You guys, I give up on trying to understand the chronology of these episodes. According to IMDB, this episode aired seventh. I’m reviewing these in order of air date. But this episode was clearly shot at least a full year after the last one. Everyone looks conspicuously older. Gordo has longer hair and a deeper voice. There’s nicer cameras and the actors seem way more comfortable. Overall the feel of the show is much more cohesive. The script is no longer in desperate need of a punch-up, and they’ve annoyingly changed the scoring a lot so there’s now sound effects or music almost constantly.
That’s all interesting, but we need to dive right in because THIS IS THE AARON CARTER EPISODE!!!
As an episode, it’s utterly uncompelling. Aaron Carter has a very brief cameo with only two lines, and he and the other characters don’t interact much. But as a PIECE OF EARLY 2000’s HISTORY, it could NOT BE MORE COMPELLING. This is part of the Hilary Duff-Aaron Carter-Lindsay Lohan love triangle, y’all!!
This is crucial information that we need to discuss. If you don’t know who Aaron Carter is, a) I have no idea how you find this blog at all interesting, because you seem firmly out of its demographic, but b) he’s a more or less one-hit-wonder kid star known for goofy pop songs and being the little brother of a Backstreet Boy. When he and Hilary Duff were 13, they started dating and he did this cameo on Lizzie McGuire. Some sources say they met on the set of Lizzie, but I honestly can’t confirm and I’ve tried for hours. He ended up cheating on her with Lindsay Lohan, then getting back with Hilary, then cheating on Hilary again with someone else. This kicked off a Hilary-LiLo feud for a while, with Lindsay mocking Hilary on SNL, Lindsay causing red carpet drama at Hilary’s premiere, and Lindsay confusing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on the set of Mean Girls.
All of that is pretty tame and not surprising by teen or Hollywood standards. The really insane thing is that Aaron Carter is obsessed with Hilary TO THIS DAY. In a 2012 interview he said, “I’m really happy for her that she’s in a successful relationship and that she’s going to have a baby. Sometimes I think to myself, maybe that could have been me but it is what it is.” Weird! Then just last year he started publicly, frequently, confessing his undying love for Hilary when she separated from her husband.
Now 26 and allegedly a giant creep, Aaron retweeted Hilary’s selfie, then tweeted the above insanity, then doubled down in an interview where he promised very seriously, “I would sweep her off her feet if I ever got a chance to again…I want to fix the relationship I had with the love of my life. I’m not gonna give up on Hilary. Ever.” It’s ENTIRELY BATSHIT. Later in the year he tweeted about watching this episode and Instagrammed an old pic of him with Hilary.
Hilary responded to all of this with a beautifully confused quote: “Yeah, don’t know each other… so… yeah.”
With all of that out of the way let’s get into this episode and imagine a 26-year-old former pop star crying alone watching it somewhere in L.A. in 2014.
In the cold open of “Here Comes Aaron Carter” (I don’t understand the title as usual), Lizzie bursts into the cafeteria, falls because she’s Lizzie McGuire, and announces that Aaron Carter is coming to town to shoot his “music video Christmas special,” which sounds like not a thing. Lizzie seems to be the only one who knows this information but it’s never explained why. Gordo says that since he’s so good at filmmaking he could figure out where they’re shooting the video, and Lizzie squeals, “I can interview him for the school webzine – I already have my press badge from Mr. Lang!” Where did any of that come from? Lizzie doesn’t have hobbies or interests! Gordo says he could make a behind-the-scenes documentary – “they kill at the major film festivals” – about this 13-year-old pop star’s music video. Brace yourself for disappointment, you adorably misguided weirdo. Miranda says she wants to sing for Aaron Carter. In the last episode there was a throwaway joke about Miranda wanting to be a backup singer, but I didn’t realize that’s actually a character trait of Miranda’s now. Oh well. I’m all about the characters having any personality traits, so I’ll take it. As mentioned, everyone is visibly older.
The main trio goes to Lizzie’s house to map out possible music video locations so they can meet Aaron. It’s astonishing how much the acting has improved here. Not that the acting is astonishing, but compared to what I have been watching it’s way better. They’re actually all acting off of each other, rather than just reciting lines. And they deliver all their jokes as jokes! Previously a novel concept on this situational comedy.
Somehow Matt knows where the video is filming, because a plot device was needed here. He says “Lanny told me,” which doesn’t make sense whether or not you know Lanny, which we do not yet. Matt and Lizzie scream at each other for a bit until Matt says he’ll tell them where to go if they take him and that he’ll tell Mom if they don’t. Gordo and Miranda say Matt could come in handy anyway. “He did pass as a super-genius at school for half a day,” reasons Miranda, and I think that’s a callback to an episode that they shot before this but aired later. Disney Channel, you baffle me.
Anyway, big twist: Mr. McGuire comes home from work (he has a job?) and complains about a client (he has clients?) and sighs that he got backstage passes to some Aaron Carter video shoot, if the kids would want them. Who ARE you, Sam McGuire? Mrs. McGuire says they’ll surprise Lizzie and Matt with them in the morning, but of course they’re sneaking out in the morning, because plot. Mr. McGuire’s defining character trait up to this point has been “being confused by his family,” so it’s shocking to see him doing anything or having anything useful, especially two very exclusive passes that were definitely not designed in Microsoft Word.
In the morning everyone meets up and Lizzie says the plan is to “walk in like we own the place,” which she tosses off with a lot of attitude. Two episodes ago this girl was developing a talent for rhythmic gymnastics. Why is she so confident and not awkward now? I think they ditched the unexceptional everyman thing for her, which is a bummer, since that was interesting and unique. This is more like the Lizzie I remember – mostly just kind of bratty. She’s not as much of an underdog as the first episodes led us to believe. Maybe because Hilary Duff was so pretty? They decided to make her more aspirational? I don’t know.
Lizzie’s outfit to meet Aaron Carter is amazing. That jacket is metallic. She’s wearing all over red with rose-patterned pants. Not pictured are some big clunky shoes. There’s a choker. And her hair is crimped. This is so 2000s my face hurts looking at it.
They do a slow-mo cool walk in “like they own the place,” and it’s shot as a direct Abbey Road reference, I guess for added coolness.
Lizzie says brattily, “I’m Lizzie McGuire, a member of the press?!” and shows her “press pass,” which is an actual raffle ticket. That’s just shitty work from the props department, by the way, because it’s not a joke that her pass looks like garbage. I guess their Microsoft Word design budget ran out. Naturally security doesn’t let them in, so they try Matt’s backup plan: wearing the elf costumes the McGuires had to don in their Christmas card photo the year before. This episode has SO MANY convenient plot devices. Matt himself dresses as Aaron Carter because sure. He gets let in because someone assumes he’s a stunt double but the trio are turned away. Yes, the security guard just saw all four of them. It doesn’t make sense.
Meanwhile Mr. McGuire heads down to the video shoot with the plan that Mrs. McGuire will bring the kids when they’re home from “working on a project,” per Lizzie’s alibi note. When his car gets there the trio sneak in when the guard is talking to him.
Last episode, Lizzie said she “never pulls this kind of stunt” when she hung from the door frame to eavesdrop on Gordo. This entire episode is just a big ol’ stunt. They’ve upped the hijinks and shenanigans considerably here, and it’s not played as out-of-character. The next third of this episode is just Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda getting chased all over the lot by security. And it is not as compelling as the chased-by-security scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, if that’s what you’re picturing.
Mrs. McGuire shows up because they confiscated Lizzie’s “press badge” and called her. She goes berserk on the security guard, screaming at him to take her to Lizzie in an uncharacteristically aggressive way and for no reason. She gets locked up in a holding room, where Mr. McGuire has also been stashed for eating too many donuts on set. Dads, amiright?
The rest of the episode is all unrealistic wish fulfillment for kids who might be into Aaron Carter, so BUCKLE UP.
The trio ends up in Aaron’s dressing room (totally shot in an office building) and meet his manager and ask to meet Aaron. She says no, but Lizzie begs, so she says only one of them can, like as a compromise. Weird. Lizzie is an Angelic Saintly Friend and says it should be Miranda, since she apparently sings. Miranda is grateful and Gordo tells Lizzie she’s a good person and Cartoon Lizzie is totally chill and says she’ll have her “once-in-a-lifetime chance” one day, because she doesn’t understand the word “once.” Miranda goes in Aaron’s dressing room and has a scene with Aaron that we don’t see and then emerges, thanking Lizzie. They go to leave and Lizzie then realizes she left her tape recorder (from her “student reporter” disguise) in Aaron’s dressing room and just walks up to it and knocks. And then she meets Aaron. She doesn’t just meet him, though! They kiss right on the mouth!
Whaaaaaat? I remembered that this happened, so I always assumed this episode ended with Lizzie charming Aaron and then them going on a date and this happening, or with Lizzie being hired as his video girlfriend for the shoot. Nope.
She knocks on the door and Aaron answers as a lame alternative rock-pop song starts playing. Aaron says, “Is this yours?” and holds up a tape recorder labelled “Lizzie McGuire.” She smiles and he says “Merry Christmas, Lizzie McGuire,” and starts to close the door. Then Lizzie looks up and sees mistletoe above his door, even though it’s spring and his dressing room is not part of the video set, and Aaron then leans forward and kisses her OUT OF THE BLUE and then he closes the door and the whole thing is in slow motion and the lame alternative rock-pop song blares. It’s SO WEIRD. IT IS SO WEIRD. It is STRAIGHT-UP NONSENSE. Between its insanity and the cheesiness of the music and slow-mo, I thought it was a fantasy sequence at first. You have to watch it to see how insane it is. (Weird fact! On YouTube there’s an Aaron Carter song in this moment, but on the Disney site where I watch these, it’s a bad alt-rock-pop monstrosity. I don’t know, man. Maybe Aaron pulled the rights ten years later because he’s still wounded over his breakup with Hilary.)
Matt comes up and says he’s convinced the director to put them in the video so that happens. You knew it would. Lizzie and Miranda dance not as badly as the girls in Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video, which is all you can ask of 13-year-old non-dancers, and Aaron sings his big Christmas song: a cover of “I Want Candy.” Wait, what? That’s not a Christmas song. This whole episode would be better if it was revealed that Lizzie dreamed it. Also, shouldn’t the kiss come after the video? Once she and Aaron had spent a couple hours of shooting it together? It makes NO SENSE. And why on earth did we get the subplot about her dad having backstage passes the whole time? That never came up. The McGuire parents, for all we know, remain locked up in a holding room.
Celebrity cameos are often lame and unmotivated but boy howdy. This plotline was probably thrown together from reading an imaginative Aaron Carter fan’s diary.
I gotta say, the production values are way higher at this point, but it’s gotten a lot more like a generic Disney sitcom. The hijinks are completely unrealistic. And Lizzie’s gone from insecure and vulnerable to sassy and cute, which is going to make it hard for me to sympathize with her the next time Kate calls her a lame dork. But we got to discuss the ongoing mystery of Aaron Carter’s real-life obsession with Hilary Duff, so I feel it was worth it.