I wish I could find information on the filming and airing of these early episodes. The confusingly titled “I’ve Got Rhythmic,” is listed as 104 on the clapperboard in the end credit bloopers, and the show at this point was still called What’s Lizzie Thinking?, so it’s definitely one of the first episodes. But this episode seems to have been shot much later than the pilot, which makes sense, but also later than episode 2, which was “Picture Day.” The actors look a little older and seem a little more comfortable with their line readings. I can’t stress how bad the stilted, emotionless delivery of kid actors trying to remember complicated lines is in these early episodes. Also, Hilary Duff at this point is no longer missing one of her teeth. I guess they shot a few before it was picked up. At this point it’s feeling a little more like the show I remember and less like a baffingly awful middle school acting workshop.
“I’ve Got Rhythmic” (what does that mean??) starts with Lizzie bemoaning how average she is. Test grades are posted on a bulletin board for some reason – that’s weird and invasive! – and she gets a B, as per usual. She walks past some smart kids, a ballerina, and some kids with fancy science projects while Cartoon Lizzie complains that everyone has something they’re really good at but her. Gordo is working on one of his documentaries and Miranda made a necklace out of soda cans. Miranda seems to have a rich inner life.
Gordo suggests that Lizzie might be good at acting and she tries to pose for his camera but in the process of looking at it trips and falls on the floor. Oh hey! This show is starting to find its groove, because Lizzie McGuire is a classic Cute Clumsy Girl and we haven’t gotten to see that until now. Keep falling over everything anytime you might look pretty, Lizzie! That’s why we love ya.
In P.E. the class has to try rhythmic gymnastics and everyone immediately considers it the lamest sport in the world. Everyone is super bad at it and Kate drops a baton on her foot and gets seriously injured, but Lizzie tries and is absolutely amazing! They play a song that’s not quite “Chariots of Fire,” but a close, less expensive ripoff.
I’m not sure I buy that rhythmic gymnastics is the sort of thing you can display a natural aptitude for like that – Lizzie busts out an insane interpretive dance-type routine that is at odds with her embarrassing cheerleader tryout from the not-pilot – but that’s the plot. In the locker room, Kate – who already has an ankle brace somehow – asks for a second chance at the stupid sport to prove she’s better than Lizzie, but she’s not, and the coach asks Lizzie to represent the school in a competition. Kate makes fun of Lizzie and I can barely understand what she says because she is one actress who never improves. She doesn’t even have clear diction!! That’s, like, the bare minimum of acting! Saying lines in a way people can hear and understand!
Gordo and Miranda express lukewarm support for the idea, and Lizzie’s parents are excited she has an interest other than yelling at them for no reason. Matt calls Lizzie names as per usual and asks why their dad never encouraged him to try sports and for a second I feared I was going to have to see a Matt subplot about him trying new things but it was a false alarm! This episode has no Matt subplot! Thank you, Stan Rogow and Terri Minsky!
Lizzie has a dream about winning an Olympic gold medal for rhythmic gymnastics so she decides to go for it. We get the briefest scene of Gordo and Miranda hanging out discussing if they should support Lizzie and I realized we never see those two together without Lizzie. Is there some kind of protagonist Bechdel test for a show where you judge if it’s good by if any of the other characters ever have their own scenes to discuss something other than the protagonist?
Gordo decides to film Lizzie’s training for his documentary. We get a training montage set to not-“Chariots of Fire” as seen through Gordo’s camera lens, except one lazy moment where they showed Gordo filming as seen through Gordo’s camera lens.
At this point, I was assuming that Hilary Duff had some secret dancing or gymnastic skills that the producers wanted to take advantage of and that there was going to be some really amazing scene of her doing real, complicated tricks. But we just see her doing cartwheels. It’s a bummer.
Kate, as always, just walks into a scene and starts yelling at Lizzie with insults that seem like they needed some punch-up after the first draft but no one got around to it. This time it’s “What’s your email, Lizzie? Lizzie@biggiantloser.com?” Man, it’s actually epic how batshit that line is. Kate says Lizzie “better watch her step,” one of her typically vague threats, because she “can’t let the dorks take over.” Right, because Lizzie is going to be really popular because of her skill at this much mocked-sport. Although… I did see a bra strap when Lizzie was sleeping. Maybe Lizzie will be popular now that she has a bra! That’s what happened to Kate!!
Kate decides to get a nerd to do her bidding again. But this time the nerd is Larry Tudgeman (previously mentioned in the not-pilot as the kid caught on camera picking his nose and eating it). This kid is great at being awkward and off-putting. Femme fatale jazz music plays as Kate sort of flirts with Larry. For once I feel an emotion other than rage in a Kate scene, because it is kind of funny how she’s limping around in her ankle brace while flirting.
At the meet, Gordo notices Tudgeman lurking creepily up in the rafters but initially does nothing about it for some reason. He eventually points it out to Miranda during Lizzie’s routine, so Miranda runs up to the rafters with a fire extinguisher. Weird! For a second I wondered if she was gonna bash him on the head with it and pondered how incredibly dark it would get if Miranda bashed a guy’s head in and sent his lifeless body flying down from the rafters to pulverize her best friend but that did not happen. Instead, Lizzie dances around rhythmically with a hula hoop to an 80s-tastic song and throws the hoop into the air and Tudgeman grabs it. That’s it.
I guess that’s a sabotage? But shouldn’t the judges be all “look how sabotaged this routine is, Lizzie gets a do-over with a hoop that won’t be stolen?” But no, Lizzie just looks panicked and Gordo tosses her a ribbon instead and she improvises a ribbon dance.
Meanwhile, Miranda runs up brandishing the extinguisher, in perfect head-bashing form might I add.
She tells Tudgeman to drop the hoop. She says the extinguisher might be empty but aims the nozzle at him and asks, “Do you feel lucky, Tudgeman? Huh? Do ya?” A paraphrased Dirty Harry reference! For some reason! Tudgeman drops the hoop and the judges should be all “that hoop was in the air for a full minute, clearly someone interfered with your routine and also your weird friend can’t be on the floor throwing you extra props and filming this” but instead they’re all “Lizzie wins.”
Her parents run up to congratulate her but she says that she has to talk to them about something and melodramatically says, “That time when the hoop was missing was the happiest time of my life” because she hates rhythmic gymnastics. Lizzie said she’d rather work extra hard on something she loves than do something just because she’s good at it. That’s a good lesson, although I’ve yet to see Lizzie have any passions or interests.
Lizzie hangs out with Gordo and Miranda and thanks them for helping during her routine. Miranda says Lizzie can pay them back somehow and Lizzie asks “What ever happened to ‘That’s what friends are for?'” and Miranda says, “Please, that is so last millennium!” and they laugh heartily. Sigh. They gloat over Gordo’s tape proving that “Kate Saunders” is actually jealous of Lizzie so her name is Saunders this episode.
Cartoon Lizzie revisits the kids she was jealous of at at beginning and says smart kids are nerds anyway and will never get dates, ballerinas are too skinny and will get bunions, and the scientists will be millionaires one day – “call me!” Damn, Cartoon Lizzie, if you’re gonna be so salty it’s no wonder you’re so thirsty. She very optimistically says she might end up the first woman president, a space explorer, or Mrs. Matt Damon. Sure?
This episode actually kind of had a plot and I wasn’t as mad at the writing as I usually am, firstname.lastname@example.org notwithstanding. So all in all, it was okay.