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.
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.
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.