Lizzie McGuire (“Lizzie Strikes Out”)

Season 1, Episode 21
Date of airing: August 31, 2001 (Disney Channel)

Lizzie and Sam were spend some father/daughter time together. That’s cute, and it’s something I’m gonna have to remember doing as well, in case I will ever have children (the chances for that are pretty much zero). I loved that story, as it was realistic and honest and almost romantic in a parenting way. I like it when fictional parents try to make up with their kids and spend some quality time together, as it is something I have never done with my parents (or the parents with me?), which means I never got the parental love Lizzie was getting in this episode, and that could explain why I’m suffering from social anxiety these days. Okay, my parents and I tripped to the Hanover World Expo in 2000 and went to Europa Park at some point (it was one of the more popular amusement parks in Germany), which were memorable trips for me, but with the exception of that and a few trips to the movie theater, there isn’t really anything I would consider parent/kid time in my life, and looking at that premise through scripted television, I’m realizing how much I would have loved taking part in these activities more often. And not just because I would have loved realizing that my parents actually cared about me. But they never did, and now that I’m realizing all of this while watching LIZZIE MCGUIRE, I’m getting envious of the life of a fictional t(w)eenager having the best time of her life, even though she sees is as the worst time of her life.

This is basic cable television, whitewashed.

I also liked the conflict Lizzie was in and how she resolved it, albeit in somewhat of a ridiculous way. Instead of bringing Sam along to Friday night bowling, so she can get close to Ethan, she simply could have rescheduled her date with her father for Saturday. She believed at the beginning that the bowling outing was on Saturday, right? I was kind of laughing why Lizzie didn’t just reschedule her father/daughter night out to the next day, as it would not have broken any hearts and Sam still would have had the opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter, even if the bowling outing happened to be more interesting in the long run, as he was in the background of Lizzie hanging with her friends, getting to know her a little in the process while Lizzie learns what it’s like to also spend some time with half of the parental units. Sam not only had quality time with Lizzie, but he also watched her interacting with her friends, which means he learned something about her life. Then again, isn’t it normally awkward to have a parent with you, when you are out with your friends? Was there no sense of shame for Lizzie to drag her father along, while she was putting all the effort into throwing herself into Ethan’s arms? Were Lizzie’s friends not “bothered” by that one parental unit’s presence, or was Ethan quite joyful and jolly with Lizzie’s father around?

Gordo’s side plot was okay, although his back story emergency sounded like it was a G rated version of the penis stuck in the zipper incident from THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, as getting your fingers stuck in a bowling ball is an equally ridiculous (and the least funny) premise. Still, it had Gordo and Miranda hang out for a few seconds and spending time together as friends, while Lizzie was too busy dreaming of her wedding with Ethan, and that makes me think Miranda and Gordon are gonna date first, before Gordo lands with Lizzie, which is still something I believe will happen. Besides that, it does not hurt the show when Gordo and Miranda are embroiled in their own little adventure every once in a while, because it would mea the show is not always about the titular character.

In America, recreational bowlers bowl with pride and patriotism.

And finally, there was whatever Matt was doing. Yawn. Again. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna say that every time this boy has screentime, and I’m pretty sure I will mention again and again that Matt is so far the worst-ever Disney Channel character I have encountered (side note: Nevel from iCARLY is the worst-ever character in a kids show I have ever encountered). Seriously, this kid needs better stories, and I need an explanation why Lanny was naked and wrapped in a towel on the couch, when he planned to trick Lizzie into a scenario that could prove important for Matt and Lanny’s plan to go up against their bully. That was a weird moment for a second.

Lizzie McGuire (“Educating Ethan”)

Season 1, Episode 20
Date of airing: August 24, 2001 (Disney Channel)

It’s time to move along with one of the more, ehm, romantic stories. Not such a long time ago, the writers managed to have Gordo coupled with a random guest star, because for once the characters felt ready to be in a relationship, even if just for one episode. But here is Lizzie, still dancing around Ethan, still not doing anything to get this dumb jock boy’s heart, which can then be smashed into millions of little pieces; still not becoming a more mature person, because she is still too young to have her heart fooled with, and have Ethan be depicted like the high school jock he is, looking at all the girls, getting the naughty thoughts behind every corner, failing to be an actual friend, let alone being a good boyfriend. I hope when it comes to the revival series, Ethan and Kate were dating and both turned out to be horrible failures at being humans in their thirties, although I’m not so sure Clayton Snyder and Ashlie Brillault will turn up in the revival. Snyder is still in the business (so the chances for an appearance in a revival are there), but Brillault has quit said business when this show ended in 2004 and works as a criminal defense attorney now.

Disney-fied superheroes for the Disney Channel audience.

The episode was okay. I think it was a little forgettable, as it dealt with yet another conflict between Lizzie and Gordo, without the two ever figuring out how to move on from any of their conflicts and deciding to be friends. It’s almost like Lizzie and Gordo are destined to not like each other very time one crosses the other, and it’s like they are destined to argue every time the two don’t see eye to eye, but need to find out how to become friends again. After 20 episodes, it has become somewhat of a generic and tiresome premise, but because LIZZIE MCGUIRE is a show that has three seasons worth of episodes stacked into two seasons (so that the studio doesn’t have to pay the cast and crew the money they would have gotten if they officially had produced a third season, because usually you get a raise when beginning a new season of television), I get the feeling more than half of those episodes will have a similar premise, and Lizzie will continue to fight with either Gordo or Miranda, because the writers couldn’t figure out what else to do with the show, and whether to get out of the proceduralized funk and deal with some development and continuation. And besides that, the writers have figured out with what kind of stories to fill the show with: conflict between the friends. It’s after all the one thing that defines television as a whole.

At least Ethan becomes more and more involved in Lizzie’s life. A handful of episodes ago he was just the hot dude who was obviously crush material only, but he started to interact with Lizzie, and even liked Matt for some reason (there is a story there, and it doesn’t have to be Matt faking to be a Spielberg child star, and I’m still hoping the writers were getting back to it). In a way, the hot dude could become a regular character in the second season, or at least he could be used as a plot device to get the Lizzie/Gordo thing going, which is something I keep seeing will happen in the show at some point, as Lizzie gets more and more confrontational with Gordo and the other way around. I mean, just look at this episode: The two were almost headbutting each other over how to tutor Ethan, and that usually means there is some form of romance blossoming, simply because kids don’t behave that way to each other if they aren’t in like with each other. That’s why I want for the show to develop and continue on from here and just go with it. The show obviously isn’t holding itself back to show romance, as the previous episode had Gordo locking lips already, so there is no reason not to go with it. If not Gordo, then Ethan. Because really, Ethan needs to become … a better character. Even if I still think he is a failure of a boyfriend.

What is the resolution of this math problem, viewers?

Finally, Matt’s superhero antics, which were yawn-inducing. The boy is still the worst character of the show, and I am still hoping he would get better stories in the future. I’m crossing my fingers, but with almost every episode I’m getting more and more tired by his dumb kid’s antics. Even if there was something amusing about him stealing the bags of goodies from an old lady, because he thought he was helping out, even if he and Oscar thought that throwing away a girl’s bicycle was somewhat amusing. If either Matt or Oscar would have been a black kid, let it be guaranteed that he would have been shot by police at the end of the episode, as they were continuing to play superheroes in this smalltown. Plus points for Sam’s little joke about the couch monster, which Jo giggled about out loud. It’s almost like Hallie Todd and Robert Carradine decided to play the roles of a married couple with two kids who actually love each other still.

Lizzie McGuire (“Gordo and the Girl”)

Season 1, Episode 19
Date of airing: August 17, 2001 (Disney Channel)

Consider me shocked that the Disney Channel offered its audience an interracial relationship in 2001. And it was done so nonchalant, I was actually wondering if I was on the right planet for a second, as Gordon and Brooke going for the lip lock seemed way too normal for show written and produced in 2001, when conservative television was not at all interested in being open to depict relationships that do not involve two white people of the opposite sex. Gordo and Brooke dating made for an interesting half hour though, and I really appreciated that it focused on the complete core of three in this episode, with Gordo obviously being in the center of attention, but Lizzie and Miranda having equal time in the spotlight when it comes to acting crazy about the dates Gordo is on, let alone having opinions about Brooke, even if Lizzie happened to be more vocal about her own view of t(w)eenage dating.

Miranda walks off into a world of terror she knows nothing about.

What a shame that Brooke was a one-episode girlfriend though, as Gordo would have made for a great character now and possibly in the next episode, if Brooke had been part of his life for longer than most of this episode. Seeing Lizzie and Miranda accept Gordo’s new girl on the side could have been worth a story, especially if the break up had happened in the next episode, and the girls were tasked to pick Gordo off the floor and cheer him up again. But then this would have been an episode of DAWSON’S CREEK and not a Disney Channel sitcom, and there is obviously no dice for a Disney Channel sitcom in which a romantic relationship is being taken seriously by the writers. But whatever, Brooke existed, she kissed Gordo, and Disney Channel not only had a kiss in this episode (I always bitch about how the parental characters on Disney shows never kissed but once during any of the shows, let alone were kisses between teenage characters ever considered normal, as they were treated as season highlights within the narrative), but it was also a kiss involving an African-American girl. Kyla Pratt, it looks like you just started the movement. It’s a movement that has not at all impressed the studio, because they became even more conservative as time went on.

It was nice to see that both Lizzie and Miranda were asking themselves whether they liked liked Gordo, which was a story I was expecting to see at some point. 19 episodes in and I’m kind of happy and glad that the show hasn’t been about Gordo and either of the girls yet, but I see that story as necessary in the next season, so I’m waiting for the confirmation that Lizzie is the one Gordo will be sending his future time with, judging by her inner animated monologue, in which she must have realized she actually liked him. Hopefully the revival show will get back to that and maybe even end with a wedding. Can a straight white man dream?

Put a puppy in this episode and it suddenly gets better.

Meanwhile, Matt goes for the mathematical lesson, and it was a partially hilarious one. I loved that he was using the knowledge he just acquired for personal gain, which by itself should be applauded by his parents. Isn’t the practical use of lessons the best way to learn the lesson of percentage and realizing the importance and genius of math? Besides that, not only was Matt getting into percentages, but with all the crap that has been owed to him, including a cute puppy I wanted to cuddle immediately, he was also learning something about finances. I was hoping Matt would be placed in such a story, and for the writers to turn towards a narrative that can also be treated as a lesson of sorts.

Lizzie McGuire (“Rated Aargh”)

Season 1, Episode 18
Date of airing: August 10, 2001 (Disney Channel)

Wait, in the world of American cinema, kids are actually allowed to go into R rated movies with their parents? I am hearing that for the first time, because I can remember in Germany it was not possible to get into an R rated movie even with parental supervision, although I’m sure sometimes you got in anyway, because the box office people rarely don’t care about what age you are, when you at least look like you are allowed to watch an R rated film. Then again, I never had the experience of sneaking into an R rated film during my teenage years, so I can’t even tell if its a thing or not. I waited until the day after I turned 18 years old to buy the DVD of BAD BOYS, as the uncut version of it is restricted for people under 18 years of age in Germany. And the cashier definitely wanted to see my ID to check my age.

The episode was okay. It was just about the R rated movie the teens wanted to get into, while I was sitting on my bed and waiting for the scene in which Lizzie had to do the Heimlich maneuver, after she said in the beginning that there is no way she will ever apply that knowledge in real life. I would say that Chekov’s Heimlich maneuver was striking again. Oh well, at least the episode had a CPR class and showed kids what to do just in case, while also delivering something of a different morale this time around, because for this episode the watching audience got to learn how to save someone’s life, and if kids were still interested in it after watching this episode, they either could have asked their parents for more information or their teacher at school. It’s almost like LIZZIE MCGUIRE was supposed to be a television show during which you were supposed to learn stuff.

Even this television series was queer-baiting some of its audience.

Still, the scene of the movie attendant choking seemed a little ridiculous and out of place for the genre of this show. Especially since the guy having swallowed the sour ball was kind of an idiot for swallowing the sour ball in the first place, let alone turning the situation into a Laurel and Hardy sketch show, with a hint of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill “I’m gonna punch you out by hammering my fist on top of your head” hits. I’m pretty sure the Heimlich maneuver scene was built to look like that and make adult audiences remember how comedy in the 1930s worked, and whether there is a good idea in rewatching some of the 1970s Spencer/Hill movies. And honestly, I was thinking way before this episode ever crossed my eyes to start watching them — I still fondly remember that one film with Spencer, in which he becomes the protector care of an extraterrestrial kid, and the Hill movie with him as superhero, except when he sees the color red, has accompanied me during my childhood.

At least there was some enjoyable fun in seeing Jo and Sam playing wth the minds of the kids by telling them they would like to see the news to check the weather report. Yes, it was another predictable element of the episode, not unlike the Heimlich maneuver scene, but it was a funny piece of comedy, because it happened to be more realistic, as Lizzie tried the hardest she has ever tried something in her life to stop her parents from watching the news or go mini-golfing. Or getting to the movie theater to watch that Vesuvius movie with a hot Ben Affleck and apparently attractive slaves. The longer that scene was carried out, the funnier it seemed to be getting, making it the funniest scene of the series so far, and I don’t quite know why that was. Besides that, this story gave me the idea to play my kid(s) out like that as well, in case I will ever have children of my own (the chances for that sink to below-zero regions).

Parents don’t care when their child runs into a wall or a mattress.

And finally, Matt had a story as well, albeit a tiny one. At first I was a bit creeped out by Jo checking up on Matt’s cargo pants, but it turns out it was just a visual device to create the Velcro wall idea and kickstart the story of how Matt brought a good idea into Sam and Jo’s mind for the school’s carnival. And here I was, thinking that Matt was about to get into trouble for something he did, and Jo was about to become a judgmental mother again. It was one of the better stories Matt was involved in, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind for a good Matt-centric story to be the A story of the episode, just so the little brother can turn into a more serious character in this television show, instead of being the most annoying living being on this planet.

Lizzie McGuire (“Sibling Bonds”)

Season 1, Episode 17
Date of airing:
 August 3, 2001 (Disney Channel)

Finally, an episode in which Lizzie and Matt don’t hate each other all the time. Okay, it started that way, and it continued that way up until the third act of the episode, but I liked that the writers finally decided to focus on the titular sibling bond, as it was necessary to do so or otherwise Matt would have turned out to be one of the worst characters in the history of Disney Channel siblings, and I am aware that I already called him one of the worst characters ever, right beside Alex Russo’s little brother Max in WIZRDS OF WAVERLY PLACE. Creating this episode to showcase that Lizzie and Matt can also have a deep and meaningful connection was wonderful, and considering I was the little brother in my family, I would have liked to have had such a connection with my big sisters when I was of single-digit age. Not unlike when I was flashing back to and remembering my own childhood when I watched and cried myself through A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, this episode gave me a view on how my childhood could have looked like if maybe one of my sisters would have respected me as a brother during the 1990s.

Hilary Duff should have hosted Saturday Night Live with this sketch.

It became obvious that Lizzie and Matt aren’t the smartest kids in town, since they couldn’t even get rid of each other while handcuffed. They had an entire Saturday to figure out how to break the cuffs or how to cut them, so they would at least be separated while continuing to carry the cuff like Jin did in most of the first and second season of LOST, but for some reason they decided not to think about freeing themselves and instead hang out together, albeit forcefully. Granted, it made for great comedy during the photo booth scene, when Matt’s arm was doing things to Lizzie (it was a perfect way to include sketch comedy into LIZZIE MCGUIRE and I loved it), but considering how needy Lizzie was and how she had to be at Ethan’s side while he was mini-golfing his way to an award, I would have thought Lizzie was moving heaven and earth to get Matt away from her and to get a little creative when it comes to at least cutting the cuffs. But alas, it should not have been this way and instead the writers focused on bringing Matt and Lizzie together, so that for the first time in the show (or since she babysat for him) the characters were allowed to be siblings for once. And there was a great moment between the two, when she realized he was being bullied, and she told him that she is the only one allowed to beat on her little brother (besides that, being bullied gives them another connection, as Lizzie was experiencing something similar in her life with Kate). Okay, Lizzie was still thinking violent thoughts, but defending her brother from a bully, just so she has the sole and exclusive rights to bully her brother? Yeah, that is a pretty cool siblings moment.

A happy and smiling father is a great father.

The rest of the episode was okay. Consider me surprised that Sam had a “day off” and was allowed to hang out at home and watch a game while is wife was running the clothing drive, and consider me laughing hysterically when Sam threw they key over the pond to the kids, essentially risking that the key will fall into the water, and Lizzie and Matt will continue to spend time with each other, looking for the key in the pond.But then again, the morale of sibling bond would not have worked if Lizzie and Matt had not caught the key together to end their ordeal. Plus point for Sam’s happy smile — that is what a father should look like and feel when looking at his offspring. I feel envious of these fictional kids again.

Meanwhile, it’s about time to do something with the Ethan issue. The guy might have gotten a little smarter since his previous episode, as evident in the classroom scene during which he did not fail, but I’m getting a little annoyed by the non-actions everyone takes around Ethan. Kate has the hots for him, Lizzie has the hots for him, Miranda probably has the hots for him, Gordo doesn’t like him because he’s such a cool dude, and Ethan has … something else going on in his mind, because he probably doesn’t even realize all of this is happening. Time to develop the story and have Lizzie and Kate battle it out of the soul of this boy who will probably end up an alcoholic in his mid-20s. Will the revival series answer that question?

Lizzie McGuire (“Obsession”)

Season 1, Episode 16
Date of airing: June 29, 2001 (Disney Channel)

If I get the opportunity to create a new Top X Episodes of [insert topic], this half hour of television is a good candidate and example of at how crazy and nutty environmental people can be, and how good their messaging is sometimes. The writers obviously thought that putting a bit of an environmental morale into the show was a good idea (the Ozone layer having a hole was one of the main topics leading to discussions about global warming and climate change during the 1990s), while also making fun of the premise, and it definitely worked. Lizzie’s decision to go vegetarian went over the finish line a little too quickly though, while the rest of her actions were proper, meaningful, and yes, a little crazy, thanks to the fact that no one was ready to help her out in saving the world, and no one listened to her and filed her under “demented.” It’s interesting though that this episode written and produced in 2001 managed to somewhat predict the fact that no one gives a damn about environmentalism 18 years later. Here I am, living through the horrid times of Orange Hitler Donald Trump, who considers himself a nationalist with a hunger for destroying the world, following the activism of a Swedish teenager who was just named TIME’s Person of the Year, and watching an 18-year-old television episode going into the topic of how to save your planet, I realized we didn’t learn anything in that time and we are still screwing our planet.

Animated Lizzie just wants to save the world.

Can it be though that this is the first episode with a three-story structure? I can’t quite remember if it happened before, but Lizzie’s environmentalism, Matt’s hall monitor adventures, and Gordo and Larry’s science Olympics made for a packed episode, almost creating a way to not have a single second of boredom in this half hour, which is always a good thing for a sitcom, especially when you only create two stories and there is a 50 percent chance of you hating one story. Yes, a third story might not give enough time to one of the other stories, but that way there is less you can do wrong, and when you already don’t particularly like the stories to begin with, those having less screentime due to having to share screentime with other stories don’t make the episode look that bad.

Thankfully for this half hour, it was generally good, even though I still could do it completely without Matt. The kid is too much of a kid to entertain me in a scripted comedy, and I’m still waiting for that first episode, which has Lizzie and Matt band together and learn something about each other, sharing moment, creating a bond that lasts and isn’t just forgotten after Lizzie was paid for her babysitting duties. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to wait until the feature film for that premise, because I can’t imagine the writers were that hungry for such a story when it’s apparent that Matt was a whole lot easier to write for when he was just a dumb elementary school kid. Let me tell you that this might be true, but it also makes his character one of the worst of the entire show, maybe even the worst. Besides that, Matt could easily join Max from WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE as one of the worst characters in Disney Channel history, and that kind of says a lot. Especially since Joey from LIV AND MADDIE is nowhere near that list and that kid was hella annoying for three of the show’s four seasons.

Elvis is laying low in the building.

This episode made me wonder though if the writers were interested in continuity, but were told “No” by the producers. Lizzie turning into a vegetarian could have been a new element of her character, and generally speaking, considering this episode’s environmental message, the producers could have decided to go with that as well, as the production of the show turned green, essentially inspiring the writers to “write green” as well. But I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen either, as it was the year 2001, and the Disney Channel couldn’t give a damn about anything, as they were counting the money going into their bank accounts. This was 2001, when no one even thought about activism for climate protection. Greta Thunberg wasn’t even born yet.

Lizzie McGuire (“Lizzie’s Nightmares”)

Season 1, Episode 15
Date of airing: June 22, 2001 (Disney Channel)

The episode’s title confused me for a few seconds. I was hoping for it to be a bit more of a realer episode, as Lizzie would deal with literal and actual nightmares, but nada, it turned out to be an effort to give Matt and Lizzie some brother/sister time instead, which I appreciated. Although it does make me wonder if Lizzie working through a nightmare and having debates about it with her friends and parents would make for an equally good episode, and if movie quotes like THE EXORCIST (animated Lizzie moving her head 360 degrees while the bed is shaking up and down, and left and right) would have filled such an episode to the max. Anyway, the show hasn’t done much of Lizzie/Matt storytelling until now, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more episodes that have the two together, maybe even scheming things to get their parents to do something for them, or something in that realm. You can only go so far and be this repetitive with Lizzie always hating on her little brother, but at one point in the characters’ lives, it might be best to have an episode in which they love and accept and appreciate each other. All I secretly want from LIZZIE MCGUIRE is an episode during which Lizzie realizes she loves her little brother and all the craziness that comes with him. That has to be a premise for the revival series though.

The pretty boy is a meanie to the tiny kid.

Besides that, Matt was a less annoying character in this episode. The kid actually went with an idea he suddenly and randomly got and became famous, beloved and cool, which is something I wouldn’t have expected from previous episodes’ version of Matt, and as long as this episode gave the writers cause to bring the kid into Lizzie’s stories on a more regular note (which is something the show really needed to do at this point), this half hour might even be a soft reboot for the character, as he turned from the annoying little kid in a cheap 1990s television movie for kids to a kid that can be respected by characters twice his age. Also, for the first time in the show, Sam and Jo were thinking about not giving the kid a morale lesson and instead tried to punish him for real after being worried sick about his well-being for half of the episode. Because really, it seems like Matt was written as the kid who decided to grow up a year or two and be more mischievous while also being respective somehow.

I loved the notion of Lizzie living the least perfect life imaginable with her brother around, and therefore creating a competition. Lizzie tried her best to have Matt’s antics blow up in his face (having the principal call the parents, calling in the police, trying to convince the school that Mattis a liar who has never worked with Steven Spielberg), but on the other hand Matt tried his best to remain cool and be an intriguing personality for most of the school, and actually work on his persona in a positive manner. Yes, the episode never went into direct competition between Lizzie and Matt (which by itself could have been a genius premise, especially with no one but Miranda and Gordo knowing who Matt really is), but it was one stop short of becoming that episode, and it would have been a great half hour of LIZZIE MCGUIRE.

First rule of calling 9-1-1: Check your answering machine before you dial 9-1-1.

By the way, maybe the episode could have been better if using an entirely different premise: The scene in the school bus made me realize that there is potential in Matt becoming best friends with Ethan, all while Lizzie was trying to score a lunch with the pretty boy. There is potential in Ethan liking Lizzie even more, because her brother happens to be a funny little genius, while behind closed doors, Matt and Lizzie couldn’t be hating each other more. A friendship between Ethan and Matt could have brought a huge stepping stone in Lizzie’s attempt to score some love points with Ethan, considering how much she hates her brother. Especially with Gordo in the background, who as a boy cannot understand what the appeal of Ethan is, which is hopefully a question Gordo asks himself repeatedly, without ever getting an answer. It’s a solid running gag.