Season 1, episode 8: “Misadventures in Babysitting”

And we’re back. Another early, rough episode, making the bizarre jump in time in the last one even more inexplicable. You can tell within the first few seconds that it’s one of the first ones, both because Hilary Duff looks so young and because of the ska music blasting. Lotta ska in the early episodes.

“Misadventures in Babysitting” is at least a comprehensible title. This one begins with Lizzie cooking something on the stove and snapping at her mom. I hate how bratty Lizzie is. This is not the episode for me, it turns out.

Their babysitter calls and cancels as Matt gets home from soccer practice. I don’t know why, but it struck me as bizarre to see Matt in soccer clothes. He’s such a one-dimensional cliche of a character that seeing him do something normal kids do feels completely off. It feels like he lives in his room dreaming of schemes to mess with Lizzie and coming up with racially questionable alter egos.

The entire family argues over what babysitter to hire, complete with flashbacks to lots of past sitters. Man, are the McGuire parents ever home? Lizzie asks if she can babysit and her parents say she’s too young, so she screams “When will I be old enough to trust, when I’m fifty?” I never screamed at my parents but that’s 90% of Lizzie’s interactions with hers. Shouldn’t Disney Channel want to set a better example for children? At least she’s a fashion icon.

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That’s a whole lot of look, Lizzie.

Lizzie’s dad dips his finger in the pot of liquid she’s heating on the stove and eats it and it turns out it’s candlewax! Dads are big dumb idiots always.

At school Lizzie and Miranda complain about an assignment to design a town. “I think the perfect town would be 500 Hot Topics and a 10-story shopping mall!” says Miranda. The writers seem to have a vague idea of what an alternative chick should be like, but they never commit fully to it. Miranda never wears anything from Hot Topic. Lalaine looks directly into the camera for several seconds here and appears to almost laugh and they still use this take for some reason.

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Lizzie asks Gordo to describe his perfect town and he immediately rattles off, “A bookstore containing the works of Navajo and Greek philosophers, a coffee house where people only discuss music and politics, a thousand-foot waterslide ending in a swim-up counter where they serve free deep-fried pizza, and Tyra Banks would be the mayor….I’ve given this a lot of thought.” See? That’s characterization in dialogue. “500 Hot Topics and a 10-story shopping mall” is like a mashup of what writers think 13-year-old girls are like. But Gordo’s mix of pretentious douchebaggery with his basic guy interests feels so much more interesting, and it’s why I’ve frequently cited him as the best character. But if the Tyra Banks detail seems slightly creepy to you, buckle up.

Kate walks up to ask Gordo where the nearest Software Shack is, I guess because Gordo’s a nerd and I guess because that’s a plausible name for such a store in the early 2000s. I question that it would be a chain, but I question a lot about this show. He gives her directions and she asks if “they’d have that software that designs cities and towns and stuff.” Computers are pretty mystical in the Lizzieverse. Lizzie snaps at Kate that using a program like that would be cheating and Kate responds, “Whatever.” You guys, she says that every episode, and it’s not even in a catchphrase way. It’s just lazy writing. Gordo asks if she’s talking about Cyber Town Maker – what a catchy name! – and says they should but it’s expensive. Kate pulls out wads of cash and says she’s rollin’ in babysitting dough nowadays and walks away.

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Lizzie screams that they might as well just make Kate queen of the world and snaps at Gordo when he asks why she doesn’t babysit because our protagonist is unlikeable. Miranda complains that it’s hard to get babysitting jobs because parents want mature sitters. Gordo totally ogles Kate creepily as the camera pans to her and the following fucking dialogue happens:

GORDO: I guess Kate does… sort of give off some visual signals… that could imply a biologically… nurturing capability.
MIRANDA: We get it, Gordo. She’s stacked.
GORDO (grinning): Yes. Yes she is.

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What the fuck, Gordo! As your ideal mayor would say, I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!

When this dialogue started I got this feeling of dread wash over me, like I knew this scene well but had repressed the memory. Sure enough, by the time we got to his lecherous smile I remembered watching this when I was about 12 or so with my younger brothers both in the room. I was creeped out then and I’m creeped out now! I wanted Gordo to end up a pretentious but ultimately likeable philosophy and film double major one day, but now I see him turning into a weirdo Nice Guy who doesn’t understand why no one will date him.

Also, why do the writers talk about Kate’s boobs so much? This is the third mention I remember so far. Imagine being that 13-year-old actress and having that be a scene your fellow actors have to perform while the camera pans to you!

I want to take a shower after that scene, but let’s continue. At home Lizzie screams that she should be allowed to babysit at her parents while her dad paints a lawn gnome. This man gets backstage passes to music video shoots. Lizzie screams, “KATE SAUNDERS babysits!” – Saunders this episode! – and her mom says with interest, “She does?” Oh man, what if this episode were about Kate babysitting Lizzie? That would be fascinatingly awkward and a really unique concept. It’s not, though. Lizzie screams so much her parents finally let her babysit. So it’s just a regular children’s sitcom episode.

That night Lizzie gets her chance. Her dad gives her a list of instructions and she has a rude snarky response to every point. He finally says he’s trusting her and she asks him to repeat it then beams and thanks him as nice music plays. I think it’s supposed to be a sweet moment, but Lizzie’s been such a monster to her parents that it doesn’t remotely land.

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Miranda comes over to help Lizzie babysit and Gordo shows up hoping for some of the profits. Gordo, you’re reprehensible this episode! “Why should girls have a monopoly on babysitting?” he demands, and I half-expected him to yell “Misandry!”

One obnoxious montage later, we learn that Matt is not behaving and Lizzie is screaming a lot. I hate Matt’s antics and Lizzie’s brattiness so this setup is really a perfect storm for me.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. McGuire have arrived at a Chinese restaurant. The Asian owner knows their names and shows them to their regular table, then says “I haven’t seen you since the Year of the Tiger!” Oh, geez, it’s racist now! This episode has been annoying and creepy and now it’s racist!

Mr. McGuire fidgets like a big idiot because he’s so worried about Lizzie. Back at home, Lizzie and Miranda are screaming their heads off and Matt is a total asshole. He refuses to do anything Lizzie screams at him to do and says he can get away with anything since Lizzie wants their parents to trust her and won’t admit if anything goes wrong. Lizzie screams a lot and threatens to beat Matt. Gordo steps in and says Matt will listen to him because he’s an older male and more impressive. Go buy a trilby, Gordo! I’m so done with you!

At the restaurant Mr. McGuire is so comically fidgety that Mrs. McGuire says he should go home to check on the kids if it’ll make him relax. She says it has to be done secretly, because it means so much to Lizzie that they trusted her.

At home the power goes out and do you see where this is going? You do.

The kids get scared by the power outage. Mr. McGuire comes home and creeps onto the back patio but can’t see in the lower windows, so he stands precariously on a chair on the back patio like the dumb dad he is. The chair falls over, he rolls over the table, and he lands throat-first on the pointy hat of his garden gnome! Holy shit! Someone died in Hot Fuzz in a very similar way and I am astonished that he doesn’t start spurting blood from his carotid artery!!!

The kids hear the noise and hope it’s a raccoon and not a burglar. They decide to make noise assuming it would scare off a raccoon, so Miranda sings loudly and terribly and Gordo makes a crack about how much she sucks at singing. I thought singing was one of her very few character traits? This fucking show.

Mrs. McGuire calls and tells her husband to just act like he forgot his wallet if he can’t see in the windows, which should have been the plan from the beginning, and Mr. McGuire can’t speak above a rasp because a lawn gnome just fucking stabbed him in the throat. The power comes back on and he goes to the front door but can’t get in because of the chain.

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Why didn’t they keep this part in the dark? That’d be terrifying. Mr. McGuire rasps, “Kids! Open up! It’s me!” instead of identifying himself. Matt hugs Lizzie in fear. Lizzie lets out a long yell and charges the door and throws herself against it, breaking the hand of “the burglar.” Damn, that’s really brave for a 13-year-old girl afraid of an intruder. Lizzie hugs Matt and says she won’t let anything happen to him, another tender moment the show hasn’t earned because Lizzie literally threatened to beat Matt a few scenes ago. They call the police.

At the Chinese restaurant the owner pities Mrs. McGuire for having a deadbeat husband and calls her “brave little soldier-girl” as a gong noise plays. Again I am uncomfortable!

Mr. McGuire calls the home phone but they don’t recognize his voice and again he doesn’t identify himself. He goes to the back door and jiggles the handle yelling “Come on, kids!” like a total creeper. Here Lizzie does not react with bravery and instead rigs an elaborate gadget by dismantling their electric train transformer that electrocutes their dad and burns his hand through the handle. What? How would Lizzie know how to do that? Mr. McGuire stumbles back, trips over the gnome, and lands in a plastic pool that’s only there for this episode so he can be comically bedraggled.

Instead of just giving up, he grabs a saw from the shed and staggers forward like a serial killer to hack off the lock to the door of his own house.

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He totally would have killed his children if they were still near the door. The man is a maniac. Lizzie commands everyone to set up a full Rube Goldberg machine, which they do in seemingly under a minute even though it’s massively complex.

Their dad bursts through the door, triggering a paint can to swing down from the ceiling. The camera zooms in on his crotch so it seems like it’s gonna be a classic hit in the balls, but when the paint can hits him he clutches his stomach for some reason. I thought I misinterpreted it until Gordo says to Lizzie and Miranda, “You guys have to trust me. You have no idea how much that hurts.” The camera shows Mr. McGuire again clutching his stomach. In some shots he grabs his chest.

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Maybe the Disney Channel has rules about showing someone grabbing their balls in agony? I noticed that the camera also only showed Kate from the neck up when Gordo was staring at her and talking about her boobs. There must be some visual content limits.

The cops come to arrest the “burglar” and Lizzie briefly pretends not to know him to teach him a lesson. I’m sure the cops have time for that.

Later that night Mrs. McGuire says they were wrong not to trust Lizzie and her dad makes a speech about how this all stems from him being sad about her growing up. “I still think of you at the 6-year-old girl that used to need me to chase the monsters out of her closet,” he says, as if he’s ever been good for anything ever.

Lizzie asks if that means she can she can go on a real date now and he says no. Who’s asking you out, Lizzie? Did you get Aaron Carter’s digits? Is he gonna tweet about you for a decade? Her parents say she can babysit Matt again and the episode ends with her complaining about responsibility.

This episode was pretty dumb and it made me hate Gordo. Plus Lizzie screamed for most of it and I had to deal with a lot of Matt. Not a great one!

4 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 8: “Misadventures in Babysitting”

  1. She got up at noon every weekend? I never did. Plus I never wore a unicorn sweater for any of my yearbook photos, not even in 7th. My USA shirt with a pink sweater are/were better.

    Like

  2. So any man is a creep if he expresses any heterosexual desires whatsoever. And Chinese restaurants are racist because… they reference Chinese culture. Seems legit.

    Like

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