Season 1, episode 14: “Random Acts of Miranda”

“Random Acts of Miranda” is this week’s title. Why not, like, “Miranda Rights”? It’s equally nonsensical but at least a reference to something. These titles never make sense.

So remember how Lizzie pulled out her “press badge” to see Aaron Carter and I used that as an example to prove that that episode was definitely shot way later? Well, I assumed at some point we’d get an episode where Lizzie decides to try her hand at writing for the school paper (sorry, the “school webzine”) but nope. We get this one, where she’s in a computer lab working on a story with absolutely no setup. Lizzie’s whole thing is that she sucks at everything and has no talents or interests! I’d think there’d be a bigger buildup if she actually found something that stuck.

Gordo is hanging out with her in the computer lab so he can babble a bunch of useless facts and she can snap at him that he’s annoying. I have to say, the director did a good job of getting Hilary Duff to play this scene as frustration with Gordo. Normally I’d expect her bratty mean voice here, which she uses to express anything on the range of mild annoyance to pure rage, so shoutout to whoever got her to tone it down for this scene. She’s also wearing a hell of an outfit.

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She ends up finishing her story despite Gordo’s pestering, ripping out the floppy disk she saved it to with a lot of exasperation. I love anytime this show deals with technology. She hands it to her teacher and says she feels like she’s “really getting the hang of this journalism stuff,” the only introduction we have to the fact that this is Lizzie’s thing now. She goes on and on about how she wants to cover the school play from auditions to opening night and write a review. Hey, the play that effeminate drama teacher was writing came back! You never know with this show. For every abandoned plotline like Matt being Jet Li’s sidekick, you get some actual continuity like the artistic aspirations of the guy who runs detention.

Anyway, the whole time her teacher is buried in a crossword puzzle. Cartoon Lizzie says Mr. Lang often zones out and we get a montage of all the fantasy places he could be, ending with this very weird shot.

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Dude is basically Mr. Goldenfold from Rick and Morty. Who would’ve taken him for an active dreamer?

At lunch, Gordo says he should become a photojournalist and take pictures for Lizzie when she’s a famous reporter, and Lizzie snaps, “I don’t think you’ll be my photographer, Gordo. I don’t plan on doing any lingerie fashion shows or swimsuit competitions,” and Gordo sighs, “Forget it, then.” What the fuck, show? Is Gordo just a horny dirtbag? Is that his thing? I feel so betrayed by Gordo on rewatching this series.

Miranda bursts in and knocks Tudgeman the fuck over so she can scream, “I GOT IT!” because apparently she’s the lead in said school play. “I thought I’d be in the chorus, or paint the scenery or something,” she says. Damn, tech work is a punishment in this school? Miranda continues that she only got the lead because no one else tried out. “Mr. Escobar wrote the play himself, and it’s set in the 1950s, which is, like, a MILLION YEARS AGO,” she explains. “And none of the regular drama kids wanted to do it. They all want to do something where they were supermodels and NBA stars who turn into crime-fighting rapping robots.” Whaaaaaaat? Good luck doing any theatre ever if you’re not into period pieces, drama weirdos of Hillridge Junior High!

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As always, Matt scenes are interspersed in between moments of Lizzie being at school, which makes me think Matt never goes to school. It’s bad editing. Here Matt tries to get his parents to buy him some expensive walkie-talkies with the old trick of asking for a bunch of really expensive shit and then asking for the not-as-expensive walkie-talkies. I don’t talk enough about how good of an actress Hallie Todd is, mostly because the parents’ roles are usually so one-note. Here she does a lot with boring lines, giving a monotone reading of her lines dismissing Matt that makes it seem like she’s sick of her stupid kid’s questions. It’s funny and I support her. I wish we’d get a backstory episode so I could figure out why she has such funky hair.

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Did you abandon artistic aspirations, Jo? Why did you settle for your dud of a husband? Does it pain you that your children are monsters?

“We work hard for our money,” she says (do you, Jo?? What do you do?! What do either of you do??) and Matt and Lanny have to find a way to raise money now. It’s noteworthy that they dig around in the couch for change and find a dead turtle. This is a family of serial pet killers. Lanny takes the corpse and sticks it in his pocket. New theory: Lanny is a sociopath.

Lizzie and Gordo sit in on a rehearsal of the play for Lizzie’s story. Miranda is onstage in a scene with a pre-That’s So Raven Orlando Brown. He was everywhere for a while – Sister, Sister in the 90s, a voice actor on the Proud Family, a whole bunch of kid’s movies. I see why, too! He was hilarious. He makes amazing choices in this scene.

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That’s him delivering the line “My old man, he just…doesn’t understand.” Miranda, though, makes terrible choices. She sucks as an actress. Mr. Escobar straight-up gives her a line reading, which is a directing sin, but the rest of this scene is pretty charming. Again, the director of this episode really deserves a lot of praise. You can always tell when the kid actors are allowed to just sort of scream their lines with the basic emotion on the page and when someone takes the time to rein them in. All three of the main trio are pretty good in this one.

Matt and Lanny decide to have a garage sale and Lanny drinks juice with like four cups of sugar added. Possible sociopath behavior? I don’t actually know. He does react happily when Matt proposes the garage sale instead of staring emotionlessly out of his cold dead eyes like usual.

Cut to opening night of the play, where Lizzie just barges backstage like actors don’t need to get in a fucking headspace or anything. Respect the craft, McGuire! She hands Miranda a stuffed animal and says, “You gave this to me before soccer playoffs, and it helped me score a goal. So now she’s gonna bring you some good luck.” That’s cute and all but since when does Lizzie play soccer? Then the weird theatre teacher makes the cast all meditate before going onstage. That’s….unfortunately accurately exasperating.

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The writers have fun making the play as cliche as possible. It’s even called Greasier. Miranda still sucks as an actress. She mostly knocks things over, which veers a little too close to Lizzie’s quirky flaw for my taste, but she also botches her lines a ton and is generally terrible. Even Tudgeman is acting better than her. Man, Tudgeman is a spot-on theatre kid choice. Every drama club has a Tudgeman. Gordo films the whole thing while making snarky remarks to Lizzie.

The next day, Gordo wanders into Lizzie’s house and finds her struggling to write a review. Are they neighbors? Wouldn’t that make Gordo’s garbage presence in Lizzie’s life a little more explicable? He tells Lizzie she has to report the truth, which is bad advice. She could just not mention Miranda at all. I was in a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank in high school and the reviewer for the school paper spent over half his review complaining about his chair being uncomfortable. And when I played the Witch in Into the Woods, the only mention of me was that I “wore a costume as black as midnight” which said nothing about my acting and also confused me since my costume was entirely purple. There are ways around critiquing Miranda, is my point.

But Lizzie tells the truth and the paper comes out and Miranda is of course furious with her. They end up having a huge fight in the cafeteria where Lizzie screams that she was doing her job, which I guess is fair, and Miranda screams that she’s probably just jealous, which is not fair, and that’s she’s a lousy friend, which is. Miranda gets so mad she slaps Tudgeman’s fries out of his hands and they fly clear across the cafeteria. I know that’s slapstick humor and very basic, but I laughed a lot.

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Gordo ends up finding Miranda and giving her his tape of her performance. Since he and Lizzie spent the whole play shitting on her on camera I assumed that would be the payoff of the tape, but instead Miranda watches it and realizes she does suck at acting and Lizzie was right. Harsh!

Matt and Lanny end up selling literally all of his possessions and the McGuire parents have to replace all his furniture and clothes and stuff, which will cost thousands of dollars, all so he could get some stupid $90 walkie-talkies to talk to a kid who’s totally mute. They vow to not teach Matt any more lessons for a while. Good! Maybe we won’t see him for a few episodes. That’d be a relief.

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Lizzie finds her mom packing snacks to take to Dad’s soccer game and asks why she’d bother going to his stupid lame game when he’s no good and they never win. Her mom says some nice things about supporting the ones you love. Lizzie brings up how Mr. McGuire didn’t go to his wife’s blood drive when it was important to her, and she says he was working that day, and Lizzie says no, he just didn’t want to go. Jo McGuire, honey. Get outta that relationship. You’re so beautiful and your glasses are so quirky. Some man will appreciate you.

Lizzie learns a lesson and Cartoon Lizzie marvels at how her mom taught her something without trying. Is the point of this episode that the McGuires don’t know how to parent unless it’s by accident?

Lizzie runs backstage for another performance, where the director is READING THE SHITTY REVIEW OUT LOUD TO THE CAST. Then he calls places! Fuck your moment-before, actors!

Lizzie says she’s written a retraction of her review that says Miranda is great. Miranda says Lizzie was right all along, because she’s a bad actress. Lizzie says the truth isn’t as important as being a good friend. Miranda says that doesn’t mean she should be a bad journalist. Lizzie says she wouldn’t have written anything if she knew she was going to hurt Miranda’s feelings, and Miranda says she would’ve never tried acting if she’d have known she was going to suck so much. What the hell is the lesson here? Never try anything?

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Miranda says she’s switching to Glee Club instead and Cartoon Lizzie freaks out that Miranda will suck at singing. I guess this was supposed to be the introduction to Miranda as a singer that we should’ve gotten before the Aaron episode.

Cut to one month later, where everyone braces themselves for a terrible performance, and Miranda comes out and sings “Reflection” from Mulan. “Hello, Mariah Carey!” says Lizzie, which makes no sense because that’s a Christina Aguilera song. And a weird choice for this moment! The lyrics don’t make sense for this scene and while it’s good, it’s not quite amazing.

Lalaine is one of the few Disney stars that was legitimately a singer before signing onto this hell company. She’s not one of the ones who was made to take singing lessons to partake in garbage like this. She was Young Cossette in the Broadway tour of Les Mis as a little kid and she was later in that version of Annie with Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. (I’m not linking to a video because I’m not cruel enough to inflict “Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” on anyone who didn’t ask for it, so you can look it up yourself.) The point is Lalaine was a real singer! And this moment still ended up a little weak. I guess they had to do a Disney song for licensing reasons, but that’s a notoriously hard song to sing. Lalaine doesn’t do a bad job with it, but I feel like a different song might have had more oomph.

Cartoon Lizzie says, “Good for Miranda! I bet if I keep looking, I can find a thing I’m really good at, too.” And that’s it, that’s the episode. I thought Lizzie was good at journalism! You can’t have the main plot be Lizzie taking her hobby seriously and end on her resigning herself to mediocrity!

Well, that aside, at least the journalism thing gave Lizzie some forward momentum as a character and made the conflict between her and Miranda feel meaningful, as opposed to the manufactured conflict in episodes like “I Do, I Don’t.” And while Gordo was a little gross and stupid, it was still an enormous improvement over last week’s Gordo. This episode was okay.

4 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 14: “Random Acts of Miranda”

  1. “Matt and Lanny end up selling literally all of his possessions and the McGuire parents have to replace all his furniture and clothes and stuff, which will cost thousands of dollars, all so he could get some stupid $90 walkie-talkies to talk to a kid who’s totally mute. ”
    ^ Well… ain’t that the truth. How did they not notice him moving his bed or his dresser or computer table anyways? They’re always home. How did he even fit them through the door? And is it me, or does his room look different? Does it change looks between seasons? The last episode I saw before this (or second last) was the one with the chimp doing his math for him, and his room looked different. I actually thought it was Lanny’s room before Matt said it was his.

    “Cut to one month later, where everyone braces themselves for a terrible performance, and Miranda comes out and sings “Reflection” from Mulan.”
    ^ Huh, I thought the song sounded familiar. Then again I haven’t seen Mulan… yet.

    “Cartoon Lizzie says, “Good for Miranda! I bet if I keep looking, I can find a thing I’m really good at, too.””
    ^ Yeah, if only she was good at rhythmic gymnastics, or say, acrobatics… or modeling.. or (in the future anyways) setting a world record in presidential fitness challenges and besting Ethan Craft at arm-wrestling and being good at tackle/touch football. Not to mention how Frankie Muniz and Aaron Carter were into her as soon as they laid eyes on her. But nope – she’s just the average, plain middle-schooler that everyone can relate too. She’s average, she’s mediocre… she’s Lizzie McGuire.

    Like

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