAH MONTANA may not have been a hit show just yet (who knows, maybe this episode was produced before the show’s premiere?), but Jackson’s sugar high is one of those supposedly comedic storylines that have me worry about the writers and what they think is funny for kids. I guess a little crazy comedy can’t hurt, but Jackson’s addiction to sugar was close to becoming a mirror image of people’s addiction to actual life-ending drugs, and in this case I would have wished for the writers to take the story with a bit of caution or at least get as far away from the mirror as possible. Addiction shouldn’t be funny, not even for a sitcom. But maybe that’s just my social justice warrior brain talking.

Hannah Montana (“Ooo, Ooo, Itchy Woman”)

Season 1, Episode 9
Date of airing: June 10, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.097 million viewers with Kids 2-11, 1.752 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 1.598 million viewers with Tweens 9-14, 0.827 million viewers with Teens 12-17

Amber and Ashley are turning into the antagonists of the show and they definitely deserve whatever bad thing is happening to them. Not only are they materialistic and super shallow (you are allowed to hate them), but when they decided to lie and take away Lilly and Miley’s accomplishments as teenage campers who don’t want to be in the forest, I was completely and utterly on the sides of the two best friends and all I wanted was for Miley to pull the most serious and evilest prank imaginable on the two spoiled girls. Unfortunately for the comedy level of this episode, the prank was incredibly lame. What Miley needed was a fake arm with some fake blood which she could have thrown into the tent to freak out the spoiled rotten girls even more, and what Lilly needed was a little more excitement and fun to be part of the prank. I’m actually wondering whether the producers decided to keep the prank on the downlow for the sake of the young audience who is watching the show, or if there simply wasn’t the budget for a more elaborate prank. Like I said, Amber and Ashley deserved more than just trapping themselves in the port-a-potty that fell down. Let’s just hope the class was using the box a lot during the day, and Amber and Ashley came out of it brown and moist.

Miley and camping are oxymorons.

But at least this episode went through the drama of being part of Miley and Lilly’s class for the first time, which makes this episode the premiere of Miley’s middle school days. The writers have used the school business as part of the narrative, and for the first time Miley and Lilly were depicted in the vicinity of their classmates and a teacher. All that is missing now is a story set in a classroom, although that never really happened in any other Disney Channel show with the exception of GIRL MEETS WORLD, but this episode was a solid beginning. It helped to establish a class for Miley and Lilly to interact with, and now Oliver doesn’t necessarily have to be involved in the girls’ stories all the time, as he now got the necessary environment to go through his own ordeal of being a t(w)eenager who gets bullied left and right. By the way, why was that never the A story of the episode? What Oliver went through was almost comically awful, and since HANNAH MONTANA is not a stranger to “morale of the week” stories, I was a bit surprised that nobody had something to say about Oliver’s ordeal of the episode. Then again, he is not the smartest of the bunch, and his sexism and creepy attitude from the second episode is still haunting me, so maybe he deserves getting crap like this for a change?

Jackson’s trap caught Jackson by surprise.

In the meantime, Robbie and Jackson were on a mouse hunt and it was not a story for the ages. The notion that the mouse they were trying to hunt was a smart mouse with the talent to play the piano may have been amusing for a hot second, but chances are that Linda the mouse will continue to hang out in the Stewart household to be part of the show’s running gag playbook are slim to non-existent, although it would be a weirdly funny running gag (in a way, the Stewarts would have a pet that is never seen on-screen and plays the piano whenever, let alone some of the other instruments in the house). The writers even could have made an interesting father/son story out of the mouse hunt, since Jackson and Robbie were both dealing with a rodent in the house, but alas, there was not much humor to be found here and the writers were only trying to fill some airtime, because they couldn’t write an entire episode around a camping trip and forget two of the five central characters. Sometimes I would wish for sitcoms to do that though, since the chances for B stories to be as entertaining and funny as the A story are slim as well.

Hannah Montana (“Mascot Love”)

Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: May 26, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.432 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 1.367 million viewers with Tweens 9-14

A teenage television show that cannot stay away from cheerleading — it only took HANNAH MONTANA eight episodes to get there, which begs the question how long it will take for the show to depict some lacrosse action, although it’s not like Disney Channel sitcoms are filled with the most American sport no one likes to play past their high school days. I liked the premise of the episode — Miley and Lilly want to spend some quality friend time together and cheerleading gets somewhat int he way — as well as the notion that those “morale of the story” elements don’t just happen between Miley and her father, and that they can be planted straight into a story involving friends. While I never thought that Miley and Lilly’s friendship was in trouble because of the latter’s appreciation for cheerleading and the formers inability to be a convincing mascot, Miley dropping the Rolling Stones to hang out with Lilly was kind of cute. The two girls couldn’t be more best friends, when one is perfectly capable of walking away from the Rolling Stones (which was probably a good thing for Miley to do, or she would have been Mick Jagger’s next baby mama in five years) and the other doesn’t even hesitate to quit the cheerleading squad just to hang out with Miley again. I blame the fact that Miley and Lilly are still young to have an actual conflict, which means one of the later seasons will most likely get into it and maybe even have something of a good story here. Miley and Lilly breaking up — could it be the one dramatic plot of HANNAH MONTANA?

Lilly will never survive on stage.

What a shame there wasn’t more pirate mascot action, because I found the image of a pirate head riding a pink tricycle freaking hilarious. It had something of a bob-head figurine you put in front of your car’s windshield, and Miley’s antiques with the pirate head were comic gold for this show. The way she dropped to the side while riding the tricycle or got into a fistfight with the opposing team’s mascot gave me joy and made me realize that I made a good decision in picking up the show for a watch, and that HANNAH MONTANA may even be funnier than LIV AND MADDIE, which at the moment I consider the funniest Disney Channel sitcom. But I guess I will have to watch two whole seasons to make that judgment. Anyway, let’s think about calling Coach Lewis the worst coach in television history though — the way she pressured her squad to perform, and especially how she treated Miley through the episode made me think she was chasing after her own middle or high school cheerleading career, if she had one. It is probably luck this show doesn’t have any supernatural elements or she would have found a spell to make herself a teenager again, just so she can be a cheerleader once more. Think the episode “Witch” of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and that witch was freaking evil.

Showering with sweet sour pork gives you delicious 24-hour odour.

Meanwhile, Jackson was a plumber for 22 minutes and somehow he managed to put sweet’n’sour pork through the pipes of the house from the kitchen to the shower, in which the noodles and the pork actually made it through the shower head (must be a huge shower head with monstrous holes for water dispensation). The morale of the story here was surprising though, and I mean that in the greatest way. Jackson was pretty much “playing” the plumber the entire time, but when it was revealed that his methods saved the house, even my jaw was thinking about dropping on the floor. It turns out the kid is actually good for something, making him one of the lesser annoying brother characters on a Disney Channel family sitcom. Let’s just hope this wasn’t just an element for this episode only, because I would appreciate it if Jackson isn’t a dick for the majority of the show.

Hannah Montana (“It’s a Mannequin’s World”)

Season 1, Episode 7
Date of airing: May 12, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.152 million viewers with Tweens 9-14

In which the little Cyrus sister Noah has her first appearance as a random extra with seven words of dialogue, because HANNAH MONTANA is still a family business for the Cyruses and it was only a question of time when another Cyrus would make his or her way in front of the camera to cash in on some of the success. Since this show is four seasons long, I am going to expect for Noah to appear a few more times and maybe even play an actual character on the show. Haylie Duff did the same somewhere in LIZZIE MCGUIRE, which means it is part of the playbook of how to produce Disney Channel sitcoms if the stars of the show have siblings who are interested in the business of Hollywood. And I appreciate that the writers and producers have read the playbook for this episode, as it was an entertaining half-hour. I’m starting to enjoy the fun I have with the show and the ridiculousness of the idiocy of the characters, and the writers even started to include more and more “morale of the story,” which I definitely like at the moment. Miley and Robbie having one of their father/daughter talks was solid, especially when I think about the notion that Miley and Billy Ray had the same kind of talk once and they just have it put into the show for the sake of playing an actual father/daughter team. I don’t know if it’s hard and complex to shoot a show with a relative, but it somehow makes HANNAH MONTANA look better as a show, and it feels like the lead Cyruses had fun playing opposite each other.

Getting your whole face in the cake is the quickest and easiest way to eat it.

Let us quickly realize that this episode never established how old Miley is now and if she may be allowed to shoot for her driver’s license, so that she won’t be so dependent on her brother for the rest of eternity. The episode also didn’t have much of a birthday party with all of Miley’s friends. Granted, she hung out in the toilet stall for most of the time, hiding from the bullies of middle school, but I would have guessed that Miley had a few more friends who actually wanted to hang out with her on her birthday, or for this episode to at least established that she doesn’t have more friends than Lilly and Oliver and that all her birthday bash on the beach guests were kind of “forced” to be there (or maybe paid by Robbie, because why not being a father who doesn’t know what his daughter is up to in life?). Besides that, Miley’s birthday was all about hiding from people making fun of her and her kiddie sweater, so it must have been a lame birthday for the secret superstar. Oh, and let’s just say that I absolutely adored the kiddie sweater. If Miley doesn’t want it, I will wear it with pride and excitement, because a little trash and a conversation starter might be good for me and my social anxiety.

Ugly sweaters dance-off!

The B story was solid enough. That Jackson would accidentally throw the birthday cake into Robby’s face was a troped-up visual joke (the Disney Channel loves that kind of joke), but at least it started a running joke of birthday cakes always landing in someone’s face, whether it be a human or a pelican face (the latter I find amusing — maybe Californians shouldn’t bake with their patio doors open). Plus points for Cooper revealing he likes to bake. In 2006 this may have been an image to be all homophobic about in middle or junior high school, so I’m kinda glad that the Disney Channel made a baker out of a cool guy to destruct stereotypes. Chances are though that Cooper’s baking skills won’t be needed past this episode, as the Disney Channel isn’t quite known to keep character traits and flaws consistent for their shows.

Hannah Montana (“Grandma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Favorites”)

Season 1, Episode 6
Date of airing: April 28, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.527 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 1.334 million viewers with Tweens 9-14

In which the episode delivers the funniest joke of this television show so far. The Queen of England thinks she and her granddaughter have just been punk’d by Hannah Montana, which not only means she knows what PUNK’D is (probably thanks to her granddaughter), but she can be stood up and the world does not end after you did so. I will remember that, just in case I am waiting for the Queen of England and she doesn’t show up for three hours. But since I am a nobody with no talents, there is probably no way that I will ever meet the Queen of England. Hell, Grace Park walked into the same store I was in and even walked straight into my sight and a friend pointed me out to the woman I had a crush on ever since I started watching BATTLESTAR GALACTICA after she had left my sight already — I simply missed actually seeing her. Which means I will always not meet people I would consider stars, and the Queen of England is obviously a superstar. Although apparently less famous than the other Queen with the surname Latifah, according to this episode.

Her Majesty is not impressed.

This was a good half hour of television. The Hannah Montana stardom has Miley asking for the first time what and how Jackson is feeling, having to live in the shadow of his little superstar sister, and it’s a story that hopefully gets written for a few more episodes, because it is a proper story, and one which could fill a few emotional points with me. Not only would Jackson turn into an actual character during these kind of stories and not be the brotherly douche like any other brother character on Disney Channel sitcoms (Gabe from GOOD LUCK CHARLIE seems to be the most normal brother character of the network and that doesn’t really say a lot), but when Miley has to deal with the fact that Jackson is suffering under her superstardom, she also turns into a much better character, and HANNAH MONTANA turns into a show that can deal with character depth and emotion. And HANNAH MONTANA would be such a better show if it were to deal with emotion here and there.

Until that happens though, the writers needed to find the groove of the show, because after six episodes it’s all over the place. The characters sort of know who they are, but the stories are extremely random, and I’m getting the feeling the characters are being redefined by the writers for the sake of the story they are in within an episode. For these 22 minutes, Jackson is suddenly a volleyball player in the making, winning tournaments. Robbie suddenly has a mother, and I also get the feeling this is the first episode that had his name mentioned for the first time in full — previously he was just the kick-ass father with a few loose lips for his two kids, but for this episode he was also the child, and that fit not well with the Robbie I have come to meet over the previous five episodes. And then there is obviously the Queen of England, who gets so Disneyfied that she could star in her own Disney Channel sitcom about the Royal Family (which I would totally watch). By the way, I was quite surprised that the story of meeting the Queen wasn’t about the Queen’s granddaughter. Maybe some nicer things and storytelling could have been done with Hannah Montana doing a private gig for her little fan who happens to be part of the Royal Family, but I guess HANNAH MONTANA is still a sitcom, so funny things had to happen and Miley had to prank the Queen.

It’s going to be the play of the game.

A few more things about Jackson’s volleyball tournament: If it had been played according to the rulebook, Jackson would have never won the award. The amount of times he touched the net or overstepped the middle line during the montage sequence is “many” and it made me wonder if the tournament even had any referees at work. Because if not, then there shouldn’t have been an award. As someone who played volleyball for a year at school, I needed to vent and nitpick this part of the episode, because it made me rage out like Mark Ruffalo in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.