Ah, the “How We Got Here” cold open.
“Picture Day” starts with our hero Lizzie lying on the floor covered in green paint. How did Lizzie get herself into this wacky situation, I wonder!
Turns out it’s school picture day and Lizzie starts off her morning looking through a giant rack of clothes and complaining that she has nothing to wear. This is one of those lines that I think should be a joke but no one on set told the actress that. Miranda calls and Lizzie answers with “Miranda! Good! Talk me through a clothing crisis” and we never learn why Miranda called. This show is really lazy sometimes.
This scene mostly exists to punch us in the face with a lot of topical references. Miranda suggests Lizzie wear an all-denim outfit, which I guess wasn’t a completely insane thing to suggest in 2001, but Lizzie deems it “too Shania Twain” and ponders going for something edgy like Sarah Michelle Geller or “classy, like Gwyneth at the Oscars.” They land on the definitely school-inappropriate option of a red midriff-baring halter and black hiphuggers: “It’ll be so ‘Oops! I Did It Again!'” Way to pick Britney’s only video where she’s not baring her midriff, writers.
All of these references get little cutaway shots to Hilary Duff imitating the celebrity in question, which is mostly noteworthy for her truly lame Britney impression. She mostly waves her hands in front of her face.
Matt keeps bellowing his stupid face off about wanting the phone but Lizzie won’t give it to him so he bellows his stupid face off that Lizzie is planning on dressing like Britney Spears. They also have the stupid kid actor whisper “Man, she’s hot” when talking about Britney Spears and it’s creepy and stupid. I hate Matt so much. He’s easily my least favorite character.
Her parents chastise her for wanting to dress like Britney, with her dad asking for reference “Britney Spears is the one who got all….developed, right?” Every dude in this house is a creep about Britney! Leave Britney alone! Her parents tell her she has to wear a stupid ugly sweater her grandma knitted for her and it’s one of those dumb plots that I don’t think really ever happens in real life. “You can’t wear a midriff-baring halter top to school because you’re 11 and also schools have dress codes” would have been a fine response but instead there’s a dumb sweater and now we have a plot on our hands.
Downstairs Matt yells at his friend on the phone for not doing the math homework because he was supposed to get the homework from him. Matt’s a filthy cheater! (He then calls his friend a Muggle angrily. That reference came out of left field.) His friend also tells him there’ll be a pop quiz today. That’s not how pop quizzes work! They’re surprises! That’s the pop! Matt decides to skip school and now we have a subplot on our hands.
We get a scene of Lizzie walking to the bus stop and everyone laughing at her, all set to Nine Days’ “Absolutely (Story of a Girl).” Man, they’re aggressive with pop culture references this episode. They must have paid a lot of money to use that song and it has nothing to do with the scene. No one absolutely loves Lizzie and she does not smile.
On the bus Miranda tells Lizzie that picture day is a HUGE deal in middle school because now photos get published in the yearbook! I had yearbooks in elementary school too, though. I swear this show just makes up problems. We find out that Matt’s mom knows he’s faking sick to skip school and is gonna try to punish him with gross remedies.
At school we get our first taste of ETHAN CRAFT! Some poser named Danny Kessler was the heartthrob of last episode but now we’ve got Ethan. Sadly he’s not actually here to be a heartthrob. He’s here to convince Gordo to go along with a prank that all the sixth grade boys will be doing: making a gangster face in their photo. (The “gangster” part is implied by the hip-hop beat that plays anytime anyone makes the face.) The kids at this school sure love pranks.
This part is legitimately funny. Ethan says, “We’re straight-up PLAYAS, man! That’ll show the faculty.” Gordo asks what that’ll show the faculty and Ethan pauses and says, “Show ’em we mean BUSINESS!” Ethan, you big dumb idiot. Danny Kessler’s got nothing on you.
Gordo tries to convince Lizzie that school pictures don’t matter but Miranda and Lizzie both assert that this will make or break their popularity in middle school. So far everything they do can make or break their popularity in middle school. Miranda also implies that taking a good picture will make Danny Kessler like her. Stop trying to make Danny Kessler happen, writers!
Then we get a big ol’ drama bomb cuz Miranda and Kate are wearing the exact same outfit.
This doesn’t seem like it’d be a huge deal, because the skirt wouldn’t be shown in the photo. I guess it’s annoying that their pics would probably be right next to each other, since Miranda’s last name is Sanchez and Kate’s is usually Sanders when it’s not Saunders. But the writers don’t point this out.
(By the way, this illustrates one of the big problems I have with the costume design of this show. Kate is the most popular girl in school and Miranda is occasionally painted as rebellious but always painted as an outcast. Why would they both select the exact same outfit?)
We get another one of the show’s completely low-stakes, low-drama showdowns with Kate. She says “You’re not wearing that” and Miranda says “I’m not? It feels like…I am.” Kate has to be one of the worst TV mean girls ever. She also misses a prime opportunity to shit on Lizzie for wearing an ugly sweater. She’s so bad at being a bully.
At home Matt has to eat borscht and can’t watch TV and has to sleep under an itchy blanket, literally who cares, Matt is the worst. The only thing noteworthy about this is they keep saying “let’s go upstairs and take your temperature” or “let’s go upstairs and get you under the blankets” and shoot all the scenes in the downstairs living room. This subplot is stupid and lazily written and I’m not recapping it anymore.
Gordo caves on his principles and makes a gangster face in his photo. Lizzie tries to hunt down someone who will give her their clothes and rightfully gets called a weirdo for it. A better show would maybe make something of the irony that Lizzie’s quest to find an alternate outfit for picture day tanks her popularity more than simply taking the picture would, but this is not that show.
Gordo ends up getting a bunch of shirts for Lizzie from the drama department because he realized peer pressure is important after caving on Ethan’s prank. That’s a confusing message! But he then says “I still think who you are as a person is more important than how you look in a picture” and Lizzie says, “So…as long I’m a good person, it’s okay that I want to look pretty?” and that’s a feminist message! Express your gender however you want, Lizzie! The dismissal of traditionally feminine interests like fashion is a symptom of the patriarchy!
Lizzie picks a stupid boring plain white shirt of the four options Gordo offers and said it’s “completely perfect” and Lizzie and Gordo make eyes at each other. They haven’t established this yet, because we missed the real pilot, but this whole series is gonna be one big will they/won’t they and I’m gonna constantly ponder over the fact that this actor was three years older than Hilary Duff and was like 19 by the time they were done with this.
Matt’s subplot ends with him actually getting sick, who cares, I hate Matt.
Then we’re in art class WHERE THIS WHOLE EPISODE BEGAN! Miranda compliments Lizzie’s outfit as “very Kirsten Dunst meets South Beach” and complains that they have to draw a still life instead of being able to draw N*SYNC. Topical references! These writers got ’em.
And then Kate gets some kid to throw paint on Miranda!! Miranda apparently worked for three months to save up to buy that ugly outfit, so Lizzie throws herself in between Miranda and the paint. The paint thrower is not punished. I’m not sure if this school has any teachers, as I haven’t seen any so far.
And now we’ve gone back. Back to the beginning. Lizzie is covered in green paint and just decides to get her photo taken like that. She says Miranda looked great and Gordo looked “moody and troubled like Freddie Prinze, Jr.” which is probably the weirdest of their references so far but I guess at this point they’re reaching.
Lizzie takes the worst picture ever and you know why this is ridiculous? Because Gordo still has three spare shirts in his locker! They don’t address this at all! She says it’s okay because she’d rather be a good person than look good in a picture. You could have accomplished both, Lizzie! Easily!
And then we get a blooper reel as per usual and the credits. (Note that in these early episodes, you can still see the show’s original title, What’s Lizzie Thinking? which was presumably scrapped for the obvious reason that it’d be a terrible title.)
I didn’t learn anything from this episode and the patriarchy was not dismantled to my satisfaction. Also, it needed less Matt and more Ethan Craft. This episode gets points for Ethan Craft and that’s it.