Season 1 reviewed.

After watching 31 episodes of Lizzie McGuire, I’m halfway done with this project! 

The first season was all over the place. As a first season of a TV show, it does a remarkably poor job of setting up the world. This must have been partially production-related, because the early episodes feel so different that they must’ve been shot before the show got picked up and then never reshot. The consequence of that is that we get weird, unfamiliar sets and characters like Danny Kessler who just disappear into the void after a few episodes.

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Regardless, though, there’s a reckless disregard for continuity throughout the season. There seems to have been little thought put into things like Kate’s ever-rotating posse, for example. Kate is flanked by different girls every episode. Her supposed sidekick Claire doesn’t even show up for nine episodes, and even after her introduction she’s often omittted from episodes because the showrunners wanted to use extras instead of paying Davida Williams for a credited appearance as Claire.

Nothing feels fully defined on this show. Sometimes Lizzie and Ethan talk a lot, sometimes she’s a stammering mess around him. Sometimes Jo is an involved parent who gives good advice, sometimes she’s overbearing and imposes nonsensical demands.

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I so, so desperately want to find an interview with the writer on the show so I could understand their process. It doesn’t seem like they gave half the characters personality descriptions besides labels or archetypes. How did they pitch this show? “It’s a show about a middle school girl and she, you know, likes girl stuff. She has two best friends, one who is also a girl, one who is a really nerdy aspiring filmmaker whose parents are both therapists and who loves hackeysack and philosophy. She has a mom who’s just like a regular mom, and a dad who is a dad, and a hellion younger brother. She doesn’t like the school mean girl because she’s mean.”

In so many ways, this show is just not very good! The jokes are so weak. A good third of the time the kid actors don’t even seem to realize they’re making jokes. That’s down from the 100% of the time that was the case at the beginning of the season, but it also speaks to just how bad the writers are at coming up with jokes for kids.

As an experiment, I re-watched an episode of my favorite Disney Channel show, Even Stevens, to see if it held up. It totally did! It’s a much tighter, more energetic, funnier show. What passes for humor on Lizzie McGuire is a character complaining that cafeteria food is bad then a close-up of gross food with a screaming sound effect. The show became much more reliant on sound effects in general over the course of the season. How unfunny does a show have to be for the show runners to decide they need sound effects to signal when they’re making jokes?

I knew all of this going in, though. This show drove me nuts when it was on the air. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how much I’d hate characters I thought I liked. I remembered Miranda as Lizzie’s ballsier, more alternative friend and Gordo as her trusty, level-headed best friend. Boy, was I mistaken! Miranda is weirdly obsessed with popularity. It’s nonsensical and a real bummer. And Gordo. Gordo!

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I had absolutely no memory of how absolutely terrible Gordo was. Especially towards the early part of this season, Gordo gets a lot of gross, leering bits where he ogles female characters, which is horrifying. And there are several episodes centering around Gordo’s temper tantrums and irrational anger towards his friends. It’s massively unpleasant! Lizzie and Gordo are the original OTP for a lot of people in my generation, and I had nothing but nice feelings towards their pairing before re-watching. Now I want Lizzie to run as fast as she can before she’s stuck in a jealous, verbally abusive relationship all through high school.

If this was your favorite Disney Channel show, a) I am so sorry for shitting on it once a week, and b) please let me know why in the comments! That sounds like I’m itching for a fight. I am not, and I totally respect that this show tapped into something fun and nice and real for kids. I’m working on a big essay about Lizzie’s appeal and success to post at the end of this project, so I’d love to hear from people who weren’t curmudgeons from birth like me who yelled at the TV all the time. And if Lizzie wasn’t your favorite Disney Channel show, let me know what was! I will try to conceal my pro-Even Stevens bias in any discussion that arises from this.

I think the second season gets a little bit more cohesive. Here’s hoping! This one was a mess.

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12 thoughts on “Season 1 reviewed.

  1. Great review! Even Stevens is one of my favorite Disney Channel shows ever. It’s funny, the episode plots are interesting and often very original, all the characters are fully fleshed-out and the majority of them are likeable. That’s So Raven is also one of my favorites because Raven is so sassy and funny. And the show dealt with some pretty interesting, more mature topics, such as racism and body image issues. Although, I’d love for you to share what you thought of the outfits on That’s So Raven. I remember a lot of Raven’s outfits being just awful.

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    1. The costume designer for season 1 of Lizzie costumed one random episode of That’s So Raven! I feel like Raven’s costuming made more sense because she made her own clothes, so there was at least a justification for them looking like nothing any regular person would wear?

      I think That’s So Raven definitely benefited from older main characters, both because the actors were more confident and capable and because they could take on more topics believably.

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  2. Yeah. This is Brittany who left that message on your FB page. I’m in a very sensitively nostalgic time in my life on the cusp of graduating college… Hence why stumbling across this blog both intrigued and enraged me. I’m still trying to figure out where you’re coming from. But.. Sorry I “yelled” at you I guess.

    I am so surprised to see that your favorite Disney show is Even Stevens. Because, funnily enough – My two favorite Disney shows have always been Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire. Even Stevens because, well… Little Shia was my first crush as a kid. And he has such a natural gift for comedy. His comedic timing, delivery/phrasing, and occasional ad-libbing helps take the show and his character to another level. He was able to take Louis, (who would easily be a completely annoying, one dimensional character if played by anyone else) and brought out so many different elements through his acting. A carefree side, a smart side, a stupid side, cunning, sarcastic, caring, sensitive, romantic, etc. And they all feel genuine and true to his character. He’s just so good. The writing was great, super sharp and funny and holds up incredibly well. (Even though friends of mine claim it’s stupid and immature and judge me for it. Their loss. I still get a kick out of it.) It’s actually funnier to me as an adult than it was when I was it’s apparent target audience. So many things went right over my head. There are plenty of lines and humor kids won’t catch, but adults will, in that show too. So.

    Anyway…

    Lizzie was always my other favorite and holds such a huge/special place in my heart (which is why I couldn’t stop feeling personally attacked by this blog) because as a young girl/preteen at the time the show was airing, it was just massive. I wanted to BE Lizzie. I still watch the show today and look up to Hilary/Lizzie, honestly. There was so much heart in this show, imo.. Which is sadly absent from current Disney programs. The pilot makes me cry every time I watch it. Because the “drama” between Lizzie and Miranda in that episode is the same sort of thing that happened to me and my cousin/best friend when we were 13 and she ditched me for a popular clique on Halloween. We even walked by each other and had a moment exactly like Lizzie and Miranda, when Miranda walks by with Kate’s crew and Lizzie is left alone and upset. Idk, man. Little things like that just hit home for me. (And the ending with “Why Can’t We Be Friends” playing while and Lizzie & Gordo tie dye, and Lizzie & Miranda make up warms my heart so much, I shed a tear. I can’t even. It’s just so pure.) But, yeah.. I think the show captured a lot of that “real” stuff perfectly. Including the way some kids talk(ed) about their parents, and the arguments the trio would have. I had awful fights with my best friends in middle school. Sometimes downright malicious things were said. But, at the end of the day.. we were still best friends. And, we’re still friends today. In fact, we’re going out for lunch this week, lol. Soooo. It’s possible that the characters weren’t all abusing each other like you seem to think. And, instead they were just being angsty little pre-teens who inevitably ended up saying things they didn’t truly mean. I love the episodes that start with the 3 of them on the phone in the morning, and end with them on the phone at night discussing the day or resolving issues. It’s so cute to me. It shows how close they really are and is a casual display of communication. Which is an important thing in any kind of relationship! (It was also a very middle school thing to do. My friends and I were always on 3 way calling, haha.)

    I feel like the show WAS pitched very simply. That’s what I love about it. Aside from a handful of episodes and the movie – there was no extra flash or gimmick about it. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce in front of the TV for the premiere. So excited to watch a show about a girl who goes to school and has a family and friends. Simpler times.

    I’m not wearing fully rose colored glasses here, though. This show has a lot of flaws/continuity issues, and I frequently express my frustration with that. But, it doesn’t even matter in the long run. Yeah, the show is definitely cheesy at times, and not 100% amazingly written… But, the Brady Bunch wasn’t exactly great either and that doesn’t stop it from being a classic, or even timeless in a way.

    We accept shows like that for what they are. Lizzie should be handled in a similar way. I think it’s absolutely ludicrous the way you approach some things through this feminist lens or whatever and essentially making something out of nothing. (i.e. Miranda felt bad about turning down Matt because he’s a little kid. Not because he’s a guy. Seriously??? He’s like, 10!) Gordo “ogling” over girls a few times is normal. Not horrifying. The boys in my middle school were bragging about watching porn, making explicit sex jokes constantly, and trying to get a rise out of the girls…. and I went to a Catholic school. THAT’S horrifying. Just like it wasn’t “creepy” that Gordo accidentally happened to see Lizzie kiss Ronnie. They’re neighbors, and I always thought he was probably on the way to her house at that moment. (Even more heartbreaking in that case.) It was such a dramatic scene to me when I was younger lol, it still makes me feel the feels because that’s when we start to get that Gordo actually likes Lizzie as more than a friend. How seeing her with someone else is affecting him, and forcing himself to realize his own feelings. We’ve all been there. He also wasn’t “tearing Lizzie down when she was in a vulnerable state” or whatever abusive way you tried to spin the last scene of that episode. He was cracking a joke to lighten the mood. It made her laugh. I laughed. They’ve known each other their entire lives. They obviously love/care about each other unconditionally. Lizzie likes him for him. His witty, smart-a**, sarcastic comebacks are part of the package. That’s basically one of the things Lizzie and Miranda said they would miss in “Gordo and the Girl.”

    It’s also so weird to me that you find practically all of the characters to be unlikeable and bad. Especially Gordo. He’s always been my favorite and super likeable, imo. Probably the realest and most honest character on the show. He’s a refreshing in comparison to some of the other slightly shallow characters. Especially today with this jaded/moody/hipsterish internet generation of teens… (Even though I hate them) He kinda oddly speaks for them. His character was ahead of the times, lol. Some of the things he said were so “unfiltered” and blunt which I find hilarious sometimes, and for the most part he actually spat a fair amount of wisdom and solid life advice.

    I can see how you might find Lizzie annoying at times (she starts to get on my nerves a bit towards the end of season 2/the movie. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE MOVIE.) but I still love her so much??? So did the rest of the world? She wasn’t that big of a phenomenon for no reason. The things people love about Lizzie are intangibles. You can’t really explain it! She’s just completely relatable and adorable and nice. Big whoop! She yells and throws little tantrums sometimes. Didn’t we all? Heck, I still do. She’s a growing t(w)een. Doesn’t make her a bad person at all. The things you try to call her Satan for doing are usually things that aren’t that serious in the grand scheme of things, or heightened purposely for dramatic effect. (Like going off on her customers in “Working Girl.” Honestly though, between Kate and Claire and that guy who was asking for a spoon to eat a bagel… I would’ve snapped eventually.)

    Okay but wait. Quick thoughts on the movie actually: [spoilers! in case you care… idk.]

    Aside from it being ridiculously unrealistic which always bothered me, Gordo was a freakin’ saint in this movie. If I were him I would’ve been DONE with Lizzie and how she always takes him for granted. (Which I completely agree with him about in that fake marriage project episode!) Lizzie vows that the two of them will spend all of their time together and find adventures in Rome. Suddenly she meets Paolo and sneaks away gallivanting with him, constantly blowing Gordo off – leaving him depressed and with the responsibility of scrambling to cover for all of her daily disappearances. Getting himself (almost) sent home by telling a major lie to cover for her. He does all of this because he loves her tbh and wants her to have a good time, even if he’s excluded from the fun. (Kinda like when he puts his feelings aside and helps Lizzie try to become Ethan’s dream girl in “Just Friends.” – I love Season 2 Gordo.) That’s selfless, okay??? Yet, Lizzie remains oblivious as to WHY he’d do all of this. Even though it was established that he likes her/she kinda likes him by the end of the series. (Continuity issues return.)

    Gordo spends the rest of the movie making sure Lizzie isn’t publicly humiliated by Paolo and encouraging her to embrace the chance she’s given and stares at her lovingly from afar multiple times while she has her big moment. *sigh* What an abusive unlikeable jerk!1! It wasn’t until after the hell he went through for her that Lizzie realizes what an absolute catch he is, and kisses him. THE END.

    Clearly I have a lot of thoughts and as soon as I click post comment I know I’m gonna think of a million more and wish I included them. So, I’m gonna stop here.

    If you want to tear apart a HORRIBLY cheesy, forced, awkward, at times uncomfortable to watch, badly written, terribly preachy, awfully acted series with the worst continuity and scheduling issues known to man… I would suggest Girl Meets World. That show is a true mess.

    Welp, it looks like I took this opportunity to vent. Oops.

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  3. Hello! I want to genuinely thank you for your comment, because I have not had anyone really explain their love for the show to me.

    In general, I think we’re going to disagree on a lot of the points in your post, so I’m not going to address them too specifically because I have 40 blog posts explaining my opinions at this point. I don’t like a lot of the characters, and you do. That’s cool!

    However, I do want to address a few of your points about the style of my site.
    I don’t have anything against anyone who likes this show. In fact, quite a few of my readers have told me that this was their favorite show growing up! I would never want to personally attack any fans of the show, and I always try to express my dislike of it as personal. I say that I don’t understand the love for this show, but I never say that anyone is wrong or stupid for liking it! I obviously realize that everyone had their own opinions and experiences.

    The point of this blog is to be funny, and I think that closely examining the details of a children’s show as an adult is funny. I understand that issues of continuity, etc. are only a big deal when you watch every week and examine them very in-depth as I do. But I find humor in pointing out all of these flaws that accumulate that we never would have noticed as kids. I’m nitpicky because….I made the weird choice to make a humor blog closely examining a Disney Channel sitcom. So I’m trying to do my “job” thoroughly.

    I am a feminist, and because this is blog details my experience with the show, that can come up. I want to point out that I often use feminist interpretations of scenes as a joke because of my above thesis that examining a children’s show closely as an adult is funny. So I hope that you realize that some – maybe even most – of the feminist jokes are exaggerated for effect. (A good example of this is the feminist lens I tried to put on “Gordo’s Bar Mitzvah.”)

    However, some of them I am actually serious about, because I think it’s incredibly important to examine gender stereotypes in media! I will quote Anita Sarkeesian, whose work this area I very greatly admire: “Remember that it’s both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” I don’t particularly enjoy Lizzie, but I am also not saying that anyone should hate the series because of some of the real feminist issues that come up when rewatching it.

    For instance, I think Gordo falls into the dangerous “nice guy” category that is unfortunately extremely common. Similarly, in the “First Kiss” episode, there is a moment where Lizzie tells Gordo he’s a good friend, and it’s played with dramatic irony (due to Gordo’s feelings for her) to make the audience feel bad for Gordo. That’s a clear-cut example of the mythical “friendzone” – which implies that there’s something wrong/disappointing with girls just wanting to be friends. I think it’s dangerous to normalize the idea that if a friend pursues you for long enough, you should give in! (And I know that Lizzie does care for Gordo, but he does treat her bizarrely badly in episodes like “Come Fly With Me.”) Having seen friendzone/nice guy subplots often in media, and having seen a lot of accounts of them ending VERY badly in real life, I find these tropes exhausting and unnecessary. As I mentioned in quite a few of the early posts, Gordo was my favorite character when I watch this show originally and I still think his characterization is the most well-defined. I was really surprised to notice all of his flaws on rewatching but they really have bothered me, and so I felt the need to write about it.

    To get veerrrrrrry serious for a second, I find feminism to be extremely important because I see it as the only solution to so many truly terrible problems that men and women encounter everyday. You mentioned the Matt-liking-Miranda subplot in your comment, so I’ll use that as an example. I made a throwaway joke about women not feeling comfortable refusing men’s advances in that post. I would never go on a full soapbox about an issue like that, but when I rewatch these episodes (usually at least 2 or 3 times for these reviews) they do sometimes enter my mind! The joke of that subplot was that Miranda didn’t want to hurt Matt’s feelings. Matt followed her around, ignored her discomfort with the situation, and finally even broke into her house somehow. Obviously this is all a joke! Obviously this is a children’s sitcom. But it’s interesting watching it as an adult now that I am aware that men are conditioned to pursue women and women are conditioned to be nice. This goofy subplot on a kids TV show made me think about a bunch of really horrifying stuff that exists because of that dynamic. For instance, a close friend of mine recently did have an actual stalker. It was a terrifying situation and when I talk to her about it she said, “I don’t know how to make him stop without hurting his feelings.” He was trespassing on her property and sending her threatening messages constantly but she was concerned about his feelings. Also – I told you this was going to be veerrrrrrry serious – the week that I wrote that episode I was consumed with thoughts about the Stanford rape trial, so it was honestly jarring to see a subplot where someone as strong and spunky is Miranda didn’t feel comfortable standing up to a 10 year old boy and just saying “Leave me alone” in a week when I was already reading a lot about someone ignoring boundaries and feeling entitled to a woman. I really hope that this doesn’t seem like I’m blaming Lizzie McGuire for rape culture or something! I’m just trying to illuminate that this is something I’m passionate about and sometimes it bleeds into my writing because I think feminist readers will enjoy references to the serious issues they care about discussed in a generally goofy, funny, low-stakes setting.

    That got real dark! But I’ve never really had anyone mention the feminist jokes throughout the site, so I felt the need to explain where I’m coming from.

    Anyway, thank you again for your comment, and I’m glad we can agree that Even Stevens with the shit. Because seriously….IT WAS SO GOOD!!!

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    1. I, too, have noticed the “feminist lens” thing, although it doesn’t bother me at all. I did, however, remarks before on why Gordo showing interest in women was being pursued as creepy, though.

      But all in all, I read both of your “statements” fully and it was enlightening. Just wanted to say that.

      FYI to the one above – Girl Meets World was preachy, but their continuity issues stemmed from BOY MEETS WORLD. GMW itself does not tank in continuity. BMW did…. many, many times, and GMW had to follow that.

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  4. I have to say, that
    I found this point–from Brittany’s comment–especially ironic:

    [Re: Lizzie] “The things you try to call her Satan for doing are usually things that aren’t that serious in the grand scheme of things, or heightened purposely for dramatic effect. ”

    I find this ironic, because the things Brittney is, practically, calling the blogger “Satan” for saying are statements, which are purposely heightened for *comedic* effect.

    As a fan of Lizzie, myself, I’ve never taken anything the writer (Allison) has written as a personal attack, toward the viewers/fans of Lizzie, and I find it absolutely ridiculous that anyone would feel that way. TBH, it actually seems to me like Brittany is one of those people that you need to walk on eggshells around, IRL, because she will just wants something to be “offended” about.

    Allison, don’t change a thing you’re doing– the blog is hilarious!

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  5. The main people love it is is nostalgia, let’s face it. And that is it more hearfelt and less…bad, then most Disney Channel content we get now. I am sick of people acting like the older shows are amazing. They are better, but as you’ve proven ,far from great, or perfect.

    I enjoy this and the other older shows because of how silly and flawed they are. Everything you say is true, but that’s why i like it.

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  6. To be honest, I loved this show because it had Hilary Duff as our lead. I thought she was pretty and so were the other characters. The fact it tapped into the mind of a girl who enjoyed feminine attributes also sold me. I liked that it was about typical “girl” (don’t mean to sound cissexist here) stuff and that it was quite relatable. I never thought it was particularly funny like Evens Stevens, but Lizzie McGuire was a pretty chill show for me. The storylines were realistic and it didn’t try to hard to get the point across. I always thought Lizzie was the opposite of Gordo. You know, “Nice/Good Girl” complex? Person who conforms to the status quo and deserves the world for it? Yeah, that. I didn’t necessarily like Lizzie’s personality, and she was often mean to Kate. Quite a few times when it was unprovoked such as Lizzie spreading rumors about Kate stuffing her bra and publicly humiliating her over a stupid Halloween costume. Lizzie was just as bad as the “popular” girls, only not popular and the show’s “protagonists.” They sure loved using Larry as their scapegoat too. Otherwise, Lizzie McGuire does hold up and has great nostalgia factor. I give this show a 3.5/5.

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    1. I definitely think Hilary Duff is 99% the reason for the show’s success. She’s the perfect teen avatar – beautiful but not intimidating, seemingly very down-to-earth.

      You are the first commenter to provide a hard, numerical review here on Lizzie McGuire Reviewed, and for that I love this comment.

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  7. “In so many ways, this show is just not very good! The jokes are so weak. A good third of the time the kid actors don’t even seem to realize they’re making jokes. That’s down from the 100% of the time that was the case at the beginning of the season, but it also speaks to just how bad the writers are at coming up with jokes for kids.”

    …That may be why I didn’t laugh at this show much while I was watching it growing up, even though I considered it one of my favorites. If the actors didn’t know certain lines were supposed to be jokes, how was I supposed to know they were jokes?

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